How will the metaverse impact sustainability?

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The metaverse remains mostly an idea, not an implemented fact. Still debate is already in progress whether the metaverse will help or hinder environmental sustainability initiatives.

The answer to this question depends on exactly how developers choose to run metaverse platforms and how users use them. As a result, the Metaverse could be good or bad from a sustainability standpoint.

What is the Metaverse?

The Metaverse, as you’ve probably heard if you follow conversations about emerging technologies, is an immersive virtual world where humans will theoretically interact over the Internet. For the best or for the worstthe metaverse promises to let us live our lives in completely virtual form, using networks and data centers to house virtual representatives of ourselves.

Could the Metaverse be a sustainability disaster?

Seen from one angle, the Metaverse could become a sustainability nightmare. There are two main reasons for this.

The first is that the metaverse could lead to a dramatic increase in energy consumed by cloud computing data centers, where many metaverse providers will likely choose to host the infrastructure and software that powers their virtual worlds. While the lack of actual metaverse rigs in production makes it hard to say exactly how much power they will consume, it seems a safe bet that it will take a lot more electricity to run a metaverse than to host, for example , an Apache Web server or WordPress instance.

The second reason the Metaverse could complicate sustainability is that it may create new hardware requirements for the devices consumers use to interact in virtual worlds. Providing high-performance 3D experiences is an integral part of the Metaverse premise. And to do that, you need high-end GPUs, which are lacking in many smartphones and even desktop computers. It’s currently unclear if you’ll be able to use the Metaverse if you have a modest integrated GPU, or if you’ll need to upgrade to the type of dedicated graphics cards currently used primarily for gaming and other specialized use cases.

If the Metaverse drives demand for new graphics hardware in consumer devices, the result will be more obsolete phones and laptops thrown into landfills, and more energy spent building Metaverse-ready devices to replace them. . Additionally, if the system requirements of the Metaverse increase over time – which seems plausible, since Metaverse vendors will likely seek to outdo each other by delivering better and better 3D experiences – we’ll end up with a continuous cycle of device replacement. . None of this is good from a sustainability standpoint.

Can the Metaverse actually improve durability?

Fortunately, the metaverse durability issues described above are not resolved. It is possible that the metaverse is developed and used in ways that enhance, rather than undermine, sustainability initiatives.

One obvious way to make the metaverse sustainable is to design metaverse platforms in such a way that they don’t require specialized hardware resources or high computing power (on the server or end-user side of the equation) to operate. . For this to happen, metaverse developers must be willing to sacrifice some glitter to maintain lower, more environmentally friendly resource profiles.

It can also help sustainability efforts if metaverse platforms are consolidated into centralized services. Instead of having hundreds or thousands of separate metaverses, resources would likely be used more efficiently if there were just a handful of metaverse offerings shared by a large number of organizations. This could happen if, for example, public cloud providers were to deploy “metaverse as a service” offerings that allowed enterprises to easily create on-demand metaverse environments, using shared hosting resources with d other customers.

Is the metaverse inherently sustainable?

There is also an argument to be made (and it was done) that the metaverse will inherently improve sustainability by encouraging people to replace physical travel with virtual meetings in 3D worlds, or even forgo real-world purchases in favor of purchases such as metaverse clothing. These activities would lead to less consumption of real environmental resources.

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However, I tend to doubt that many people operate more sustainably in the real world, since they can fulfill their unsustainable desires in the metaverse. After all, traditional social media has long helped sustain relationships over long distances and build virtual identities, but consumer spending – which correlates with resource consumption – has only increased in the age of social media.

But who knows? Perhaps the metaverse will prove to be the key to reducing resource consumption in the real world. It’s certainly a plausible thing to hope for, even if (like me) you think it’s unlikely to happen.

Conclusion

It’s too early to tell what impact the metaverse will have on sustainability. But it’s certainly not too soon for Metaverse developers to think about this issue and make decisions that will help the Metaverse become a boon, rather than a challenge, to sustainability.

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