Is a meta-green/s a sweet utopia?

Rather than limiting environmental impacts, could we simply avoid them? With a brand new project like the metaverse, we can easily imagine anticipating a neutral carbon footprint, entirely renewable energy consumption and recyclable, reusable infrastructure and equipment freed from planned obsolescence. Is the metaverse, mega project of a brand new virtual world, the 100% ecological white sheet of which we dream? “When we are promised connected cities with terminals almost everywhere and forecasts of 50 billion connected objects in 2050, in terms of environmental impact trajectory, it stinks”, starts Maxime Efoui-Hess, coordinator at the think tank The Shift Project for more than five years on digital issues specifically.

“The metaverse is the 4th digital dimension, annoys Frédéric Bordage, independent expert in responsible digital and digital sobriety. It is a completely unreasonable project. There are only economic reasons behind it”. Point of view shared by Tristan Labaume, president of the Green IT alliance, who cringes and lets go: “he’s a meta-black, yes rather”.

Very vague ecological impacts

Do we also want to embark blindly on this still very vague project, the ecological consequences of which could be disastrous? “Today, we never do an impact study before proposing an innovation. We reverse the proof of the charge because we are not used to living in a finite world”, regrets Maxime Efoui-Hess. “Should we for all that refrain from building it? “, questions all the same Tristan Labaume.

“We are still in the logic”Not in my backyard“. Everyone agrees to make an effort but not to build wind turbines in their garden. Saving the planet is a big yes, but no one wants to take out the trash. Digital sobriety must apply on a daily basis “Recalls the president of the Green IT alliance, also an entrepreneur in energy efficiency for data centers and IT in general, via his company Greenvision. And sobriety, Frédéric Bordage knows a lot about it. He warns: “We have thirty years of digital technology ahead of us. And we are going to let very powerful economic players, because they are constantly looking for growth, develop this alternate history?”

The metaverse and 5G inseparable

“I only understand the metaverse today from an economic angle,” agrees Tristan Labaume. Ecologically, it is an aberration”. Because to make this new world work, how can we not imagine high definition for ever more realistic 3D images, networks that work constantly, ever more efficient, on the latest equipment that has not yet been released? “In terms of environmental impact, I think we can compare a pair of virtual reality glasses to a smartphone, and add the cost of servers, networks, which will in fact be more developed”, analyzes Frédéric Bordage. Either an ever-increasing consumption of resources.

Indeed, on the model of the smartphone which does not exist without 4G, it is difficult to imagine a metaverse without 5G. “How much does it cost to play streaming for an hour?, asks the expert again. Maybe for the gamers, on very specific market segments, an immersive experience is interesting. But does the average person want to spend three hours a day with a pair of virtual reality glasses on their nose? “.

A double “kiss (not) cool effect”

By drawing the consequences of the relative failure of Second Life, launched fifteen years ago, society now aspires to a more sustainable world, for Frédéric Bordage, and not necessarily more connected. “Humans want to live in real life, other digital tools are sufficient”.

But what if the metaverse made it possible to reduce the overall environmental impact by avoiding highly polluting air travel or distorting places that have become very (too?) touristy? “I don’t think visiting Australia in the metaverse will reduce the carbon footprint. The feeling of fanned toes in the sand is incomparable,” shares Tristan Labaume. It is even to multiply the risks of a double “effect kiss (not) cool “, according to him:” it is only a way to make an even more effective publicity and to make people want to discover it IRL”. All without requiring 4 or 5G.

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