Skip to content

Neal Stephenson Crashes into the Metaverse

Neal Stephenson. He named the metaverse—and now he's building it. Author of the dystopian cyberpunk novel Snow Crash in which the term ‘metaverse’ was coined—Stephenson has started a metaverse company which enables creators to build their own virtual worlds, Lamina1.

Origins of the ’Metaverse’

Originally, the ‘metaverse’ in Stephenson’s novel was a symbol of dystopianism. Now, in an interesting twist he’s now entering the industry through his new company Lamina1, utilizing blockchain technology and cryptocurrency to create a promising base layer for metaverse builders to work with. He hopes to use the technology for good to build a better; more collaborative, and more immersive future, much unlike the dystopia he envisioned in his best-selling novel.

Building a Blockchain for the Metaverse

Stephenson has partnered with Peter Vessenes, head of the Bitcoin Foundation, to co-found Lamina1, with the goal of creating an open scaffolding for building open and interoperable virtual worlds. According to their website, Lamina1’s mission is to “build an open, standardized, and decentralized platform for virtual worlds that anyone can use to create and use virtual environments”.

The company plans to build their product on their own blockchain and use cryptocurrencies to power their virtual worlds. The hope is that these technologies will enable the virtual worlds to be interconnected and interoperable—think of a cross between Second Life and Minecraft, but with a metaverse that ties them all together. It’ll be interesting to see if Stephenson’s vision for a metaverse comes to fruition, hopefully bolstered by the company's 'Metaverse-as-a-Service' model.

Lamina1 is primarily funded by venture capital, and its revenues will be tied to adoption; as user metrics increase, so will the company’s revenue. Overall, it has a compelling mission, aiming to be a stalwart defender of the open metaverse as opposed to a closed and dystopian system that he visualized in his novel.

"Lamina1 is a Layer 1 blockchain optimized for the Open Metaverse — providing communities with infrastructure, not gatekeepers, to build a more immersive internet."

Lamina1 is also organizing the Open Metaverse Conference, a first-of-its-kind industry event bringing together the brightest minds of the metaverse and Web3 to build a more open and immersive Internet for all. The two-day conference will take place from February 8-9, 2023 in Los Angeles, connecting experts and builders spanning metaverse experiences, Web3, and the entertainment sectors. The conference will feature panels and presentations from industry leaders, as well as performances and presentations from artists and creators working in metaverse-related industries.

Stephenson’s Cynics Still Unconvinced

While it’s exciting to see Stephenson get involved in the future, Vessenes expressed the initial cynicism surrounding their efforts. “Is Neal selling his brand out to some fucking metaverse company?” he asked vicariously—noting that his own engagement with Bitcoin only made people more suspicious. While a degree of skepticism is healthy—the goals of Lamina1 should be admired, and Stephenson definitely understands the horrors of a dystopian metaverse better than any of us–he wrote an award-nominated book on the very idea.