Review 237: 09.11.2021 at 00:00 am
When Mark Zuckerberg announced ambitious plans to build Metaverse — a virtual reality builder that aims to replace the internet and merge virtual with real life — he promised that you could do just about anything you could imagine.
Zuckerberg renamed the company to Meta to emphasize the importance of the effort. During his presentation in late October, he was excited about going to virtual concerts with your friends, fencing with holograms of Olympic athletes and joining mixed reality business meetings where some participants are physically present while others participate as avatars.
But it’s easy to imagine the downsides, such as making available a much larger and more personal version of the harassment and hate that Facebook has been slow to deal with, or switching to a plethora of closed virtual communities where every visitor is constantly monitored, analyzed and targeted with ads, or abandoning any attempt to restrict the user’s freedom. This allows fraudsters, human traffickers and cyber gangs to commit crimes with impunity.
And you can imagine an online abuse campaign. But this time the barrage of swear words you might see on social media is a bunch of angry avatars screaming at you, and your only escape is to turn off the device.
Here are some of the reasons why Meta is not the best institution to lead us into the world of Metaverse. The danger is in creating online public spaces that are only suitable for a polarized and homogeneous group of people.
A better goal is to create systems that are welcoming and flexible enough to allow people who don’t know each other to get along as well as they might be in a real place. And part of that can be based on systems that help someone build a good reputation and a network of trusted knowledge that can be transferred across different worlds.
Facebook has abandoned its use of facial recognition
In today’s web environment, these reputation systems have a mixed record of reducing toxic behavior. It is not clear how long Meta may take to consider such issues. The tech giants have so far been largely focused on discussing how Metaverse works.
In order to develop successful metaverses, some developers say they have to form a set of industry standards similar to those built around HTML, the open programming language that has been used to structure websites since the 1990s.
NVIDIA’s vision of the open standard includes an architecture for 3D worlds created by film studio Pixar, which is also used by Apple.
The biggest controversies focus on issues of privacy and identity. And it’s important to be able to share some things without sharing others when you’re viewing art in a virtual home. But you don’t want to share calendar details.
Some of the enthusiasts who have worked on the concept for years welcome the newcomers. But they also want to make sure that Meta doesn’t ruin their vision of how this new Internet was created.
Meta’s move is a reaction to ideas circulating in popular developer communities centered around decentralized technologies such as blockchain and non-fungible tokens, or NFT, that can help people create and protect their identity and credentials online.
Central to this tech movement, dubbed Web 3, is that what people create in these communities is theirs. This represents a shift away from the big tech model.
The company recently abandoned its use of facial recognition through its app. But Metaverse’s tools rely on new shapes to track people’s gait, body movements, and expressions to move their avatars through the real world.
Activists are calling for the United States to pass a digital privacy law that applies to today’s platforms and those that may be present in Metaverse.
Unlike some of these laws in states such as California and Illinois, actual online privacy laws remain rare in the United States.
CEO of OTTO Magazine