Novelist Neal Stephenson is considered the inventor of the term “metaverse”. Now he wants to make his fictional vision a reality.
In his 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash, author Neal Stephenson describes a digital world called the “metaverse.” Thirty years later, the term is the buzzword for the future of the Internet. Countless companies aim to be part of it.
The main driver is the former Facebook group, which is currently transforming itself from a social media company to a metaverse company and is focusing almost entirely on building its own metaverse – including changing its name to Meta.
No one really knows yet what the metaverse (definitions) will look like one day. In any case, the spiritual father of this vision of the future does not want to leave his baby exclusively in the hands of strangers. Together with Magic Leap founder Rony Abovitz and blockchain entrepreneur Peter Vessenes, Stephenson is working on a free metaverse.
Lamina1: Stephenson wants open metaverse
Lamina1 is the name of the metaverse company Stephenson founded with Peter Vessenes. Together, they want to create a framework for an open metaverse and prevent large tech companies from splitting the digital future.
If Stephenson and Vessenes have their way, there should only be one metaverse that enables different experiences and virtual realities.
“If there’s going to be an open-source blockchain alternative for people who want to build metaverse stuff, what would that look like?” asks Stephenson. “What characteristics would it have as a technology and a social organization?” Lamina1 hopes to address these questions.
Vessenes admits that many people are skeptical at first because of Stephenson’s involvement in the company, “That’s potentially the first question: Is Neal selling his brand out to some fucking metaverse company?” But when people talk to us, they conclude this is a principled effort. So, then they ask, ‘Is this real? Are you actually going to try to do this?'”
The question of funding
According to Vessenes, Lamina1 currently employs three engineers. However, between twenty and 200 specialists in immersive and spatial technologies are involved in building the necessary blockchain.
Lamina1 is working more on the metaverse foundation. Later, external developers will be able to add further layers, such as platforms for applications or games.
Since Lamina1 is financed with venture capital, it must refinance itself. But as with many metaverse startups, Lumina1 does not yet have a concrete business model: “The economics are tied to adoption—the more people use it, the more valuable it is,” says Vessenes. He believes the revenue will be similar to that of gas fees on the Ethereum blockchain.
Rony Abovitz: Stephenson is like Gandalf from the mountains
Lamina1 investor Rony Abovitz is enthusiastic about Stephenson’s involvement: “It’s like Neal is coming down out of the mountains like Gandalf, to restore the metaverse to an open, decentralized, and creative order.”
Abovitz founded Magic Leap and once failed in an attempt to make mass-market AR headsets for everyone. With his new startup, Sun and Thunder, he’s working on AI characters that will one day drive their stories independently.
Late last year, the Magic Leap founder showed his first short film. At Lamina1, Abovitz serves as a strategic advisor. He believes Stephenson can lend a moral and philosophical force to the story around a real-life metaverse that money can’t buy.
“Is the world cynical? Or is the world idealistic? Are people wanting to be open and democratic and creative and working in peer-to-peer ways, or do they want everything fed to them? I’m like, let’s grab our lightsabers and give it a shot!”
This isn’t the first collaboration for Abovitz and the sci-fi author. In 2016, Stephenson ran a Magic Leap creative studio in Seattle.
Stephenson’s activities at Lamina1 will not last long. His main occupation remains writing. Starting next year, he will return to it.
“My publisher will send a hit man after me if I don’t fulfill my obligations,” he says, “So when the calendar turns over to 2023, it’s going to be back to the usual.”