TThe concept of the “metauniverse” first emerged from a 1992 science fiction novel Snow disaster as a place where people flee to avoid a dangerous world dominated by corporations. Since then, it has been called a series of virtual events that gained popularity during the pandemic, including video games such as Fortnite, fixed tokens or even online meetings and events.
But in recent weeks, the term has taken on a new meaning – and concerns about its potential ethical and social consequences – after Mark Zuckerberg said that in five years Facebook would become a “meta-universe company” and declared it the “successor to the mobile Internet.”
Sharing his vision of what it might look like, the company’s founder and controlling shareholder worth $ 1 trillion ($ 750 billion) described an online world where people who wear virtual reality headsets (Facebook also owns the Oculus virtual reality platform) don’t just browse. content. but to be inside it. It would be an online space created by companies, creators and developers, in which people could also live their lives – virtually go to shows and even work.
It is reported that in Washington, the political impetus for Facebook to promote the metaverse is already in full swing. Cheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, and Nick Clegg, its vice president of global affairs and communications, lead the lobbying campaign. On Monday, Clegg is set to outline the company’s plans on how the metaworld can change society in a report called Journey to the Metaworld.
According to Washington Post The company is in talks with think tanks about meta-universe standards and protocols, a move that some observers say allows the company to distract from issues such as an antitrust lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission last year.
But experts fear that because regulation is still trying to catch up with the impact of the first wave of social media, the metacosm is likely to be a way for companies like Facebook to get even more data and profit from it. They also warn that greater foresight and government protection are needed to counter the risk that space and human life will be captured by high technology.
“I know this is not necessarily a popular point of view, but I believe that the damage we see after the fact, especially for children but also for adults, is of sufficient concern that it would be wiser to work to implement governance mechanisms – transparency checks, data protection, etc., as well as harm, especially to children – before these companies are allowed to appear, ”said Robin Mansell, a professor of new media and the Internet at the London School of Economics.
Although for most people the metaverse is an abstract term, the internet giants are already investing a lot of hope and money in it. Facebook recently launched the Horizon Workrooms virtual reality meeting service, where people gather remotely in headsets and meet as if they were physically in a virtual online conference center.
He also released Ray-Ban Stories, his first “smart glasses” with two cameras, a microphone, a speaker and a voice assistant. Meanwhile, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that the company is investing heavily in the “metaverse of the enterprise.”
Mansell said the socio-political issues associated with the metaverse would be identical to those that exist on existing social media platforms such as Facebook, including data, observation, regulation, and representation of gender, race, and ethnicity. But in the fascinating world of the metaverse, they will be on a much larger scale. She believes that technology giants should be made to wait before launching until it is “clear how to manage them.”
“It seems to me that this is just another step in monetizing data in favor of Facebook and other large platforms that are sold to people as fun, exciting, useful for productivity at work, etc.,” she said.
Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at the Stern School of Business in New York City, said that Zuckerberg is at the heart of why the metaworld is attracting attention. “The notion that he’s decided that the only way to get our attention is to become the universe is one of those problems when you sit back and think about it for too long, it doesn’t seem like it’s going well.”
He added: “I don’t think people are afraid of the metaverse, they are afraid of Zuckerverse. And this is exactly what he achieved on social networks. There are more people who get information from Facebook than people in the southern hemisphere and India. “
Dr David Leslie, head of ethics at the Alan Turing Institute in London, said the metaworld would offer a “way out” to solve society’s biggest problems.
The concept, he said, raises ethical questions about everything from who builds and controls it, the risk of losing a “safe privacy” and an unrepresentative virtual population. “There is a risk that from the point of view of socio-economic, gender, ethnic composition of the population of the metauniverse may be unbalanced. We do not live in a time when there is equal access to the infrastructure needed to use these technologies. “
Dr. Brent Mittelstadt, a senior researcher on data ethics at the Oxford Internet Institute, said the potential social impact of the metaverse is far from certain. “If it were as destructive as, say, people who go on virtual dates instead of dating, it would be very difficult to say how it will affect the nature of the relationship, as well as to predict the impact of social networks. it was when it was only talked about as an idea. “
But, he said, if Facebook manages to get you to spend a lot of time there, it achieves its goal of collecting more data and monetizing it. “Suddenly, you have more data sources than there are now, which come together and go through one thing – the metaverse. And if Facebook achieves its goal, you will obviously spend a significant part of your time on it. “