Can Synchronicity Exist in Virtual Reality?
Synchronicity challenges the programmers attempting to simulate reality.
Posted December 8, 2021 | Reviewed by Davia Sills
- Web3 will have immersive technologies, probably run through blockchain.
- There are many metaverses in the universe of metaverses.
- Because all virtual realities are programmed, there appears to be little opportunity for synchronicities.
- If randomness can be programmed into the virtual realities, perhaps a form of synchronicity can take place.
Web3 is upon us, raising questions about privacy, entertainment, commerce, social interactions, work, and meaningful coincidences.
What is (are) the metaverse(s)?
In this brave new world, there may be one metaverse or several. They share in common a total immersion in virtual reality (VR). They may include or be separate from digital augmentations of physical reality or augmented reality (AR).
Facebook, now known as Meta, has launched a public relations effort by claiming the common term “metaverse” as the name of its own version. However, Meta’s Metaverse is but one “country” or one metaverse in the expanding greater metaverse. Microsoft is planning software to create virtual workspaces that look just like the home office. Zoom is planning virtual conferencing and more. Amazon sees great commercial potential. Other lesser-known companies have already marked out digital spaces. Second Life is an early precursor, as are Decenteraln, Cryptovoxels, and Sandbox. The gaming company Roblox has created a platform where users can create their own metaverses. Epic Games, another entertainment company, is investing heavily to bring its vision of the metaverse to life.
What’s in the metaverse?
The player will select an avatar, a digital representation of themselves that can be designed in their preferred image—gender, ethnicity, race, body type, face, hair, and more. Players will be able to purchase clothing that suits them. They will be able to attend concerts with friends in other locations, experience adventures in far-off lands, relive historical events by being catapulted into them, and learn by virtual experience rather than by lectures or reading.
From a commerce perspective, the metaverse is likely to open up many new shopping opportunities. Business owners can set up shop in the metaverse. Content creators will have a new platform for sharing content and video. How we shop online could change, allowing the avatar walk into a clothing boutique in the metaverse and browse for new outfits, and then have the physical products sent to the player’s home. Artists can create a full range of digital objects for sale and use.
Cryptocurrency, which began with Bitcoin, is becoming the coin of the realm in the metaverse. There are now thousands of different blockchain-based tokens, circulating continuously on venues with varying degrees of regulation and oversight. This is what is known as “Web3.”
Bitcoin was devised as electronic money for direct exchange between people who need not trust each other, or anyone else, and instead put their faith in the blockchain—a public ledger maintained by decentralized, open-source networks of computers. Blockchain is intended to create a decentralized internet run on crypto tokens.
In his introduction to Meta’s version of the metaverse, CEO Mark Zuckerberg emphasized the primary importance of human relationships, suggesting that his metaverse will bring people closer together. He recognizes at least one limitation—the human touch. How can people feel a warm handshake or a back rub or a hug in virtual space? Digitizing touch, or haptics, is a major challenge for software engineers. I’ve seen no mention of human odor replication or the taste of a kiss. To master these human interactions would take tremendous computing power. Loneliness and isolation could still weigh heavily against a metaverse that exists without the physical presence of another person.
Synchronicity in the metaverse
Each metaverse is limited by its software. Each has rules that limit spontaneity, randomness, and surprise. Curiosity, which is triggered by many coincidences, can only reach the rules prescribed by the software and go no further. How can the physical realities that increase coincidence frequencies be represented in the metaverse? High emotion, life stressors, and need increase their frequency, as do meditation and being in the flow. Personality variables also influence frequency. These variables seem to be far beyond the metaverse potential.
Synchronicity emerges from the surprising, unexpected co-occurrence of two or more events, one of which is usually a mental event and the other a physical event. Like its predecessor, the library angel, the internet is becoming an increasing source for meaningful coincidences beyond those programmed by social media data gathering algorithms intended to sell something. (See this post for data on this type of coincidence.
In this form of coincidence, the human mind is external to the internet and is moved by hard-to-explain, intuitive impulses. In the metaverse, the programming does not appear to allow for the random surprisingness of synchronicity. There can be no coincidences in the metaverse. If a cause is known for a coincidence, it is no longer a coincidence. The software programming explains it. Is there a possibility within the software to create synchronicity? Currently this problem is not being considered and begins to suggest an important limitation to any metaverse.
Perhaps one solution is to somehow install a random number generator that selects from a list of alternatives, but even this suggestion must limit the number of alternatives unless somehow there is also a program for creating new, yet-to-be-considered possibilities.
As with most new technologies, we will decide its use. For an entertaining and incisive critique of the metaverse, see this video. There are many potential uses to this immersive technology, but it is no substitute for experience in the real world with real people. For those wishing to escape their physical reality, the metaverse becomes an entertaining, distracting way to avoid hardships, at least temporarily. It begins to resemble spiritual bypassing through which people immerse themselves in spiritual practices and bypass the challenges of human relationships, economic, political, and environmental pressures. (1)
Considering synchronicity and the metaverse together will challenge and expand our understanding of each.
(1) Robert Augustus Masters (2010) Spiritual Bypassing: When Spirituality Disconnects Us from What Really Matters Paperback – Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books