Whether I like it or not, the so-called metaverse is not going away. It’s likely to become much more popular as time goes on and technology advances further, blurring the line between the real world and a virtual one. The premise of a place where anything is possible and you’re under total control is, after all, enticing — like an effectively infinite lucid dream.

Imagine the potential.

An empty room with a few wires can suddenly become a massive workspace, adjusted to your liking in the blink of an eye and immediately accessible to others. It can become a busy city street, full of neon lights, rain and idle chatter. At night, it can be a hill far away from the hectic everyday life, overlooked by thousands of stars potentially serving other life we’ve yet to communicate with.

A large, empty room. Author: Jonny Clow @ Unsplash

Once you take off the headset, you’re still in the same empty room. You knew it all along, and yet, what you were experiencing just a moment ago still felt like reality. Perhaps it was. What is reality, anyway? The people you’ve talked to there were real, the hill was probably inspired by a real location. The recording of the street you took a stroll through is the reflection of a past reality, once that used to actually exist at one point. But despite this, something is missing.

Perhaps it wasn’t thrilling enough. You go on much greater virtual adventures, fly through the air and into space, to the sun and back. You walk around in robots with feet as large as entire cities, fighting off aliens endangering your home planet — only to then turn into the villain yourself. You enjoy romantic nights with partners you used to wish for in a past long gone, explore all of recorded history and drastically change its perceived course.

Then, once again, you take off the headset. Suddenly, nothing. White noise from some computer fans. A moth flying into a light somewhere. Water droplets falling from old pipes. The thrill still wasn’t enough… you find yourself missing the challenges of everyday life you were so happy to get rid of before. Now, anything you imagine becomes reality in a few seconds. No need to work for it, there’s no reason to anymore.

You want to go outside and clear your head. It’s Friday evening, yet the streets are empty — everyone’s locked inside, experiencing fantasies just like you were. There’s no reason for them to care about reality anymore, it’s boring and hard to maintain. The store you go to in order to get some real human contact is operated entirely by artificial intelligence-powered machines. Nobody else is there, getting it delivered is faster and requires less time spent locked in the perceived chains of reality.

“Wouldn’t it be fun to actually live there?”

someone finally says. We have the technology and becoming one massive, sentient computer is, for the first time ever, within the realm of its possibility. Of course, rarely anyone even considers this at first, and it takes some time to convince tech CEOs about this crazy idea. But as time passes and reality becomes ever more grim, it just… doesn’t seem all that bad. It’s a real, man-made heaven. You get to do anything you want, be whoever you want, and what’s more, become effectively immortal.

The line between reality and fiction is long gone, if it was ever even there in the first place. What used to be fiction is now your reality. There’s no turning back now.

Despite reality’s further decline into dystopia and all of your thoughts now being freely accessible, you have fun for a while. Being a god isn’t too bad, even in a world you know to be virtual. But, as time passes and the sea of endless possibilites has just about dried up, you start regretting your decision. You’re no longer able to enjoy anything at all, you wish to escape this supposed heaven. Your sense of time is gone, along with your need to sleep. It feels like it’s been centuries since it started, but maybe the simulation is fast enough for it to have been less than a day. Perhaps just a few minutes, if not seconds.

You try to think of a way to end it, but can’t. Even if thoughts of suicide were allowed, it’s doubtful you’d be able to figure something like that out. The only other option is to create a reality like the one you used to know — often unfair and hard, full of challenges you never asked for, yet much more fun than anything you remember ever experiencing.

You put on a virtual headset, wipe your memory, and are born.