reality and the metaverse

The term “metaverse” was coined in the 1992 science fiction novel, Snow Crash, as a combination of “meta” — meaning more comprehensive or transcending — and universe. A core component of the metaverse is virtual reality (VR). VR often uses headsets and motion controllers to create a computer simulated environment. VR is used for gaming, training, exercising, social connections, meetings/conferences — and many more uses we can’t yet imagine.

Last fall, Facebook changed its name to Meta “to bring the metaverse to life and help people connect, find communities, and grow businesses…sometimes expanded into three dimensions or projected into the physical world… it’ll be characterized by social presence, the feeling that you’re right there with another person, no matter where in the world you happen to be.”

These new technologies are blurring the lines of imagined, virtual, and physical reality. How will laws (and whose laws?), societal norms, conflicts, business dealings, relationships, etc. cross back and forth or blend these “realities?” Perhaps the “reality” we see is the reality we’re looking for? My I and your I may be seeing different “realities.”

In, The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics, Gary Zukav writes, “Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends upon what we look for. What we look for depends upon what we think. What we think depends upon what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.”

Most of us can accept that where we focus our own personal consciousness or awareness creates our perception, which then creates our reality. But science is raising serious questions about whether there is such a thing as objective reality or unchanging facts.

In his book, Recovering the Soul: A Scientific and Spiritual Search, physician, and bestselling author of books and articles on the role of the mind and spirituality in healthcare, Larry Dossey writes, “In the last three decades findings in experimental psychology have suggested that one’s belief about the world may actually change it. This idea is very disturbing to the usual conceptions of the mind, suggesting that the mind can actually influence events at a distance — that it can ‘move matter’ and thereby shape the world around us.”

“Quantum activist,” Amit Goswami is a physics professor (emeritus) at the University of Oregon and author of books pioneering a new multidisciplinary paradigm of science based on the primacy of consciousness. He explains his theory of science within consciousness: “Establishment science is done within the metaphysical umbrella that says that matter is the ground of all being, including mind and consciousness which are brain phenomena. Science within consciousness turns this upside down: consciousness is the ground of all being; matter, including the brain, consists of quantum possibilities of consciousness. When we observe matter, we choose from among these possibilities to produce the actual event that we experience.”

What the Bleep Do We Know!? is a fascinating film combining documentary-style interviews, computer graphics, and a story of a deaf female photographer (played by Academy and Golden Globe winner, Marlee Matlin), woven together. It intertwines spiritual questions and themes with concepts of quantum mechanics and consciousness. It challenges many assumptions about how our world — especially the deeper and unseen aspects of it — really works. The movie leaves us with more questions than answers. I really enjoy it because exploring the perplexing mysteries of reality is opening vast new vistas in my life’s journey.

In their follow-up book, What the Bleep Do We Know: Discovering the Endless Possibilities for Altering Your Everyday Reality, the film’s three directors and producers cite the research of several highly qualified scientists and physicists on the impossibility of objectively measuring what happens at the quantum level of physics. This leads them to conclude, “All of this serves to blur the once-sharp distinction between the ‘world out there’ and the subjective observer, which seem to merge or dance together in the process of discovering – or is it creating? – the world…quantum physics has erased the sharp Cartesian distinction between subject and object, observer and observed, that has dominated science for 400 years. In quantum physics, the observer influences the object observed. There are no isolated observers of a mechanical universe, but everything participates in the universe.”

The metaverse and emerging VR technologies raise age-old spiritual and philosophical questions about what exactly “reality” is. Are we headed toward living in artificially created worlds? Perhaps, as The Matrix series of movies depicts, we’re already living in a computer simulation. What if we’re all avatars created by super beings in another universe entertained by the choices we make? Or what if a teenager from another dimension is playing with us in a sophisticated Sim City? How much control do we have over our personal and shared realities? How do our mindsets and perceptions influence the reality we experience?

As one of The Beatles founders, John Lennon, put it, “Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.”