Metaverse 3010 — Climbing Mt. Everest in the age of AI / VR — a short story

As Rajan prepares for his second attempt to climb Mount Everest and wears his Oculus VR 108.1, he feels better prepared this time compared to his first climb two years ago. Having paid $20K to repair and upgrade his avatar from previous damages, he also had acquired the state of the art virtual gear recommended by the best AI Trainer available in the market — The Nimbus 314 which he hired for $50K. With 80% of his biannual earnings invested in this attempt, Rajan feels he has left no stone unturned this time and he is all set to be the Everest climber 209,441 in the Metaverse 005 and will have rightfully earned the right to his first Everest summit peak flag NFT(whose current market value was going at $149K ).

However, as he rests in his rented NFT tent in the Everest Base camp, looking through his VR lens, he remembers his first failed attempt.

It was the year 3008, and he had completed two years at his lucrative job as an AI Model for a top tech company specializing in building state-of-the-art AI avatars for humans and owner of one of the 5 most popular metaverses. As an employee, he was eligible for a 50% discount for his first avatar purchase which he utilized immediately by going for 14Trekker 89.0 avatar as he wanted to be an avid virtual trekker like his parents. His father, renowned ML architect of his time and who now lives as his AI clone after his death 10 years ago, climbed the glorified peak 92 times and holds the record for most NFTs for the Everest summit flag to date. Thus he started by purchasing a pre-trained avatar in climbing sub 10K feet summits as he couldn’t afford those trained for 14K+ feet mountains. His goal was to do as many virtual summits as possible in the next 2 years to be ready for his first Everest summit by the year 3008.

He progressed fast, by spending 6+ hours a day on weekends doing the treks across treacherous mountains of the world. By the end of two years, he had acquired 29 acclimation credits, 14 strength credits, 46 climbing skills credits, and 1.2 summit credits — all in the recommended Everest range as per popular blogs of his Metaverse. He felt ready for his first climb on Everest by March, 3008. During the same period, he had acquired great climbing accessories and before climbing Everest and had repaired and recharged each virtual equipment to 1.5 lifetimes to allow for wear and tear loss.

He still remembers the day of March 29, 3008. He rented a virtual tent for 10 hours in the serene Masai Mara national park for a good night's sleep. Woke up early at 6:30 AM, with his water temperature ready at the time of awakening, comfortable clothes washed and ironed, and breakfast programmed to be ready exactly at the right time — thanks to his meticulously trained personal AI assistant — for which he had been purchasing regular upgrades every month for past 65 months.

Exactly, at 9:00 AM, his Oculus chair vibrated as a reminder to get started. Excited and nervous at the same time, he shifts into his chair with his arms and legs strapped into the right sockets. As he covered his eyes and plugged the brain sensors onto his head, the climbing experience began as he was greeted by The Nimbus trainer and was briefed on what to expect. His expedition began with his avatar’s accelerated acclimatization at the Base camp for 4 straight hours. During the same time, he spent his avatar credits on pred-determined food and diet. He was also given the option of hiring a sherpa assistant to carry his virtual stuff up the mountain to speed up his climb. Having already invested most of his savings, he decided to pass that up.

His acclimatization was progressing as expected and he nodded the Nimbus for the next stage in advance of the stipulated time. Despite the warnings, in excitement to finish his first climb, he proceeded to Khumbu Icefall where the weakness in his avatar training became apparent as it tried to balance itself across the steel stairs and fell downwards into the icy limbo. The flashy Nimbus model appeared declaring the end of the climb and shared stats on the avatar damages and his transient climb. While all his equipment needed to be replaced, clothing gear had to be repaired, and his virtual oxygen cylinders remained intact which he could either use for the next climb or sell in the virtual goods NFT marketplace. While his dream was shattered and he was clearly heartbroken, Rajan stopped the VR experience using stress signals and stepped out of his chair in despair.

Not only did he lose a huge chunk of his hard-earned money, but he also felt embarrassed having failed at a feat that his father achieved 92 times. He cursed himself for not preparing in advance for the Khumbu Icefall by buying the pre-Everest avatar scan package for a mere $5K which would have reported the needed training and weakness in his current avatar. Moreover, he strongly felt that his lack of training for balancing on stairs of Khumbu Icefall would have been compensated in some fashion by utilizing excess energy and agility credits he would have gained by not skipping the remaining acclimation period in the base camp.

As the day ended, he decided to comfort himself from the reeling anger and frustration of screwing his first attempt from his hastiness and ignoring the scan package to save a mere 5000 dollars. It would not be until the next 2 years that he would have saved enough for his next attempt including the corrections needed. He thought of his father and decided to go on a walk with his AI clone in the 1969 summer of San Francisco. He decided to lodge on the popular virtual lodge on the Embarcadero after the long walk and gradually went off to sleep contemplating the long wait for the next two years and the preparation needed.

“Congrats Mr. Rajan on completing the acclimation training. We are all set for our first adventure to the Khumbu Icefall.” — Rajan woke up to the voice of The Nimbus 314. Determined to be patient and to succeed this time, he reminded himself of all the preparation he had done and headed out with a deep breath leaving behind the fading memories of the past and on to the adventure of his dreams.

Analytics & Marketing Strategy at Amazon | UCLA, ISB, IITR Alum