The last week of October, Bill Gates (net worth: $138 billion) celebrated his 66th birthday in a cove off the coast of Turkey, ferrying guests from his rented yacht to a beach resort by private helicopter. Guests included Jeff Bezos (net worth: $197 billion), who after the party flew back to his own yacht, not to be confused with the “superyacht” he is building at a cost of more than $500 million.
The world’s richest person, Elon Musk (net worth: $317 billion), did not attend. He was most likely in Texas, where his company Space X was preparing for a rocket launch. Mark Zuckerberg (net worth: $119 billion) wasn’t there, either, but the day after Mr. Gates’s party, he announced his plan for the metaverse, a virtual reality where, wearing a headset and gear that closes out the actual world, you can spend your day as an avatar doing things like going to parties on remote Aegean islands or boarding a yacht or flying in a rocket, as if you were obscenely rich.
The metaverse is at once an illustration of and a distraction from a broader and more troubling turn in the history of capitalism. The world’s techno-billionaires are forging a new kind of capitalism: Muskism. Mr. Musk, who likes to troll his rivals, mocked Mr. Zuckerberg’s metaverse. But from missions to Mars and the moon to the metaverse, it’s all Muskism: extreme, extraterrestrial capitalism, where stock prices are driven less by earnings than by fantasies from science fiction.
Metaverse, the term, comes from a 1992 science fiction novel by Neal Stephenson, but the idea is much older. There’s a version of it, the holodeck, in “Star Trek,” a TV show that Mr. Bezos was obsessed with as a kid; last month, he sent William Shatner, the actor who played Captain Kirk in the original series, into space. Billionaires, having read stories of world-building as boys, are now rich enough, as men, to build worlds. The rest of us are trapped in them.