Origins | Avatars: Discovering the Metaverse
Have you ever paused to think about the roots of the term ‘avatar’? In our tech-savvy world, it’s a term we are beginning to use every day. Many of us gamers turned Metaversers had to acquaint ourselves with the lingo of an avatar as a somewhat upgrade to our beloved characters. Others recognize avatar as the little circle in the top right corner of many applications that house your profile context menus, settings menus. The avatar is also widely recognized as a company mascot or a customer avatar for your perfect prospect. And yes, the movie!
So the Avatar. What is it? Where did it come from since it didnt begin with gaming? While many accept it without question, I’ve found myself curious about its true beginnings. Let’s dive into the captivating history of avatars that you might be overlooking.
You may or may not be surprised to know that “avatar” has deep roots in Hinduism, where it signifies the incarnation of a deity in a human or earthly form. From these ancient religious beliefs, the concept of avatars has transcended centuries to become an integral part of our modern digital world.
In Hinduism, the word “avatar” is derived from the Sanskrit language and means “descent” or “coming down.” It represents the embodiment of a divine being on Earth, often with a specific purpose or mission. Hindu mythology is rich with stories of gods and goddesses taking on mortal forms as avatars to restore balance in the world or to fulfill a sacred duty.
In Hindu theology, divine beings manifest themselves in earthly forms to fulfill sacred duties. The Sanskrit word “avatar, refers to these embodiments of higher entities. Major Hindu figures like Vishnu have taken on avatars throughout mythology, including legends like Krishna and Rama. They serve as saviors, restoring balance and order and reflecting beliefs in divine intervention to assist devotees in times of need.
The Digital Evolution
From these ancient religious origins, the term “avatar” found its way into the digital realm. In our contemporary context, avatars refer to the graphical representations or characters that individuals use in virtual environments and on the internet. Avatars came to life in virtual worlds and online gaming a space where avid PC gamers surely feel at home. MMORPG served as a space to cultivate a character that allowed us to create and customize our digital alter egos, which were often heroes. We could explore, socialize, and work in a world where we were not limited by our physical forms. This was a game-changer in the history of avatars.
In sci-fi we experienced the world of the Avatar venturing into the moon of Pandora, where we meet the Navi and other creatures. The movies characters embodied the Avatar as a remotely controlled vessel for a genetically matched human mind and body, a hybrid creature of sorts, composed of human and alien DNA. Humans donned their blue Avatar (techni-body) suits that enabled them to experience the world as a member of the Navi Avatar species.
Metaverse and Beyond:
Today, avatars are actually at the heart of the Metaverse, a world I am passionate about as an Digital Transformation Consultant. The Metaverse is all about extending ourselves into a digital space, and avatars serve as our vessel to the experience. We don a Digital Twin or Avatar as our representatives in this expansive virtual realm, enabling us to attend meetings, collaborate, and even party, all while staying in our pajamas in the physical world.
It is that time of year where some celebrate Halloween – where people playfully embrace the idea of masks and disguises, embodying different personas for a night. It’s a celebration of sorts, a type of transformation, akin to the Hindu concept of deities taking on earthly forms as avatars. Though many tend to celebrate by selecting their favorite serial killer, princess or teapot, while just as many don sheets representing togas and their favorite a pair of Jesus sandals head to church as Ruth, King David or even Jezebel. In all cases, the person dresses up as someone else. People literally become someone or something else, even if just for a short time.
I personally do not engage in traditional Halloween and I am vocally distant from the idea of being referred to as the ‘Metaverse Goddess’; I sometimes find myself wrestling with the term ‘Avatar’ as a form of watered-down idolatry. I want to be transparent about this, as it’s a part of who I am, there is some stuff that I question. Because I help others explore their visions of the future and navigate the evolving technological landscape I continually strive to do so myself. Questions generally lead to discovery and that’s what this space is all about, discovering what works for you, your community and your business.
As I work to unravel the complexities of the digital age and my own desires and convictions, it reminds me of the central themes in my latest entry of the Ultimate Zombie Apocalypse Guide for the Future entitled: ‘Technical Twin: Imposter Code.’ In this imaginative glimpse into a technologically enhanced tomorrow, I delve into the unsettling concept of a zombie apocalypse brought about by our own technological creations coupled with our insecurities as a species. I explore the ramifications of decisions that lurk beneath the surface of our digital advancements, raising questions about our own relevancy and our actions in the realm of technology.
Technology is not God, the day that it desires to be we might just be in trouble. We must continually question what it is that we are doing with emergent tech like AI, in order to make the best use of it for the long haul. Just as I challenge the implications of a technological apocalypse in ‘Technical Twin,’ I am equally committed to examining the delicate balance between faith and technology in my everyday life while helping others navigate the digital landscape.]]>