I Can’t Figure Out This Universe, Now I’ve Got The Metaverse


The following is a highly technical column with lots of big words and stuff, not like my usual columns at all. Just a heads up for those of you who want to call the Geek Squad to come out and translate.

My daughter Jen is a mechanical engineer, and what that means is that she is always using big words that I usually nod at and try to figure out while she’s talking. The other night, she wanted to talk about the metaverse.

Because of the “verse” part, I had an inkling this was going to be something about nursery rhymes, poetry or the universe. Universe won. Evidently there is something out there that real human people are involved in that is completely virtual — the money is virtual, the products are virtual and the people are virtual. Nothing is real.

And yet, it’s all real. If you have pretend people trading pretend products for pretend money, it’s still economics. She told me how much safer the metaverse is than the universe. (The universe is something I’ve come to love even though I don’t understand it either).

She told me about artwork that can have only one owner because it has been imbedded with a virtual microchip, proving its provenance. It can’t be copied. Hmmm.

She said virtual snippets of NFL games are being traded like baseball cards, and Nike has designed a line of virtual sneakers that can’t be stolen from virtual owners. Meanwhile, rapper Snoop Dogg gave a virtual concert in the metaverse with really high bitcoin prices.

“Oh, please,” I said. “A virtual concert? That’s television. Anyone can watch.”

“No, no, no,” she continued. “Concert-goers like to be able to look around the arena and see what other concert-goers are doing. Are they dancing? Waving their virtual lighters in the air? Putting the moves on another concert-goer? What? Seating has to be limited for these avatars.”

“Avatars?” I had seen that movie with the blue people, and I do play games on my phone, so an avatar was something I knew about. It’s a creation where a real person can look however they want to look and be whatever they want to be.

“Some avatars even get married in the metaverse,” Jen said. “They may live on different continents in our world, but they live together in the virtual world.”

“With all the freedom of the metaverse, getting married is first on their list?” I screeched. “What about flying or being a shape-shifter?”

“Maybe they have all that,” she said.

Anyway, Nike is suing someone in the metaverse for copying their shoes. “Ha!” I said. “So the metaverse isn’t that safe after all! There are crooks everywhere!”

“I suppose,” Jen replied. “Mom, I really appreciate how you’ve taken an interest in this stuff. You’re a great role model.”

“Thanks, but that’s not it. I’m interested because I view this as the next cell phone. You have to know how to use it or you fall by the wayside. Plus, if you call me and tell me you’ve broken your leg, I have to know — is it really broken or is it metaversally broken? And do they have hospitals there? And how do I get you to one? And how much bitcoin do I need?”

She interrupted me with a hug, but I really wanted to know where these virtual hospitals were. One has to keep up.