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How Are Autonomous Vehicles Similar To, but Different From the Metaverse?

The company formerly known as Facebook made news around the world last week when it announced it was changing its corporate name to “Meta,” a riff on the metaverse, the concept of an immersive, interconnected digital world that was first coined in the 1992 science fiction book, Snow Crash, and which Facebook is pursuing in the real world as an evolution of its social network products. 

It may have caught you by surprise — unless you’d already been talking to Sarah Unger.

Unger has been ahead of the curve on understanding the metaverse and other new technologies like artificial intelligence and self-driving cars, as part of her job as the founding partner of CULTIQUE, a unique creative agency focused on helping companies and individuals anticipate and prepare for their futures using the discipline of cultural anthropology.

As Unger describes her own role to Ground Truth columnist and co-host Alex Roy on the latest episode of the No Parking Podcast: “We think of our clients as building rocket ships and our job is to study the cultural atmosphere in order to help them calibrate in order to meet whatever objectives they want for their brand audience or business… That could be cultural insights to help build a better movie, build a better product, connect to people in a more culturally attuned or relevant way.”

In a wide-ranging philosophical discussion that covers everything from the varied meaning of the terms “self-driving” and “driverless” to the fears and promise of artificial intelligence, Unger and Roy discuss exactly how companies and individuals can seek to anticipate and prepare for future shifts in culture, in order to adapt and invest in promising new directions.

When it comes to the metaverse, Unger provides a succinct and helpful description of exactly what it is and why companies such as Facebook are so interested in it. 

“On the broadest level, the metaverse specifically is a persistent virtual space in which services, companies, individuals, platforms can be interconnective and interact with each other,” Unger says.

Unger makes a connection between the state of autonomous vehicles and the opportunity that people see to define and create the metaverse.

“Self-driving cars are still an emergent conversation,” Unger tells Roy on No Parking. “It’s something that may seem futuristic and far-off to people. However, there’s an on-ramp. I think a lot of people might not realize that elements of sensory systems within increasingly smarter cars are actually bridging the gap that it’s already creeping into our driving experience.”

The duo also explores the possibility of self-driving technology to help address societal barriers by offering affordable new transportation options, safe access to places that are only reachable by car, and the chance for small businesses to deliver goods more efficiently and economically than they could otherwise. 

Listen to the full fascinating conversation about cultural anthropology and new tech on the latest episode of No Parking, and subscribe to the podcast now to stay up-to-date on future episodes. 

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