“Besides, interesting things happen along borders — transitions — not in the middle where everything is the same.”
― Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash
In 1992, when the World Wide Web was gaining popularity, Neal Stephenson published a science fiction novel titled Snow Crash. It tells the story of Hiro Protagonist, a hacker who works as a pizza delivery driver in a version of Los Angeles that features a collectively shared virtual space called the Metaverse. Within this digitally enhanced reality, humans use avatars to interact with each other and the environment.
A drug called Snow Crash begins to make the rounds, and it turns out to be even more dangerous than anyone could have imagined. Existing both as a virtual metavirus and a physical drug, Snow Crash has the power to wipe the human brain clean, no matter where you access it. Hiro and his hacker buddies team up to uncover and dismantle the plot behind the drug.
Recently, I re-read the novel and was struck by a renewed familiarity. Between the global pandemic, food delivery, and online escapism, 2021 looks an awful lot like Stephenson’s novel. Perhaps Snow Crash was prophetic after all.
Looking around, it’s difficult not to feel as though our society has reached a dead end. Our history is a tired march from system to collapsed system: nomadic hunter-gatherers, agriculture, slave societies, religionism, imperialism, feudalism, industrialism, fascism, nazism, communism, socialism, and now, to a perversion of capitalism that I call Hyper Consumerism. Lately, with the rise of fake news and conspiracy theories, we are losing faith even in science, which is especially troubling. There is no question about it; collapse is imminent.
So, what’s next? What new form will society take? In this white paper, I will make the case that the next iteration is already upon us. It has spent the last decade in development, and soon, it will be deployed. The birth of this new society will not take place in the aftermath of violent war, as past societies have. Because at this stage, we do not need another revolution; we need a new evolution.
To best demonstrate the features of the society to come, I have included a fanfiction chapter inspired by Snow Crash called Bitropolis.
The bit is a basic unit of information in computing and digital communications. The name is a portmanteau of binary digit. The bit represents a logical state with one of two possible values. These values are most commonly represented as either “1”or”0", but other representations such as true/false, yes/no, +/−, or on/off are common. — Wikipedia
A metropolis is a large city or conurbation which is a significant economic, political, and cultural center for a country or region, and an important hub for regional or international connections, commerce, and communications. -Wikipedia
The year is 2031. I have concluded my inspection of the city with the happiest citizens on Earth.
In the year 2021, the Government of Bitropolis, after having struggled for decades to fight corruption, exploitation, criminality, poverty, homelssness, mental illness, environmental pollution, and descent into anarchy, decided to take a radical step to end the struggle once and for all.
This strategy was proposed by a psychiatrist-turned computer hacker by the name of Hiro Jung. According to Jung, the reason for the failure of capitalist society of Bitropolis was that it neglected to follow the laws of nature, which he argues is a binary creation oriented in polar opposition with a point of equilibrium. Examples include North and South, positive and negative, light and dark, hot and cold, alive and dead, healthy and diseased, and so on.
In line with this rule of duality, human nature falls in line with its own polar relationships. At the individual level, the binary human being is made of two personalities: the Bright Personality and the Dark Personality. One cannot exist without the other, and a human being can only be in balance with themself if both personalities are equally expressed and accepted by the individual.
The Bright Personality is described as a desire to help other humans, share with other humans, and show compassion and mercy to other humans, even to the point of offering one’s own life to save that of another.
The Dark Personality, by contrast, is the desire to hurt, exploit, and abuse others. This includes the extremes of rape, torture, and murder.
This is not the only binary within the human being. Due to our evolution as a social species, we must also navigate between the individual and the collective. On a societal level, this is manifested as demand and supply, creation and destruction, war and peace, and so on. The ideal social system is one that resonates in harmony with the binary of the individual to such a point that if you were to line them up, they should match.
Throughout history, our social systems were built to cater only to the Bright Personality and punish the Dark Personality. Communism and Religion represent two of these approaches. Religion believes that the human being is inherently evil and needs salvation from its own evil by an external superior force. That force can be God, Allah, Yahweh, etc. The fact that religions have been around for thousands of years and still play a big role in modern society informs us that there must be truth in what they preach, and I don’t mean the existence of an external superior force, but rather the indelible natural evil within us.
While Religion seeks to stifle the Dark Personality, the humanist ideology denies its existence altogether. While growing up under a communist dictatorship, I was taught in school that the human being is inherently good, having been endowed with a natural tendency to share and care for others. This was the kind of wishful thinking that led to the failure of communism as a system. In actuality, there are very few people who would put the community above themselves. The majority of human beings are selfish, jealous, egocentric, self-indulgent, self-centered, self-serving, and self-obsessed. It is these characteristics that lead to ruthles exploitation, corruption, violent crime, murder, rape, and other collective attrocities like holocaust and genocide.
And when it came to societies, also the Dark Side seemed to win with every social system becoming at some point corrupt till it collapsed. According to Jung, this is an inevitable consequence of going against human nature. Like the snake who ate its own tail in the parable, the societies of history were unconsciously built with a self-destruct timer, which manifests at levels both individual (substance abuse, mental illness, suicide) and societal (violent crime, material destruction, war).
Jung was convinced he had found a solution to this problem: in order for a society to reach perfect balance and happiness for its individuals, it needed to mirror the natural binary pattern of humanity. There needed to be a system in which every human being could fully indulge in their Bright and Dark personalities. As a typical anarchist would put it, a lawless world where every action and behavior is permitted.
As ideal as it may sound, we all know that such a society would not be possible in our current world. The moment we banished laws, all hell would break loose.
So, if we cannot create such a society in this world, why don’t create it in the virtual world?
Jung decided it was time to introduce the Binary System, which was actually conceived in 1990 with the birth of the Internet when reality fractured into two realms: the Virtual and the Base. By 2025, it had reached full maturity and was ready to replace Hyper Consumerism.
When the Internet first became popular among computer nerds, it sought to create a virtual parallel world where people could be whoever they wanted to be without restrictions.
Fast-forward to the year 2021. The Internet had not only become the Wild West the tech nerds had hoped it would be. In fact, the opposite happened; it had become even more restrictive and controlling than Base Reality. Every website visit, every post, every click was immediately stored on the server of some giant corporation. Not conforming to their policy could not only get you banned from their service, but it could end your career or land you in prison. Not even to mention the armada of hackers who could steal your online accounts and comandeer your digital devices in a matter of minutes.
Jung felt that in 2025, the time had come for a digital renaissance. This came riding on the shoulders of 3D Internet, now known in Bitropolis as the Metaverse.
Like the Internet is made of websites, the Metaverse is made of Metaverses. Every citizen in Bitropolis has their own Metaverse or Metaverses. Of course, building a Metaverse is not as easy as building a website. This is why Artificial Intelligence was designed to assist citizens in the construction of their Metaverses. You simply told the AI what kind of planet you wanted, and it would take care of the rest. The best of all was that you could do whatever you wanted in your Metaverse because you were the God of that world. You could choose an avatar to inhabit and live among your creations. You were free to live out any wild fantasies your Bright Personality and Dark Personality desired.
To make this experience feel as real as possible, there were two important accompanying technologies: VR glasses and Brain Computer Interface, or BCI. Both technologies had already been invented in the early 2000’s, but they weren’t perfected until the mid 2020’s. While most people were familiar with VR glasses, it took longer for them to get accustomed to BCI. What BCI does is to transmit the five senses in the Metaverse directly into your brain. With the help of these technologies, if you have sex with a virtual woman in your Metaverse, you will sense the touch of her hand, the heat of her body, the smell of her perfume, the sound of her moaning. The experience is nearly indistinguishable from Base Reality.
In the Bitropolis, everyone is entitled to Universal Basic Income. It’s not too much, just enough for each citizen to afford a shelter and have relatively decent food and clothes. Most people in Bitropolis live a minimalist life with very few possessions, and they are perfectly happy with that. Whatever they lack in Base Reality can be theirs in Virtual Reality. There, they can be a wealthy bachelor, king, president, superstar, superhero, supermodel, or even butterfly, if they wish.
Nearly everything is delivered to citizens’ homes by drones in Bitropolis. On average, people spend four hours a day, three days a week working in Base Reality. They spend the remainder of their time either in the Metaverse or in Base Reality with their family and friends.
Every citizen in Bitropolis is taught from an early age that they are a binary human being with both a Bright and Dark Personality. This way, if the urges of the Dark Personality possess them, they will not act them out on their co-citizens, but rather direct them at the Non-Player Characters in the Metaverse. Where in real life, in base reality he would have to face prison time or death sentence for harming or killing a human being. The chance to fully experience their Dark Personalities often leads to disappointment, like gamers who lose their taste for shooter games and move onto strategy. The Metaverse helps them to reconsider such deeds as well as inform them of the workings of Base Reality. As a result, there is no crime or antisocial behavior in Bitropolis.
People in Bitropolis stay healthy by engaging in physical activity outside in nature. 80% of its total surface is covered in untouched vegetation. The remaining 20% is streets and residential buildings. There are no shops or shopping malls in Bitropolis- only giant warehouses at the edge of the city where all the consumer goods are kept and distributed by drones. This has freed up a lot of space for greenery to flourish. Citizens can enjoy numerous foot and bicycle paths while breathing pristine air.
Most people work from home, so Bitropolis is nearly noise and traffic free. The only cars in Bitropolis are electric, and the streets take up little space. With the Teleportation feature of the Metaverse, you can “visit” anywhere and anytime you like. Paris in the 1920’s? Done. Top of Mt. Everest? Simple. No need to hop on a fuel-guzzling airplane.
Citizens of Bitropolis refer to themselves as BitHumans, and the era they live in as the BitAge. Inspired by their story, other cities began copying the Bitropolis, setting the Bitvolution in motion.
What appears as a sci fi utopia is closer to reality than we realize. A close examination of the current technological developments in the last decade reveals that the Metaverse has already seen billions of dollars of investment by corporations like Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Apple, and Samsung.
In the near future, VR glasses and Brain Computer Interface will have progressed enough to create a fully inhabited experience. After all, Elon Musk’s Nuralink company already had its first successful trial of their BCI last year, and multiple companies have been chasing the monopoly of the VR market. At this point, we are no more able to stop the rise of the Metaverse as we are to compete with Big Tech. This is why attempts to create an open source Metaverse will ultimately fail; the infrastructure to support such a system can only be provided by the likes of Google or Apple. Evolution will take place in a top-down transformation, as opposed to the bottom-up revolutions of the past.
This does not mean that the rest of us will be left behind. Mega Tech will need to employ millions of people to bring its vision to completion. Today, tech corporations have a reputation for providing the best conditions for their employees. Because the majority of people will choose to live on their Universal Basic Income and spend most of their time on Metaverse, the remainder of the population will be highly paid for their work, and the increased demand for employees will lead to better job conditions.
There is a trend among developed countries that forces its youth to study something for the sake of it, even if the field has no practicality. With the arrival of Metaverse, we will see a big rise in the salaries of people who do the essential physical work. As we already witnessed during this pandemic, the essential work is highly undervalued in our society.
There will still be a need for innovation, especially when it comes to health and fitness. When the Metaverse arrives, you can ride your stationary bicycle at home while enjoying virtual nature, or run on the treadmill with your VR glasses. There are many who like team sports but don’t care for the company of other people. For them, a virtual game with NPCs as teammates is a perfect way to get fit. With the Metaverse, all of these will be more accessible, thus bridging the health gap and leading to a more egalitarian society.
The Gamer Lifestyle
Skeptics will argue that we are nowhere near this level of simulation capacity, citing the uninspiring two-dimensional selfie-infested representations of the Internet today. We consume more than we participate, as much of our online time is spent mindlessly scrolling. There is one exception to this pattern: Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOs). While social networks descended into platforms for expressing political hate, spreading conspiracy theories, and posting dull memes, MMO games have been improving every year. Inhabiting worlds of near film-level quality and chatting live with others, players foster genuine connections as they team up against a common virtual enemy.
If we accept that MMOs are a template for the Metaverse, then Fortnite could also be called a pre-Metaverse. You might know it as a video game, but it is more than that. Despite the fact that it currently has over 350 million players, Fortnite has become a substitute for Facebook for the younger generation. Not only do they come together there in teams to defeat a common enemy and chat live with each other along the way, but they also build new virtual worlds together. Fortnite is not the only one of its kind; Minecraft has over 130 million players, and Roblox, 150 million. Based on stats from Statista.com, there are over 3 billion people on the planet playing online games each year. This is a growing trend which will accelerate to unimaginable levels in the next years as we live life from one lockdown to the next.
The times of the stereotypical introverted nerdy gamer are over. PewDiePie, the most influential YouTuber out there, became famous by filming himself playing video games and making witty comments. With 109 million subscribers, he is more influential than most politicians and celebrities of this world. For comparison, Yuval Noah Harari, who is considered as one of the greatest thinkers of the last decade, has only 308 thousand subscribers, which makes up about 0.28% of PewDiePie’s following.
It is also worth mentioning that the number of adults playing video games has increased in the last decade as graphics and plots behind the games become smarter and more complex. And now with a lot more adults stuck in home-office, video games will have an even larger draw.
The most compelling argument for the Metaverse is its environmental implications. The biggest factor in the destruction and pollution of the environment is our obsession with consumption. During any given grocery trip, we choose between hundreds of types of cheeses, yogurts, sausages, apples, tomatoes, not to mention the thousands of types of clothing and shoes and millions of other consumer products imported from China, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Brasil, and all corners of the world to Europe, or the USA, or any country, and all to satisfy the unquenched needs of the “modern” consumer. This behavioral pattern leads to environmental pollution and destruction, and we are certain that most humans will not willingly lower their consumption levels if they can afford not to.
In contrast, one feature that defines the serious gamer is dedication to a minimalist lifestyle. Once they are plugged in, they hardly care about consumption in real life. Coca Cola and pizza seems to keep most gamers happy, and I’m sure someone has already invented a Bio version of each to keep them healthy. A hardcore gamer takes a shower maybe once in a week or two, saving gallons of water. A gamer also hardly travels beyond work and school. They tend to own little clothing and don’t change it often, thereby forgoing an industry that skyrockets humanity’s carbon emissions, dries up water sources, and pollutes rivers and streams with dyes and other toxic chemicals. Over 85% of all textiles go to the dump each year, along with the microplastics and chemicals from frequent washing. Add to that the horrific conditions people in countries like Bangladesh and the Philippines have to work, and it’s enough to make you want to go nude.
The typical gamer is also uninterested in material wealth- that is, wealth in the Base Reality sense. They prefer instead to accumulate wealth in the virtual world, spending their money on virtual clothes, tools, and armor for their avatar in the game. One of the main reasons for suffering in this world is the endless greed of the billionaires and millionaires. Consider how hedge funds and other financial institutions destroy companies and entire economies of small countries through Stock Market speculation. The reason they can do this is because we all secretly feed on the dream of becoming rich one day. If we can experience this dream in the Metaverse, then perhaps we will not be so easily manipulated by marketing to buy things we do not need with money we do not have.
From these points, we can conclude that gamers have perhaps the lowest carbon footprint in the developed world. For that fact alone, they deserve our respect.
If you think the vision of such a society sounds unrealistically utopic, then allow me to point out a real-world example. Of the 300 cities I have visited in my life, the closest example I have found to a Bitropolis (and overall the most impressive city, in my opinion) is Tokyo. Due to the terrible jet lag, I found myself wandering around Tokyo at almost any hour of the day or night. I think the majority of people will agree with me that it is one of the safest and cleanest cities in the world. In spite of a population of over 37 million people, Tokyo gives the feeling of a friendly small town, whether you choose to explore it at midday or midnight. One of the reasons why I believe Tokyo has successfully created such a peaceful society in such a dense environment is that it allows its dark side to be channeled to the virtual world of the Manga, Anime, and other digital creations. Akihabara, a district in metropolitan Tokyo, is dedicated entirely to selling these media. Considering the popularity of Anime and Manga around the world, it makes sense to say that these media satisfy a fundamental human craving for a life parallel to our own.
I am not a gamer, nor have I ever been. Like any parent, it pains me to see my children spending a lot of their time on video games instead of playing outside with their friends. All my attempts to push them to go out failed, mostly because most of the other parents did not seem bothered by the fact that their kids spend so much time playing video games. Even talking to the other parents was difficult because they stared at their phones during the whole conversation. I would often end up playing outside ping-pong or football with my two sons while their friends played Fortnite at home. I didn’t see how spending more time online was the solution. Quite the contrary; I saw it as a big problem.
Over time, I realized that even in the digital age, Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” or Darwin’s “natural selection” would step in and create a better society than the one we currently have. When the Metaverse arrives, a new generation will come forth, endowed with the ability to discern between Virtual Reality and Base Reality, and they will recognize the advantages and disadvantages of each. Achieving a perfect simulation of reality will lead to innumerable other discoveries. We might be able to heal most diseases, manage social crises, and avoid natural disasters. And, as is starting to happen during this pandemic, we might start to appreciate the physical presence of our loved ones.
Some of you might be wary of a society that spends most of its time plugged to a virtual world. You might say that you prefer reality. That is fair enough. You were also likely born with the talents and privileges necessary to enjoy your reality. Others may not be so lucky. If people were born poor and disabled, why not allow them the chance to live another life, even if it is in Virtual Reality? Is not for you to decide what other people should choose for themselves.
One of the lessons we learned during the pandemic is that a lot of jobs in the developed world are occupational therapy compared to the real jobs which are crucial to the survival of our society. In theory, in the developed world, if we fired 50% of the population, we would still easily cover all our basic needs. With the rise of Artificial Intelligence and robots, a lot of jobs will be replaced by smart algorithms anyway. The question is what to do with this new unemployed class? We will have no choice but give them Universal Basic Income and the Metaverse.
Would you rather see people in the street slaughtering each other, stealing, cheating, raping, killing, and destroying the environment? Or, would you rather see them home on a comfortable couch enjoying a virtual life which they will never have in this world?
Bitropolis is our future, whether we like it or not. No one can simply unplug the Internet or pause evolution. This White Paper is not a proposal for a new system or society or a new ideology. It’s a prophecy. You can embrace it and prepare for what is to come, or you can reject it and deny reality. The choice is yours. Who am I to judge?
About the Author
George Papa has worked as an architect and project manager in thirteen countries: Germany, Albania, Ireland, USA, Australia, Kosovo, Haiti, Burundi, Rwanda, Ethiopia, South Sudan, South Africa, and Switzerland. He was born in November, 1974 in Albania under a ruthless communist dictatorship. His parents were both professional actors. In 1993, at the age of eighteen, George got married in Dresden, Germany, where he also went on to study Architecture. One year later, his son was born, and his daughter two years later. In 2004, he moved with his family to Galway, Ireland, where they lived for four years and had two more sons. In 2008, they moved to Perth, Australia. One and half years later they moved back to Berlin, where George founded an e-learning startup. In 2012, after 19 years of marriage, George separated from his wife. In 2014, George continued his humanitarian work career in Ethiopia to work in a refugee camp for Medicine Sans Frontier. During his studies in Dresden and his first years in Berlin, George worked as a freelance interpreter for the German Criminal and Federal Police. In the course of his work, he came in contact with the criminal underworld, organised crime, drug trafficking, prostitution, and human trafficking. These experiences had a serious impact in his life and in his beliefs concerning the binary nature of the human being.
George has written five books and is about to finish his sixth titled The Code to Rewrite Life, which explores the imminent possibilities of simulated reality. In May of 2011, he received a thank-you letter from Angela Merkel regarding his book Aschulzial (translated “school antisocial”). Through his writings and education initiative Unschulbar (“unschoolable”), whose website received 2.3 million visits in one month alone, George spread awareness regarding issues in the German education system.