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This is a working document which aims to explain what is going on here. We are a community of scholars who meet in a virtual world based in Roblox. Our main activity is

We have written substantial libraries of our own code including metaboard, our multiplayer in-world blackboards, and other projects. Most of this is being released as open source. See the Tech page for more information. We have run several free 8-week classes, one on algebraic geometry (MAG) and another on theoretical computer science and category theory (SoC).

Metauni uses Roblox for the 3D virtual environment with voice chat and Discord for community discussion and organisation.


Seminars are live social events, where a small group of people explore a set of ideas. Seminars have organisers, and naturally some attendees are more knowledgeable than others, but they have no formal division between “teacher” and “students”.

Once you leave the formal education system seminars are how you teach yourself new things: you take turns reading up on and presenting papers, and the discipline of preparing and delivering talks keeps you honest. In principle you can teach yourself anything, in practice you master a subject by preparing to teach others.

Usually seminars are organised around a theme or area of research. The aim varies. Here are some examples:

Many in the metauni community have experience organising seminars and preparing seminar talks and we’re keen to help others to do the same.

Keyboard controls

Guiding principles

  1. Virtual Is Real
  2. Celebrate Purposelessness
  3. Beauty Is Infrastructure
  4. In Wildness

For more information on how we instantiate these principles concretely, see the praxis page.

1. Virtual is Real

Metauni is a real place. Many things are real but not physical: money and laws are real because they have real effects on the way we think and act, and there is a distributed consensus in the minds of millions of people on the subject of what money and laws are.

The way in which virtual worlds can be real is different, however, because they involve in a fundamental way a simulation of space. A virtual world starts to become real when people spend a large amount of time there interacting in a way that depends on the simulation of physical space, when they form memories of those interactions, and those interactions shape who they are, the relationships they form and the ideas they have.

Our observation at metauni over the past few years has been that when people meet to discuss ideas that matter deeply to them, on a regular basis, and over an extended period, and their joint creativity shapes the world around them in a way that is persistent, a virtual world can come to feel as meaningful and real as a physical space.

We believe that this process can’t be rushed and can’t be faked in the same way a complex ecosystem like a forest can’t be faked. Building a virtual world that is a real place must be done with genuine intent and a respect for the capacity of the creative expression of individuals to shape their environment.

2. Celebrate Purposelessness

A long time ago a carpenter was travelling between cities, when he came across an oak tree which was so vast that a thousand people could stand underneath it. A boat could be carved from each of its major branches. Masses of people came to see it, giving the place a carnival atmosphere. But the carpenter didn’t even look at the tree, he just went on his way. His assistant was shocked, and said to his master “Why did you not even glance at it nor stop, I have never seen such a great tree!”

The master said “This tree is useless, make a boat from it and it would sink; make a coffin and it would rot quickly; make some furniture and it would fall to pieces. This wood is useless and good for nothing. This is why it has lived so long”

That night the tree appeared to the master carpenter in a dream, saying “what are you comparing to me, calling me useless? A fruit tree? They have only their usefulness to blame for their destruction by people, I on the other hand have spent a long time studying to be useless; I have nearly perfected it, and this uselessness is very useful to me! If I had been of use, how could I have grown so vast? Somebody would have cut me down hundreds of years ago for my wood”

When the carpenter awoke and told his assistant about his dream, the assistant said “if that tree wants to be useless, why is it used as the shrine for the spirits of the land? There are constant crowds around it, isn’t that called being useful?”

“Hush! Don’t say another word!” said the master “The tree happens to be here so it is an altar. By this it protects itself from harm from those who do not realise it is useless, for were it not an altar, it would run the risk of of being chopped down”

That’s a story from Chuang Tzu, I don’t know a better way of saying it.

A virtual world in which everyone knows exactly why they are there, and every detail has a clear purpose, is a dead place with as much soul as a car park or a vending machine. To breathe life into a virtual world, celebrate purposelessness. Recognise that some ends can only be approached obliquely and over long periods of time.

4. In Wildness

We have mapped, tamed, and dismembered the physical wilderness of our earth. But, at the same time, we have created a digital wilderness whose evolution may embody a collective wisdom greater than our own. No digital universe can ever be completely mapped. We have traded one jungle for another, and in this direction lies not fear but hope. For our destiny and our sanity as human beings depend on our ability to serve a nature whose intelligence we can glimpse all around us, but never quite comprehend. Not in wilderness, but “in Wildness,” wrote an often misquoted Henry David Thoreau, “is the preservation of the world.” – G. Dyson, “Darwin among the Machines”.

At metauni we value contact between human intelligence and Nature, which in virtual worlds mainfests in several forms including generative environments like Songspires that are the result of long-running computations with unpredictable and beautiful consequences, and artificially intelligent agents.


We started running events in Roblox in early 2021 due to COVID lockdowns in Melbourne, Australia. While Zoom enabled us to continue to run seminars and interact mathematically, we quickly found that we don’t like it. For reasons that are hard to explain but easy to experience, interacting in a 3D virtual world (done right) really is much better than attending an event in Zoom. The early crowd at metauni were University of Melbourne students and lecturers, but the community is now much broader.

I really keenly feel that the 3D world adds a new dimension to the social interaction (since you are fixed in space in Zoom, I guess it actually adds three new dimensions). Just the fact that I can stand next to someone, even without saying a word, is a kind of connection that is really lacking in Zoom. Roblox events feel much more socially natural to me than video calls do (even without video). Imagine an in-person meeting, but instead of being free to move physically, you are strapped into a chair with your head facing forward. All of the other attendees have the same constraints. You proceed to inject your discussion into one another. That’s what Zoom feels like in comparison to Roblox. – a student

In 2021 metauni was an experiment with running events in virtual worlds: we ran nine events across the year, each lasting for a few hours. From late 2021 through 2022 metauni became focused on seminars: we ran 59 “metauni days” consisting of 1-1.5hr seminars every Thursday (an average of around six seminars each time). The tech stack matured across the year into a set of reliable and capable tools for running seminars on Roblox.

Supporting metauni

If you believe that what we’re trying to do is worthwhile, support us:

Why Roblox?

Roblox is a utility platform for large-scale 3D social environments (see Baszucki keynote and their SEC S-1 filing). We chose Roblox because of its massive user base and accessibility on a wide array of platforms (43 million daily active users as of early 2021) and user-friendly tooling supported by many tutorials (Roblox Studio). It’s remarkable that you can deploy an attractive 3D world with 100 simultaneous multiplayer users for free, in minutes, from your laptop. While you can make ugly things with Roblox, you can make beautiful things too.

Historical Influences and Reading List

Metauni is inspired by the Free University of Berlin, Lianda and Sabishii University.

Some metrics

As of November 2022, metauni is a small but stably growing community. Our YouTube channel has 1.6k subscribers, our Discord server has about 400 members, there are about 10 active seminars and across all of these roughly 20 people who regularly attend at least one seminar every week, and a larger number that attend more sporadically. Our first class MAG on algebraic geometry had 20 students, declining to about 10 by the end of the eight weeks.

Recommended reading: