The proposed Facebook metaverse, a virtual reality environment, could be dangerous if used by the wrong people and not fully developed. Paul Budde reports.
It envisions an augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) internet in which we can all enter and basically do things as virtual beings. According to his vision, we will all be wearing VR glasses soon. Facebook announces plans to invest $50 million in its development
Some of you may remember a predecessor to this idea that was launched under its name 20 years ago. second life. Here you can use an avatar to live, entertain and talk to others. It was a real innovation at the time, and it gained a lot of attention, and within a few years it had over a million users – I was one of them for a short time – but people got bored of it and it gradually dwindled.
However, a large number of users still subscribe to it. A few similar VR sites have popped up since then, all roughly similar second life. Most of them are mainly linked to games and entertainment for boys and young men.
Metaverse is a big step forward as it allows for a much more personal and realistic level of engagement. However, despite the high promises of what VR can do for society, it will basically be the next level of gaming and movies, entertainment for people who have the time and money for it.
There’s no doubt that it can offer very interesting and useful niche market applications, but for companies like Facebook, that’s not where the big money is.
It provides the potential to subconsciously “escape” from the real world and real (unsatisfactory) lives of certain groups in our society. As we know, there are large groups (mostly men) who feel disconnected, disenchanted, left behind, uncertain about their role and position in the changing world. In the Metaverse, they can still pretend to be medieval and look to the future as feudal lords and knights on horseback or as mighty, powerful superheroes to the future.
While I can see and even admire the technical innovation here, my problem is that we’ve seen issues with the current generation of social media, and we need to resolve them before we move on to a metaverse. We can no longer be independent of technology; As we’ve seen over the last two decades, technology is changing people’s behavior, and while that’s usually for the better, we’ve also seen some very dangerous social behavior developments.
As we become more aware of the dangers of certain technologies, it’s up to us to ensure that these developments are steered in the right direction. We see governments around the world grappling with these issues. Many countries are investigating social media companies and their activities; There are discussions about new regulations and the mere commercial and political power of these companies is also being investigated.
Without solving these problems, we must be very careful as we move on to the next stage of creating a virtual internet. This will interfere much more with people’s lives and they will have a much more powerful weapon that they can use for bad things like those with wrong intentions, conspiracy groups, right-wing military organizations, QAnon, Proud Boys, neo. -Nazis etc. Imagine what these groups could do with services like the metaverse to recruit, train and brainwash the vulnerable people in our communities.
Obviously, there are much better practices to come from the metadatabase, but before we move on, we should learn from the lessons of social media abuse (and the internet in general).
We know that business interests are far ahead of social interests and we know that politicians react slowly, but we can no longer say that we “didn’t know”. As a society, we are now walking into this new world with our eyes open and it is up to us to make some basic decisions about it.
Zuckerberg has already mentioned the use of 5G for this technology, and mobile operators will be very happy to finally get an app that could see an increase in the usage of their networks. Dollar signs will appear in your eyes. It’s obvious that companies like Facebook will only play it. Ericsson already has this lethal application.. verizon announced: ‘The metaverse is coming – it just needs 5G’. Many other mobile operators have already jumped on the bandwagon.
There will therefore be pressure on politicians to give the green light to these developments with little or no regulation. However, I think we should really think twice about this.
On the other hand, let’s also consider that the tech industry is extremely good at highlighting new technologies. There are more realistic, less intrusive AR and VR apps out there that will have a better chance of success. I think the truth is that such applications will be more commercially realistic than metaverse hype, at least in the foreseeable future. However, 5G operators are still itching to find new ways to make money.
The amount of data that can be obtained from people entering these virtual worlds is enormous, and under current circumstances these companies can still obtain, store, manipulate and repackage this information and monetize it. As we have seen, this can make them extremely wealthy and powerful.
Data and algorithms are used to maximize interactions, and this has created high levels of polarization in our society. You give people what they want to maximize revenues and profits, and that leads to bubbles and echo chambers. Instead of bringing people together (one of Facebook’s mantras), it’s tearing societies apart. Creating conflict and anger is a real moneymaker as it really increases people’s engagement.
The truth is that social media is either misogynistic, racist, homophobic, etc., despite being online. clusters the like until the remainder results in an overly anxious subsection. And as we’ve seen in the United States, these fringe groups can become a very destructive political force.
While Zuckerberg argues that the metaverse will distract the company from the flawed social media market, all the issues we are currently struggling with such as privacy, antitrust, content moderation, and political extremism will only increase in the metaverse environment. So once again, let’s tackle these issues in its current environment before continuing.
Paul Budde He is an independent Australian columnist and managing director. Paul Budde Consulting, an independent telecommunications research and consulting firm. You can follow Paul on Twitter @PaulBudde.
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