The metaverse and other toys of the giga-rich

It is often said that technology is developing at a rapid speed, and ‘we’ must keep up with the vanguard. The suggestion is that this development is autonomous, which is not true. Instead, Big Tech is the force behind it. About 50 tears ago, governmental bodies, like Darpa (US), the Fraunhofer Institute (Germany) and TNO (the Netherlands) were forerunners in technological development, which resulted in a certain degree of democratic control and relevance for society.

Big Tech has earned an incredible lot of money and pays only a limited amount of taxes. Therefore, its resources are unlimited.  The same applied to its founders and ceo’s fortunes, only think of multibillionaires as Jeff Bezos and Egon Musk. Because of the wealth of Big Tech and its leaders, these companies can spend – they call it investing – as much as they want. At the same time, governmental resources seem to decrease while its responsibilities become bigger. 

Now that innovation is in the hands of wealthy and narcistic men like Egon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Marc Zuckerman, nobody must be surprised if its development is not inspired by any social goals but by the desire to have their own toys. The metaverse is the new one.  In a world were combatting poverty and diseases, providing clean water and sanitation, and becoming carbon-neutral ought to be prioritized, they invest billions in the creation of a virtual world, the metaverse. A welcomed toy for the leisure class. 

The metaverse is the ultimate form of augmented reality, the digitally supplemented substitute for reality. Metaverse was first described by Neil Stephenson in his dystopian book Snow Crash in 1992. As the power of computers grew, the idea of ​​the metaverse gained new impetus and recently Marc Zuckerberg announced that his new company Meta Platforms will gradually turn Facebook into a fully digital world. This immerses the users in the most diverse experiences, which they partly evoke themselves, such as communicating with other avatars, attending a concert, going to the disco, and getting acquainted with strangers and of course going to shops, because it remains a medium to make money.

Already now companies are buying advertorial space and the rich issue famous architects to design the interior and exterior of the digital mansions their avators will live in.

It remains to be seen whether a younger generation, less consumer-addicted and more concerned about nature, is waiting for a such a completely artificial world.

This post based on by the new e-book Better cities, the contribution of digital technology.  Interested? Download the book here for free (90 pages)


Hardcore: Technology-centered approaches

1. Ten years of smart city technology marketing

2. Scare off the monster behind the curtain: Big Tech’s monopoly

Towards a humancentric approach

3. A smart city, this is how you do it

4. Digital social innovation: For the social good

Misunderstanding the use of data

5. Digital twins

6. Artificial intelligence

Embedding digitization in urban policy

7. The steps to urban governance

8. Guidelines for a responsible digitization policy

9. A closer look at the digitization agenda of Amsterdam

10. Forging beneficial cooperation with technology companies


11. Government: How digital tools help residents regaining power?

12. Mobility: Will MaaS reduce the use of cars?

13. Energy: Smart grids – where social and digital innovation meet

14. Healthcare: Opportunities and risks of digitization

Wrapping up: Better cities and technology

15. Two 100 city missions: India and Europe

Epilogue: Beyond the Smart City