Ready Player Zuck
The embodied internet and the metaverse gatekeeper
Together with Rhone:
Introducing the new Essentials Training Collection.
Innovative styles designed to support your active lifestyle. Straightforward designs married to premium fabrics, without the luxury price point.
A few years ago, while on a sci-fi bender, I stumbled upon Ready Player One—the bestselling novel by Ernest Cline. It was one of those books I couldn’t put down, mostly because of the nostalgic 1980’s pop culture references hitting me straight in the feels. Set in a dystopian landscape in 2045, it tells the story of a group of young people who live in a virtual fantasy land (the OASIS) to try and escape their chaotic hellscape of a world. They work and play and spend the majority of their time in this virtual world while the real world around them is gripped by an energy crisis and global warming, causing widespread social problems and economic stagnation.
They eventually turned the book into a movie (which was absolute garbage for those who read the book) and now, Mark Zuckerberg wants to turn Ready Player One from sci-fi to sci-fact. Let me tell you it looks like an absolute blast…
On Thursday, Facebook rebranded to Meta Platforms, Inc.—Meta for short. The rebrand was an attempt to solidify the social media giant as being about the metaverse, which Zuckerberg sees as the future of the internet. Mark wants us to live in his fantasy land while he reaps the profits and becomes even more powerful. “You can think about the metaverse as an embodied internet,” Zuckerberg recently explained, “where instead of just viewing content—you are in it.”
The rebrand couldn’t have come at a better time as Facebook continues to deal with a long grocery list of scandals and bad press. As reported on by the Verge:
Zuckerberg knows that the timing of this rebrand is suspect. Over the past few weeks, the company has been hit with a nonstop barrage of criticism, thanks to leaked internal documents provided to the media by a former employee named Frances Haugen. Facebook is perhaps the most scrutinized company in the world right now, and its brand has soured in the eyes of young people. To the many critics, distancing the company brand and Zuckerberg from the name Facebook will be seen as an evasion tactic.
According to Zuckerberg, the current cycle of bad news “had nothing to bear on this. Even though I think some people might want to make that connection, I think that’s sort of a ridiculous thing. If anything, I think that this is not the environment that you would want to introduce a new brand in.”
Whereas many of the uninformed Facebook users may be hoodwinked into this rebrand and laugh at the millions of memes created since the announcement, Zuck will still continue to face a ton of criticism from lawmakers who try to rein in on big tech’s power. One advantage he still has over the boomers in Congress is they have absolutely no clue how the metaverse will work or the negative secondary effects that will come from building the next wave of the internet.
"With all the novel technologies that are being developed, everyone who's building for the metaverse should be focused on building responsibly from the beginning," Zuckerberg said.
So what is Mark’s vision for the metaverse? Is it really something on par with Snow Crash, Ready Player One, or even Black Mirror? For all of our sakes, let’s hope not.
Zuck’s vision of the metaverse (at least at the beginning before we crown him king of the digital world) will be a place where people can hang out and digitally immerse themselves in activities that were traditionally done in the real world—such as meetings, shopping for clothes, attending live sports or concerts. This could be a massive boon for Instagram with integrated shopping. Zuck has already committed $10 billion this year alone to building out his vision of what the metaverse should look like.
I thought the following quote from Thursday’s event was ironic. Zuck said the company has:
“learned what it is like to build for other platforms and living under their rules has profoundly shaped my views on the tech industry. Most of all, I’ve come to believe that the lack of choice and high fees are stifling innovation, stopping people from building new things and holding back the entire internet economy.”
He is of course talking about the recent Apple privacy rule update that required apps to ask users whether they would like to share their data and allow them to opt out if desired. This was a huge blow to Facebook’s (and other social media companies) ability to track success of ad campaigns.
Essentially, Zuck is saying he wants to be the gatekeeper now.
This is a huge red flag for decentralized maximalists and purists. They don’t want a single company or a group of trillion dollar companies holding the keys to the castle. They would rather play in a decentralized world.
Circling back to Ready Player One, a critical theme in the book is the character who built the metaverse (OASIS) essentially made it free for everyone to use and create their own world. The creator of the OASIS passed away and his will left a series of clues towards an Easter Egg, hidden behind a series of three gates unlocked with three keys within the OASIS that would grant whoever found it both his fortune and control of the OASIS itself. And there was an evil company (IOI) whose sole plan was to find the Easter Egg and take over the metaverse—turning it into a centralized virtual world that would be controlled by the bad guys at the expense of others.
My friends over at Roundhill put it succintly: Like the early internet, collaboration and investments in the standards and tools of the metaverse will need to come from companies beyond Facebook to realize the successor state to the mobile internet vision that Zuckerberg has in mind.
Deep down, I want this project to fail—miserably. Maybe my own vision is clouded by the cancer that Facebook has become, knowing it cannot reform its ways. But one thing I will never do again is underestimate the power and reach of Zuck and the resources he has at his side.
We are not seeing the second hand consequences from building out this virtual world but I know one of them involves a deterioration of our personal relationships and communication skills in the real world.
Now go play outside while there’s still time left.
Now let’s see how the People’s Portfolio did this week…
The indices rallied for the 4th straight week in a row, capping off a massive October rally and making the Rich Dad Poor Dad author look like a damn fool for his late September market crash tweet.
On Friday, we voted Nvidia (NVDA) to remain in the portfolio until the last day of the year. On Oct. 25, after the market closed, Facebook (errr Meta) reported earnings and mentioned a strong push into investments for AI and machine learning capabilities. A good portion of the investments will go toward data centers, servers, and network infrastructure, which are markets Nvidia provides solutions for. Nvidia rallied bigly on the news and went up 12.5% this week. Nvidia by itself has accounted for all of our portfolio gains this year.
Airbnb (ABNB) is on the chopping block next week for the 1st time. We’re currently holding onto a +10.62% unrealized gain over the past 9 weeks.
Keep an eye out for the new Twitter poll every Friday. Follow along in real-time with nearly 300,000 others on Public.
Portfolio News Highlights:
The biggest stories affecting our portfolio this week:
Facebook is spending more, and these companies are getting the money (MarketWatch)
Coinbase Is a Long-Term Bet That Crypto Is Here to Stay (InvestorPlace)
Shopify (SHOP) Q3 Earnings Miss Estimates, Q4 View Tepid (Zacks)
Exxon And Chevron Post Blockbuster Earnings Amid Oil Price Rally (Yahoo)
Analysts Estimate Penn National Gaming (PENN) to Report a Decline in Earnings: What to Look Out for (Zacks)
What Else We’re Reading:
Revisiting “The 4-Hour Workweek” - Cal Newport (New Yorker)
The Billionaire Tax: The Worst Tax Idea Ever? - Aswath Damodoran
Is Hyperinflation Coming? - Cullen Roche (Pragmatic Capitalism)
Aldous Huxley on the Transcendent Power of Music and Why It Sings to Our Souls - Maria Popova (The Marginalian)
Chaordic organizations, community investing & the return of the DAO - John St Capital
The Bullish Case for Facebook’s Rebranding: Is It Too Late? - Sean Graytok (SimpleMoneyLyfe)
The Minimalist Entrepreneur: How Great Founders Do More with Less - Sahil Lavingia
Need new reading material? Visit my Amazon page for my most purchased book recommendations.