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The Metaverse, by Matthew Ball: A compelling and in-depth read (Review)

The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything, by Matthew Ball

I’ve been a fan of Matthew Ball for some time. Well-articulated and in-depth, his essays cover everything from the potential strategies of Netflix to the high value of Nintendo. His analysis on the metaverse received an upgrade in 2021, and his essay collection became one of the most well-read pieces in the space — and perhaps uncited by thousands of sources who plucked his insights. A year later, his collection of thoughts has been revisited and expanded upon in The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything. I devoured it in a local cafe over a single weekend.

Books on immersive technologies have their place, based on what the reader needs. Step into the Metaverse by Mark van Rijmenam gives a great overview, while Reality Check by Jeremy Dalton focuses on the enterprise side of VR and AR. Matthew Ball’s book is much broader, focusing on the confluence of technologies that may come together to build the future of spatial computing, with an analysis of the companies that may (and may not) be primed to take advantage of it. Easy to read and engrossing, it’s an excellent book that I recommend to any professional.

Broad and deep analysis

The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything acts like a funnel for the reader. The book gives an initial overview, and then breaks down all the core qualities that will be part of a metaverse. These areas cover everything from potential input methods (VR headsets, mobile devices), the infrastructure (far from ready), and payment rails (a beefy section that warrants the detail and nuance).

The approach ensures that readers can be eased into each section, and then shown its significance while suggesting improvements. An example is infrastructure, where Matthew Ball explores the importance of upgrading particular protocols and the very way in which the infrastructure of the US may need to be updated, just to deal with the sheer compute load that the metaverse requires. The arguments are well-formulated and researched, giving an authoritative view that is miles ahead of many pundits who simply say ‘the metaverse is the future.’

At times, the introductory components warranted further explanations. The payment rails section introduced the ideas of blockchain technologies and decentralised organisations, but even as an avid reader, even I felt that it needed a page or two of additional explanations before diving deeper. Once readers are eased in more, the section would likely be more accessible for more readers.

Suggestions for the future

In later chapters, Matthew Ball discusses suggestions for the future of the metaverse. One example is the role of decentralisation. I come across professionals who entrust the future to decentralised organisations like DAOs or communities, believing that it is a brighter future that is out of the hands of nefarious centralised organisations. The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything does no give a firm answer, but argues that it is more likely to be a spectrum rather than one or the other. Centralised organisations will be necessary for the protection and defence of metaverse users. I like this argument, and will likely cite it in the future.

Another is on the role of governments. Even though Matthew Ball was reluctant to mention ‘metaverses’ in the book (and on the call I had with him), it is a likely outcome when governments globally implement their own policies on a layer of the metaverse. He believes that there needs to be some sort of government intervention, rather than a wholly unmonitored wild west of spatial unrest. For what it’s worth, I agree with this as well.

One more I want to touch on is blockchain technologies. In a debate where web3 professionals and NFT companies are cropping up like weeds after rainfall, the author gives a more steady overview that explores its potential and downsides. While he says he cannot predict how exactly they will fit into the metaverse, he is particularly excited about the potential of DAOs and smart contracts when it comes to collecting a hoard of finances and deploying them quickly towards initiatives. He also argues that these organisations should be legally protected in some form, similar to LLCs. It’s a line of enquiry that warrants further exploration.

The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything, by Matthew Ball
The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything, by Matthew Ball

Recommending The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything

I recommend the book for professionals who want a great overview of the component elements of the metaverse, and then a great analysis of what’s required to build it further. Matthew Ball articulates a vision of the future which goes beyond weighty headlines, and gets to grips with the intricate details of what’s genuinely required to (potentially) unlock its potential.

The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything argues that there won’t likely be a single ‘moment’ where the metaverse appears it is a gradual process, which we can only see clearly when we look back. In a similar way, I can see people looking back on this book as a core citation to their work many years from now, much like how people point to Snow Crash today.

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Meditative with the VIVE Flow. Photo credit: Tom Ffiske

Tom Ffiske

Editor, Immersive Wire

Tom Ffiske is the Editor of the Immersive Wire, a weekly newsletter on the immersive industry.