The Metaverse To Build Better Futures

By Dr. Alexandra Ivanovitch


José Elgueta

With the latest immersive technology, your future is not an abstract concept far away in time you might have trouble envisioning. It’s a place you can visit today, writes Dr. Alexandra Ivanovitch, and it can be life-changing in unlocking our human potential.

To test-drive your potential future as a data scientist, click here. Put on your virtual reality (VR) headset and start. Fly through lines of code, teleport to datalakes, taste-test the lifestyle as a young professional who just landed a job at a cybersecurity firm. Not really into it? Swipe left and immerse yourself in the next possible professional future that is available for you to preview. Such is the value proposition of the Career Simulator our NGO has developed for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and Pôle Emploi in France (National Unemployment Office). Imagine that you are about to graduate from high school and you don’t have the slightest idea of which career path to pursue. What if I told you that there are multiple lives to be pre-lived today? With immersive technology, your future is not an abstract concept far away in time you have trouble envisioning. It’s a place you can visit today.

Multiple groundbreaking studies in cyberpsychology and computer science have repeatedly demonstrated that the brain treats virtual experiences as though they were real-world experiences. What you are exposed to through immersive technology can change the way you see yourself, others and the world around you. What’s more, exposure to inspirational experiences in virtual reality has the power to positively transform people’s perceptions and behaviours in the real world. For instance, a breakthrough Stanford study has shown that embodying a virtual superhero helps people develop their prosocial behaviour and altruism in the physical world, and the behavioural change carries over even after the virtual experience is over. First, virtually embody the change you want to be in the material world, and then make that change for real.

We are now in an unprecedented position to harness immersive technology to unlock our human potential independently of the constraints of the physical world: space, time, gravity, and scarcity. And no field is left untouched: education, access to employment, healthcare and peacebuilding, among others. This technology empowers us to teleport anywhere, anytime thereby giving us unprecedented access to exponential mobility and opportunity, while posing unique challenges around ethics and responsibility. Let’s take a virtual tour of the better 3D futures which can radically change for the better the way we learn, grow old together and make peace.


To partially be products of their environments, both good and bad—such was the reality of 20th century human beings’ socio-economic and emotional development, where post/zip codes were a predictor of one’s chances to succeed. Equitable access to mind-expanding virtual experiences can bridge this experiential rift between children which currently generates inequality and hampers upward mobility. Classes, boxes and post/zip codes are nowhere to be found in cyberspace.

A pioneering study in cyberpsychology conducted by Professor Mel Slater and his team has shown that by embodying the avatar of Albert Einstein, you can actually boost your performance in cognitive tests. If we do this right, tomorrow’s educational systems will give access to virtual mentorship sessions where you can interact with inspirational 3D figures of human achievement, and also virtually embody them for a while to get your daily dose of inspiration. Your social circle will not only be made up of your family, friends and acquaintances, but also the most iconic and motivational figures of human accomplishment of all time, the Albert Einstein’s of this world across time periods. You will be able to virtually identify with the GOATs (Greatest of All Times) of the disciplines in which you are passionate, immerse yourself in their daily routines, and pre-visualise what it took for them to attain such levels of achievement. This ‘GOAT simulator’ will enable you to create a virtual memory of the desired future end state of fulfillment, so you can then reverse engineer your custom path to materialise it in the physical world, once the virtual experience is over. Generalised access to awe-inducing and inspirational VR experiences can empower children across the world to consciously build their own futures and reach their highest potential.



A 2020 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) points out that nearly one-quarter of adults aged 65 and older are considered socially isolated. That means they have about a 50 per cent percent increased risk of dementia, a 29 per cent increased risk of heart disease and a 32 per cent increased risk of stroke. They are also exposed to higher rates of depression and anxiety. Imagine the 3D worlds that will empower older adults to be young again, virtually embody younger and healthier avatars of themselves and tick off things on their bucket lists together with their family and friends. Enter the Youth Simulator (for which we were awarded a Catalyst Grant by the US National Academy of Medicine). The convergence of machine learning and social virtual reality makes it possible to harness neural networks to rapidly generate a photorealistic VR-ready digital twin of your healthier self. Your 3D ‘best self’ is now available for download. What you embody you become. Youthful health is not part of an irretrievably bygone era, it’s ready to be experienced on demand today and re-lived with your loved ones.

With the support of Miami-Dade County Age-Friendly Initiative, we crowd-sourced the most common bucket list items for older adults, and built a 3D library of dreams for seniors to virtually access and share with their loved ones: these include visiting the Great Pyramids of Egypt, taking an awe-inducing tour of Notre-Dame in Paris, and swimming with dolphins among other simulations. Social virtual reality is strategically positioned to dramatically improve older adults’ mental health: it can mitigate social isolation’s damaging physiological and psychological consequences by empowering older adults to reap the benefits of virtual travel and immersive socialisation. 


‘It is like a dream becoming reality,’ says Father Dr. Channan, a Dominican friar and expert in interfaith relationships based in Lahore, Pakistan, who has never been able to obtain a visa to go to Jerusalem. So we took him on a virtual pilgrimage experience with his great friend, Grand Imam Maulana Abd-ul Khabir Azad, Grand Imam of the world’s fifth largest mosque, the Badshahi Mosque. Both Christian and Muslim leaders freely immersed themselves in the holy city, and navigated between sacred sites for both faiths, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Then they prayed together in virtual reality in an act of interfaith peace for real-world change.

With the support of the United States Institute of Peace, we provide this interfaith peace programme in an effort to promote understanding between faiths and prevent the outbreak of religious violence in Pakistan. This is exactly what immersive technology was made for: to empower individuals and communities to do what is impossible in the real world, to highlight what people have in common, and not what sets them apart, to allow for the free movement of humans, ideas and emotions beyond physical and mental barriers. An enemy is only someone whose story you haven’t heard yet, somebody you haven’t had the chance to know better. Virtual socialisation between faith groups allows people from different walks of life to share transformative travel experiences in space, and even time. For instance, our VR interfaith peace programme enables Muslim and Christian participants to time-travel back to the birthplace of the Prophet Ibrahim / Abraham, the father of all Abrahamic religions, and pray together from an unprecedented perspective: the dawn of their faiths.

“Now more than ever, we cannot let immersive tech development outpace the development of our ethics”


A drastic reduction of hardware acquisition and software production costs has recently democratised access to VR experiences for individuals across the globe. In the coming years, virtual reality has the power to radically transform the way we grow and evolve together for the better—and for the worse. Sifting through science-fiction literature or cinema for a hopeful reference of a virtual reality-powered future? ‘404’: not one positive and optimistic vision to be found. The science-fiction mind almost unequivocally pictures virtual reality as a gloomy accelerator for systematic mind control and mass neuron annihilation.

Coined by Neal Stephenson, the ‘metaverse’ is the massive multiplayer online virtual world which immersive technology enthusiasts hail as ‘the Grail’. In 2021 Mark Zuckerberg rightfully sees the metaverse as the successor of mobile internet: embodied, experiential, engaging. Let’s not forget that, at the beginning of the internet lay this vision for a global interconnected brain which would both harness and feed collective intelligence. Not tech monopolies, user data harvesting, filter bubbles nor algorithm biases. In 2021 we get a repeat session, and this time the stakes are exponentially higher for this catch-up round.

In order to abort the scenario of a mind control metaverse and to actualise the humanistic potential of the tech to build better futures, it is imperative that we build VR on a series of foundational principles: privacy, transparency and plurality. In 1964, in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance lecture, Dr. Martin Luther King highlighted the stark disparity between our ‘spiritual and moral lag’ and our high-speed technological progress. Now more than ever, we cannot let immersive tech development outpace the development of our ethics.  Ready, set, build. The race is on.