Metaverse Part One: The World is Not Enough!


From this week, we start a series of discussions with an aim to investigate the Metaverse(s). These blogs are our vantage points regarding the matter and will put the concept into a wider context to help develop an alternative yet wider theoretical understanding that – in our opinion – underlies, fuels, or impacts the pace and extent of development of this new concept. We hope you enjoy this series and would welcome you to join us in this discussion!

What is enough?

It is said that the concept of “enough” allows for unconditional happiness and just now (as opposed to something utopian in an indefinite future).

Donald K. Swearer, in his lecture ‘Enoughness’: A Thai Philosophy of Sufficiency Economy, in 2013 in Hamburg University, shed some light on the extensive application of phòphiang (“enoughness”) from agriculture to industry to education, and its transformation into an iconic term, defining what it means to be Thai in the 21st century.

According to Cristina Mittermeier “Enoughness is a sense of fulfilment that comes from within and through our natural environment, rather than through material things; a sense of connectedness to our friends and family, to our spirituality, to our traditions and to our culture.”

Mary Mellor in her review of the book “How Much Is Enough? Money and the Good Life” by Robert and Edward Skidelsky, states that the authors suggest that the failure of John Maynard Keynes in his prediction that within a hundred years’ time people would be working only a few hours is rooted in not realising that human beings have an ‘Original Sin’ of insatiability.

In other disciplines such as architecture (and art), there have been movements such as Minimalism and in cases individualised version of wider styles or movements symbolised through quotes such as “Less is more”[1] which have shown some inclination towards simplicity and ultimately enoughness.

More recently Circular Economy movement advocates a new reading of sustainment thriving on an earlier advocacy of “functional service economy” and “performance economy” of 1970s.   

The Need for More

Skidelsky and Skidelsky (2012) argue that Aristotelian views of wealth and its uses in earlier societies had put moral restraints on consumption and made commerce subservient to politics and contemplation. To the contrary modern capitalism’s degenerative nature has given rise to a predatory plutocracy and moral decay. There is ‘no longer any moral, political or cultural constraint on individual pursuit of wealth’ (Skidelsky and Skidelsky 2012: 183). In Mellor’s words, modern economies have made a “Faustian” bargain with capitalism that once wealth was achieved the “Good Life” could commence but have been trapped into a cycle of work and consumption.

The most influential international society for promotion of Modern architecture, Congress Internationaux d’Architecture moderne (CIAM), in its La Charte d’Athenes declared the [Modern] city’s four functions as Dwelling, Recreation, Work and Transportation with a hint of the “legacy of history”. Post-modernist architects as successors of the Modern Movement in architecture and with an aim to promote cultural pluralism, historical heterogeneity and societal inclusivity decided to challenge their predecessor’s mantra – “Less is more” – with their very own new slogan, “Less is a bore” and if that was not enough of a catchphrase, then “I am a whore” by the very person[2] who promoted “Less is more” some thirty years earlier[3]. This craving for diversity promoted by post-modern movement was way above and beyond architecture and got translated almost directly into pure ad radical consumerism. Ironically, what should have been by default the very underlying drive for Modernism seemed to have been picked up, distorted, and developed by post-modernism which should have called for the return to the values of pre-modern era when the production was in pre-first Industrial Revolution era; even if, at its best, that was unintentional and unknowing.    

Fueled by consumerism and its associated cultural trends, the feeling of not being, having, or doing enough is common in our time. The consumerism thrives on an economic model of continuous growth where the term growth is merely limited to financial value and capital/wealth growth. This has instigated an unhealthy appetite for a uniquely unsustainable lifestyle. From a more pragmatic standpoint we all are familiar with the quote that if the whole population of the world wanted to have an American lifestyle, we would have needed seven to eight Planet Earths. The world is [simply] NOT enough!

An Alternate World

This very fact has given rise to yet another unhealthy yearning for finding alternative resources in the actual world – in remote inland areas, under the seas, on other planets, in the outer space, etc. – or in the virtual world – in Second Life a couple of decades ago and more recently in Metaverse. Yet the modern capitalism, and at its core the culture of consumerism, live through such period of transition to whatever the new era post-transition may have in store if we suppose there is anything like that.     

[1] The quote is believed to belong to the pure Modernist architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, but has been used more by one of his students and trainee architects Philip Johnson more repeatedly.

[2] Philip Johnson

[3] To close the loop on the concept of more (as opposed to enoughness) in architecture here is a full list of famous quotes: Less is more (Mies van der Rohe); Less is a bore (Robert Venturi); I’m a whore (Philip Johnson); More and more, more is more (Rem Koolhaas); Yes is more (Bjarke Ingels).

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