In his program, Emmanuel Macron, provides “an investment to build European metaverses and offer experiences in virtual reality”. By Pascal de Lima, economist
The concept of metaverse is important for understanding economic and digital transformation. When you play sports in a club, when you go shopping, when you meet, when you go to a museum, or go shopping, and even when you go to the cinema or carry out a scientific experiment in Antarctica, there is has a physical displacement, a concrete social action. The metaverse performs the same uses, except that you are seated in an armchair with a virtual headset. You play sports with a game, PS4 for example, you do your shopping in a 360° showroom, you visit a virtual museum and go shopping in 360° in full virtuality. You can now settle in your cinema room, that is to say at home with, why not, a 3D vision.
In this metaverse, there are basically two options:
(1) An open, common, democratic metaverse. You and I can develop a metaverse universe from the addition of technological bricks: artificial intelligence that will help you orient yourself, electronic money to pay (cryptoassets including tokens, these famous payment tokens) . We could add other tools that participate in this world: home videoconferencing, 3D models, 3D glasses, social networks to communicate and meet, collaborative platforms and blockchain. As for the absolutely essential 3D printers in the system with the AI, they would make it possible to build just about anything you want when browsing from home.
(2) The second option is the closed metaverse. It is only authorized for certain actors in the public or private sectors (Defence for example, children’s games, etc.). To build this private virtual world, a number of players already exist such as Epic Games, Roblox, but they are Americans. By adding technological bricks, they can adapt to a more open system in the world of tomorrow.
Emmanuel Macron proposes a European metaverse that can compete with the Americans and the Chinese who already have a lead over us.
Marc Zukenberg and Facebook have also announced several billion investments in the metaverse. Europe is already lagging behind on the issue of artificial intelligence, 5G and, now, the metaverse.
On the metaverse itself, as the Chinese Tik-Tok seems to be taking over, in part, the American Facebook, there is the idea that a Chinese metaverse could overtake that of the Americans. It is within this framework that Emmanuel Macron proposes to support the development of certain key technological bricks, such as 3D engines. The idea would be to create European competitors to Epic Games’ Unreal Engine and to Unity and its eponymous engine, to take two examples.
Emmanuel Macron’s idea may seem appealing at first glance.
This European metaverse would, in addition to catching up, have significant economic benefits. It would facilitate technological partnerships in Europe by allowing the creation of monopolies. All European tech players would come together around a common project, whether the system is open or closed for that matter. Above all, the metaverse is a powerful world for valuing something other than money, in particular by technologically addressing environmental and social issues, ie the ESG criteria of member companies of the metaverse. To the extent that these companies will remain very real but equipped with a meta-averaged world in virtualized 360° format, compliance with a whole series of regulations, in particular via AI, will be made easier. Collaborative tools will reinforce the sharing of collective values. Innovation becoming the engine, the economy will approach that of the studios, as in the cinema, and here is how in Europe, we can finally bet half a billion on an industrial metaverse: the European industry 4.0.
But beware, Emmanuel Macron seems to be riding a wave.
This European metaverse project is facing many pitfalls: let’s move on to the mimicry of American society, which is far from being exemplary (the development of a dangerous visionary world and cybercrime), isolating Europe on this subject does not appear to be very realistic, just like China’s or Russia’s efforts to isolate their citizens from the rest of the internet. Why not talk about the world of tomorrow through inclusive and societal projects coordinated at European level as at the time of Airbus? If we absolutely had to talk about the world of tomorrow, we should first have mastered what is happening today. And today, the challenge of the economy is purchasing power and employment. What is a European metaverse doing in these areas, without vision and perspectives on what will become of the labor market with humans cloistered at home? How will they be paid? Via tokens? Multidimensional property rights? For what professions? What are the trades that will disappear, those that will appear with the metaverse? Who will monopolize the rent?
If we want a project as global as a European metaverse, we must necessarily include the labor market and give it a vision, since moreover, employment and purchasing power form the two main issues for the French. It will also be necessary to demonstrate that the Europeans will be in unison. However, nothing is less certain, as we have now understood with the example of Covid and the war in Ukraine.
In conclusion, this proposal appears opportunistic: We should illustrate how the metaverse could serve a European project by linking it to the engine of innovation, AI and data, the oil of knowledge, without forgetting the social and environmental purpose, and above all the purchasing power and the job. Emmanuel Macron therefore proposes a European Metaverse, but without really associating it with a vision of the world of work of tomorrow, with its new professions and within the framework of a project which engages society as a whole in an inclusive manner without once again separating it from French (to please Bpi France and French Tech in Las Vegas). It seems that Emmanuel Macron’s proposal is clearly below the challenges of the world of tomorrow because it does not fit into an economic and technological cycle of supply with a crisis in purchasing power on the basis of social demands.
Further still, this project does not warn of the risks of a failure leading the company to a dead end and there are many of them because the metaverse is not only a representation of augmented reality, it is also out of step with reality: the virtual disappearance of the real labor market, the end of work in the world of avatars and the home. And what about the risks in terms of social cohesion of such a project: a total disconnection from reality, a man ultra-connected but disconnected from reality, in a society where the phantasmagorical ultramoralization of society behind its screens and transhumanism may be appropriate, where individual alerts come home as capitalism takes hold in families. The management of avatars and the society of telework (and especially teleleisure) and artificial intelligences that think for humans will shape an unrealistic world of permanent alerts and dehumanization of civil society. It would therefore first be necessary to provide precise answers to these questions to know if the game is worth the candle.
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A proposal scrutinized by the expert: Emmanuel Macron wants the development of a European metaverse – Forbes France
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