Source: Fay Voshell

The impulse to escape the vicissitudes and sufferings characteristic of human life on earth is understandable.  It could probably be encapsulated in the graffito phrase, “Stop the world!  I want to get off!”

There are currently at least two secularist escapist proposals aimed at stopping the world or at least getting some of us off this planet, one featuring escape into outer space and the other featuring retreat into self-created spaces. 

Those who seek to escape into outer space are represented by Elon Musk, who has a detailed plan for colonizing Mars.  He envisions nuking the planet to release ingredients vital to sustaining human life, creating a magnetic field, building greenhouse bubbles for people to live in, and finally terraforming the red planet in an ecologically responsible way.  Though it is manifestly apparent that humans have yet to responsibly tend planet Earth…no matter!  Onward, outward, and upward to find a new world to ruin!

Other secular visionaries like Mark Zuckerberg are interested in a 3-D escape route from the world.  He proposes that humans escape into the cyberspace of his metaverse, a place in which the travails of human life can be avoided.  Within this cyber-matrix, people can form their own realities as easily as children terraform imaginary landscapes via Minecraft.

But there is just one tiny catch.

In Zuckerberg’s escapist cyber-colony, one’s new 3-D life is to be handed over to the creators and moral minders of the metaverse.  As he states in an interview for The Verge:

“But managing the integrity of these communities, whether you’re talking about misinformation on Facebook or other types of harm — we track about 20 different types of harm[.] … There are lots of different types of harm.  You need to build specific systems to handle them.  We have, I think at this point it’s more than 1,000 people working on building the AI and technical systems.  And I think it’s more than 30,000 or 35,000 people helping to review the content.  And that kind of apparatus that we built up I think will carry naturally to all the work that we’ll do going forward.”

The goal is the creation of a “cohesive society” with a “shared foundation of values and some understanding of the world and the problems that we all face together.”

In other words, Zuckerberg will incorporate into the metaverse the same structures and values as he presently promotes on Facebook.

Therefore, the question arises: in the expanded 3-D version of Facebook, will freedom be allowed?  Or will the metaverse be a dystopian world in which suspect thinking is ferreted out and cordoned off, lest it infects others?  Will the metaverse also have a cyber-gulag?  Hundreds of thousands are already familiar with Facebook jail.

The 35,000 Facebook minders appear to be the shock troops for shaping the consciousnesses of the inhabitants of the future metaverse.

One is reminded of Brave New World.  There, from infancy, every person was assigned a mental mentor, murmuring unceasing propaganda, even while the unfortunate was sleeping.  Later, the murmuring became unceasing revelations from the State.

As Mustapha Mond, the world controller of Brave New World said of the hypnopedic experiment on babies:

At last the child’s mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child’s mind.  And not the child’s mind only.  The adult’s mind too — all his life long.  The mind that judges and desires and decides — made up of these suggestions.  But all these suggestions are our suggestions…suggestions from the State!

John the Savage, who is quarantined along with others who are not brainwashed, protests:

But I don’t want comfort.  I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness.  I want sin.

In other words, the Savage wanted moral choice and with it the consequences of choice.  He did not want his choices made for him.  He did not want a “safe” space.  For as Dostoevsky prophetically observed in the Grand Inquisitor speech, once complete safety is provided and all choices are made, freedom dies.  Privation of freedom leads to the death of the soul and augurs descent into Hell.  

The metaverse in which Zuckerberg wishes us to live, move, and have our being has been thought of before.

It was a paleontologist and theologian Teilhard de Chardin who described the global cerebral apparatus Zuckerberg calls the metaverse as the “noosphere.”  De Chardin’s noosphere was conceived as a thinking planetary atmosphere, a world-mind continually evolving in a Darwinian manner toward an Omega Point, the ultimate unity toward which all of history is inexorably evolving.

Such an evolving Omega Point requires an ever-evolving system of new ethics.  As Clement Vidal of the Human Energy Project explains in his overview of the noosphere, “[t]he fundamental challenge of ethics today is to find ways to understand, guide and steer the actions of some 8 billion people[.] … [T]he successful unfolding of this evolutionary process towards the Noosphere relies on positive and conscious contributions from individuals, groups, and governments.”

Zuckerberg’s metaverse is similar to the noosphere, but without the Omega Point that de Chardin saw represented as Christ, whom de Chardin saw as a kind of cosmic spiritual singularity.

In sum, the metaverse — like the noosphere — appears to be a planetary thinking network born of collective human consciousness, as a sort of ether of thought.  Out of the collective, a single consciousness will evolve from intensely regulated intercommunication.

Unfortunately, those who believe they infallibly discern what has variously termed the arc of the universe, the purpose of the planetary mind, or the true path of historical process wreak havoc.  The one-size-fits-all interpretation of what the planet is thinking is inevitably draconian and often results in incalculable carnage, including a drastic reduction of human freedom.

Is the promise of the metaverse — that is, a cohesive worldview in which all harmful thoughts are contained or even eliminated — worth the sacrifice of individual freedom?  Will any person having bad thoughts will be banished from the cyber-garden of Eden, with one of 35,000 angels with flaming swords guarding re-entry?  Who will be the people who discern the direction toward the Omega Point?  Who are the priests who discern the new Logos?

Ultimately, the idea of a planetary consciousness (a thinking planet) is a secularized permutation of the Western idea of Logos.  Christian theology identifies the Logos as the mind of Christ, who is seen as the creator, coordinator, and sustainer of the cosmos.  A divine mind (God), rather than a collective human consciousness, holds together the universe.

Zuckerberg and his 35,000 priests and architects of the metaverse propose themselves as the discerners of the global mind and therefore as chosen creators of a metaverse.  Union with the collective mind replaces the Christian idea of union with God, or what Aquinas would term the Beatific Vision.

But as some have noted, perhaps we need less escape into fantasies and more attachment to the realities in which we live.

Billions of human beings are seeking the means to cope with life right here on Earth.  They do not fantasize about colonizing Mars, nor do they want to escape into a fake cyber-world.  Rather, they want to live well in the world in which they eat, sleep, and work; to marry, have children, and find satisfaction.  They want opportunities for themselves and for their children.

In short, they wish to live in the here and now.

To that end, billions ask for sustenance for each day, praying, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Thus sustained, they seek to live by faith, discerning the Kingdom of God while living right here on Planet Earth.