Zuckerberg Goes Meta

Facebook Tries to Escape its Problems by Rebranding Itself

It's official now: Facebook is changing its name to Meta. But why meta? If you haven't been following the blizzard of news this week, you can get the short and skinny from Leonid Bershidsky's Bloomberg piece. Bershidsky explains that by leveraging the metaverse as the successor to the mobile internet, Mark Zuckerberg hopes to evade the regulatory tangle he now finds himself in.

Zuckerberg’s woes have been mounting throughout the year. It began with various censorship scandals in which Facebook directly intervened in various political and even metaphysical disputes while claiming to be neutral. We reported on this in May and June our articles “Zuckerberg’s Nightmare” and “The Metaphysics of Facebook.” Then Facebook’s problems reached a pitch of tension earlier this month when a whistleblower came forward to testify that Facebook has knowingly chosen to put company profits above public safety.

As lawmakers debate whether to break up the social media behemoth, what better time for Facebook to rebrand itself. But why Meta?

Meta is short for “metaverse,” which is the name for a digital ecosystem that is believed will one day replace the internet. From my earlier article, “From Augmented Reality to Metaverse”:

Wikipedia defines the metaverse as “the sum of all virtual worlds, augmented reality, and the Internet.” Imagine that through a convergence of VR [virtual reality], AR [augmented reality], and 3-D hologram technology, the internet becomes a “place” into which you can actually enter and have experiences…. Imagine that the relationship between the real world and the internet becomes so porous that it is impossible to tell which is which.”

Earlier this week Zuckerberg released a commercial for his ambitious project, in which he packaged existential solipsism as the ultimate form of human connection.

Given the science fiction origins of the metaverse, it is tempting to dismiss the whole concept as merely the pipedream of techno-utopians. That would be a mistake. Facebook (er…I mean Meta) plans to plough close to a quarter of their profits into bringing the metaverse to life, in what has become a fight for the company’s survival. The theory is that once we all inhabit the metaverse, the regulatory issues that are now so high-profile will simply recede into anachronism. From Bershidsky's Bloomberg piece:

“If the metaverse play succeeds, there may not be any lasting need to respond to challenges such as filtering out fake news and hate speech, limiting data collection, making ad targeting more transparent — all these nasty, intractable, nagging nuisances that the recent release of the “Facebook Papers” has confirmed. New challenges will replace these, and before the media and regulators get their heads around them, Mark Zuckerberg may be able to enjoy a run even more lucrative than in the social media era.”

How should we think about Facebook’s rebranding? What are the spiritual challenges of the metaverse? What implication does this have for neuroscience? Keep an eye on the Salvo Blog, because Salvo's Joe Allen will be addressing these questions this weekend.

is the author of Gratitude in Life's Trenches: How to Experience the Good Life Even When Everything Is Going Wrong (Ancient Faith 2020). He has a Master's in history from King’s College, London, and is currently working on a Master’s in Library Science through the University of Oklahoma. He is Blog & Media Managing Editor for the Fellowship of St. James and a frequent contributor to Salvo and Touchstone magazines. He operates a blog at www.robinmarkphillips.com.

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