The metaverse is a headline-grabbing innovation that is sweeping the planet. It is an online virtual territory that offers early adopters a fully immersive parallel world to explore as avatars, courtesy of their virtual reality headsets. This alternative reality is rapidly gaining fans from the private and corporate worlds. It relies on artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality and blockchain, all highly energy-intensive technologies.
According to a scientific study,1 the training of a single AI model can emit over five times more than the lifetime emissions of an average US car!2
Which is more than
On this basis, any massive shift to the metaverse would smash all existing records for energy use, regardless of any anticipated positive rebound reffects, such as the reduction of physical travel across the world and its consequent limitation of anthropic carbon emissions. For the time being, the metaverse is in
its early stages, but exponential uptake in the near future,3 driven by a quest for profit, is certain to come into head-on conflict with the vital necessity for greater sobriety in energy use.
1. Training a single AI model can emit as much carbon as five cars in their lifetimes, Karen Hao, June 2019, © MIT Technology Review.
2. Including manufacture.
3. By 2030, Meta’s CEO expects to see around “a billion people in the metaverse.” A number of other studies agree. A report from US research and consulting firm Gartner says 25% of individuals will spend at least an hour a day in the metaverse by 2026. (Source: O1Net, June 2022).