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The inventor of the metaverse: ‘What matters is who is paying for it’

A concept from Neal Stephenon’s sci-fi novel has been adopted by Mark Zuckerberg. The author tells Jake Kerridge why we should think harder about what it would really mean

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Mark Zuckerberg's recent video of Facebook's 'metaverse' elicited widespread derision

Mark Zuckerberg's recent video of Facebook's 'metaverse' elicited widespread derision

Prophetic: Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash has had an enormous influence on Silicon Valley

Prophetic: Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash has had an enormous influence on Silicon Valley

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Mark Zuckerberg's recent video of Facebook's 'metaverse' elicited widespread derision

It seems inappropriate, somehow, that my interview with the science-fiction writer Neal Stephenson is taking place over Zoom. It’s been nearly 30 years since his novel Snow Crash introduced the concept of the metaverse: a three-dimensional successor to the internet in which people adopt “avatars” (a word that Stephenson’s novel brought back to mainstream attention) to interact in a virtual-reality world. Surely, by now, the fact that I’m in London and he’s in Seattle shouldn’t prevent us sitting down to chew the fat in a bar?

We may not have to wait that long for the metaverse to come into reality, if we can believe the recent promises made by Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg. Last month he announced with much hoo-ha that the name of his company was changing from Facebook Inc to “Meta”, and dangled the prospect of a future of virtual concerts, sports and shopping trips.


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