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Orbis non sufficit

The World is Not Enough for four of the world’s richest billionaires

By Ricky Browne

The newest Bond movie may be all the rage at the cinema these days. But forget about Daniel Craig in No Time to Die for a moment, and think instead about megalomaniacs in 1999’s The World is Not Enough, starring Pierce Brosnan.

What does the multi billionaire who has more money than he knows what to do with, once he has conquered a worldwide market?

The world is not enough — at least for four of Earth’s billionaires

Well, for three – make that four – of the world’s best known billionaires, the answer is simple. The world is no longer enough – so spread your wings or tentacles beyond the constrains of this planet.

At least four billionaires would certainly give some Bond villains  a run for their money – at least in the ambition stakes.

Jeff Bezos and his Blue Origin Photo: AP

Jeff Bezos of Amazon got the ball rolling first – or almost did – when he entered the fringes of space in his Blue Origin space rocket.

But he got beaten to the punch by Richard Branson of Virgin. Although a billionaire, Branson is not really in the same league as wealthier billionaires like Bezos. But what he lacks in cash he makes up for in marketing and PR. So he hurriedly succeeded in taking off in his own rocket a few days earlier than Bezos on a similar flight via Virgin Galaxy.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk – who is now the world’s richest billionaire thanks to his Tesla breaking the US$1 trillion barrier – is preparing for his own flight, deeper into the fringes of space than either Branson or Bezos, via his SpaceX rocket.

Zuckerberg launches Meta Photo: Meta

But with the battle over the real universe just beginning, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has decided to create his own parallel universe – an alternate reality, that he calls a metaverse. And, despite a week of much negative PR for Facebook about its negative effect on the mental health of its users – Zuckerberg has announced that Facebook will change its name to Meta.

Maybe  “The Matrix” would have been a more appropriate name.

Are you sitting comfortably?

Zuckerberg announced the name change and the concept yesterday — — the idea being “a place where we’ll play and connect in 3D”.

Users will connect with each other via the internet through virtual reality (VR) headsets.

He said the metaverse wouldn’t just be about gaming, but would also allow people to meet friends, work and go to concerts – all from the comfort of their own living rooms, or wherever they happen to be when wearing their VR headsets.

Its not beyond the scope of human imagination to predict that the metaverse could also be a sex tool or toy – as was (is?) the 2D internet when it started. Presumably this could lead to an increase in the birth rate in the metaverse, if not in the unplugged reality on Earth.

“Feeling truly present with another person is the ultimate dream of social technology,” said Zuckerburg in his ‘Founder’s Letter’ yesterday. Porn Hub must be getting very excited over the possibilities.

Happy Halloween Photo: Meta

The new logo for Meta shows a kind of collapsed version of the sign for infinity in a traditional Facebook blue.

“Our mission remains the same – we are still about bringing people together” Zuckerberg said – which might not be a great comfort to the many people who are worried about the detrimental effect that Facebook and its other social media brands have on millions, perhaps billions of people, especially young teenagers.

Nor would it be a comfort to many others, who are unhappy about Facebook (or now Mega’s) control over censoring its users for the mildest of infringements.

“When I send my parents a video with my kids, they’re going to feel like they’re right in the moment with us not peering through a little window,” Zuckerberg said.

Zuckerberg shows new logo Photo: Meta

How proud his parents will be, just as God’s parents may have been when he created the (less than perfect) universe in seven days, and how happy to not actually have to touch, feel or smell their grandchildren.

“In this future, you will be able to teleport instantly as a hologram to be at the office without a commute, at a concert with friends, or in your parents’ living room to catch up. This will open up more opportunity no matter where you live. You’ll be able to spend more time on what matters to you, cut down time in traffic, and reduce your carbon footprint,” he said.

Though of course the energy being used to power up your metauniverse could well give your carbon footprint a Sasquatch-like boost. Particularly if your power is still coming from oil or coal-powered plants.

“Think about how many physical things you have today that could just be holograms in the future. Your TV, your perfect work setup with multiple monitors, your board games and more — instead of physical things assembled in factories, they’ll be holograms designed by creators around the world,” Zuckerberg said.

How old friends may play chess in the metaverse Photo: Meta

He could have added – “and think how much real money you can spend, maybe even with my fellow billionaires, to buy the things you want in the real world. A virtual Tesla perhaps – to keep up with your virtual neighbours, the Virtual-Joneses, fashion or books from Amazon, a flight to Mars via Virgin Galaxy. “The possibilities for new sales are endless.

Not that making money is the point. Oh no. “As I wrote in our original founder’s letter: “we don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services” Zuckerberg said.

What would Darth Vader say?

Presumably in this new world, Meta will become like a universal government – beholden only to its shareholders – and perhaps more like a dictatorship on par with Star War’s evil Galactic Empire, than a believer in individual human rights.

But time will tell –because as Zuckerberg says, the metaverse “doesn’t fully exist yet”.

And unlike the Rebel Alliance — resistance to this proposed empire is relatively futile. Zuckerberg says he believes  his metaverse will reach a billion people within the next decade.

“Our hope is that within the next decade, the metaverse will reach a billion people, host hundreds of billions of dollars of digital commerce, and support jobs for millions of creators and developers,” Zuckerberg said.

Zuckerberg settles down to some cards in Meta promotional video Photo: Meta

And though Zuckerberg says Meta wants to bring people together, it may conversely have another effect, as though the first metaverse, it might not be the last. Just as Facebook is currently not allowed in China, its conceivable that China and other nations will create alternate alternate universes, to protect their citizens from an American-centric metaverse.

So rather than breaking down walls, the real affect could be the creation of new walls – separating large groups of world citizens from others.

Will there be multi metaverses in the future. What happens if they collide?

Meanwhile, prepare for all the benefits of living in the Matrix. Coming soon to a living room near you.

“The future is going to be beyond anything we can imagine,” Zuckerberg reassured followers in his conclusion.

Robert Oppenheimer the father of the atomic bomb Photo: The Times

That promise may not be a reassuring one for Robert Oppenheimer, the ‘father’ of the atomic bomb.

“We knew the world would not be the same” he said after the first detonation of a nuclear weapon on July 16, 1945. “A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent.”

But his most famous quote was a line from Hindu scripture. “Now I am Death, the destroyer of worlds”.

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