In the Lingo, This Imaginary Place Is Known as the Metaverse

Mark Zuckerberg? Neal Stephenson? William Gibson? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Recently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that his company was changing its name to Meta (full name Meta Platforms). Zuckerberg spoke about an immersive internet called the metaverse. I think some science fiction (SF) author coined the term metaverse. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1992 prominent SF author Neal Stephenson published the novel “Snow Crash” with main character Hiro Protagonist. Stephenson used the term “metaverse” to refer to a technology he envisioned which combined virtual reality, augmented reality, and a social network. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

So Hiro’s not actually here at all. He’s in a computer-generated universe that his computer is drawing onto his goggles and pumping into his earphones. In the lingo, this imaginary place is known as the Metaverse. Hiro spends a lot of time in the Metaverse.

Below are additional selected citations.

When Hiro Protagonist described a scene in the metaverse Stephenson explained that the scene was an electronic illusion: 2

He is not seeing real people, of course. This is all a part of the moving illustration drawn by his computer according to specifications coming down the fiber-optic cable. The people are pieces of software called avatars. They are the audiovisual bodies that people use to communicate with each other in the Metaverse.

The main cartographical structure of Neal Stephenson’s metaverse was “The Street”: 3

Hiro is approaching the Street. It is the Broadway, the Champs Elysees of the Metaverse. It is the brilliantly lit boulevard that can be seen, miniaturized and backward, reflected in the lenses of his goggles. It does not really exist. But right now, millions of people are walking up and down it.

A different notion of virtual reality was expressed by notable SF author William Gibson in his influential 1984 novel “Neuromancer”. Gibson used the word “cyberspace”: 4

“Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts … A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data.”

In 2021 Mark Zuckerberg employed the word “metaverse” when he discussed the future direction of his company: 5

The next platform will be even more immersive — an embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it. We call this the metaverse, and it will touch every product we build.

In conclusion, Neal Stephenson employed the word “metaverse” to refer to a futuristic advanced virtual-reality technology in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash”. The Facebook company (now named Meta) hopes to build a platform similar to this conjectural metaverse.

Image Notes: Public domain illustration of virtual reality from geralt at Pixabay. Image has been resized.

Notes:

  1. 1993 (1992 Copyright), Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, Chapter 3, Quote Page 24, Bantam Books, New York. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1993 (1992 Copyright), Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, Chapter 5, Quote Page 35 and 36, Bantam Books, New York. (Verified with scans)
  3. 1993 (1992 Copyright), Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, Chapter 3, Quote Page 24, Bantam Books, New York. (Verified with scans)
  4. 1986 (1984 Copyright) Neuromancer by William Gibson, Chapter 3, Quote Page 51, Ace Books, New York. (Verified with scans)
  5. Website: Facebook Company (Renamed Meta), Article title: Founder’s Letter, 2021, Article author: Mark Zuckerberg, Date on website: October 28, 2021, Website description: Social media company. (Accessed about.fb.com on October 30, 2021) link