Why Neal Stephenson is trying to make the open metaverse into a reality

by | Oct 31, 2022 | Technology

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The metaverse has been trending for a couple of years as humanity’s answer to the pandemic and remote work. Neal Stephenson, the author of the science fiction novel Snow Crash and cofounder of blockchain tech firm Lamina1, is the high priest of this metaverse religion, as he coined the term “metaverse.”

And after 30 years of waiting for science fiction to become reality, he doesn’t want the metaverse to turn out to be a dystopia. Concerned that big tech companies like Meta could turn the metaverse into a bunch of walled gardens, Stephenson cofounder Lamina1 with Peter Vessenes to spearhead the open metaverse.

I spoke with Stephenson in a fireside chat at our GamesBeat Summit Next 2022 event last week. We talked for a while and then Stephenson answered questions from the audience.

Stephenson said that the metaverse should have a lot of people running around in it and a unified geography. He doesn’t think you should be able to randomly jump from place to place.

He also talked about how to do research to get people to believe in your fiction, and that’s why he has so much technical material in his science fiction books. Stephenson related the surreal experience of seeing Snow Crash become so popular in its 30th year.

From time to time, startups have tried to take the things in his books and make them real. But Stephenson said he has been reluctant to endorse any particular implementation of his ideas. With Lamina1, he can work on underlying infrastructure that will make a wide variety of metaverse interpretations possible.

In his view of openness, he believes economic transactions should be transparent. And he thinks people who contribute things to a solution should have their contributions tracked, and compensated if it’s worth something.

Stephenson talked about his view of blockchain technology, and why it can be used to create a decentralized metaverse. He also believes that games will lead the way to the metaverse, as we need to have something fun to do when the metaverse arrives. Game developers are also the ones who are competent enough with the 3D game engines that must be used to create the 3D animations of the metaverse.

Perhaps the most interesting topic was what he would do if he had to write Sn …

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