The Metaverse, innovation or dystopian future?
Facebook's ambition to create the metaverse, what does this mean for us
First mentioned in the 1992’s classic sci-fi novel “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson, the metaverse was imaged to exist in a bleak future ruled by corporations and where class divide was dialed up to 11. The idea of a metaverse has inspired various novels of contemporary Sci-fi literature and it’s finally becoming a reality with Facebook's announcement of rebranding its corporate name to Meta to better represent their future goals, that is building the metaverse. But what is the Metaverse?
The Metaverse is the evolution of the internet, where you are not simply looking at a 2D screen but you are living inside of a virtual 3D world indistinguishable from reality, possible due to the combination VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Artificial Reality). Meta’s plans to create this virtual world allow you to be able to live your fantasies, visualise learning in a totally different way we do today, choose how you want your avatar to look like, choose where you want to be and teleport to that location in an instant all without even leaving your house. The metaverse will also bring a new digital centric economy based on crypto currencies and NFTs that anyone can create and sell on the metaverse.
Although Meta’s pitch of the metaverse seems nearly perfect there are many things that are concerning about this new world. Meta is notorious for its lack of user data privacy after the Cambridge Analitica scandal in 2018, for something that we may become even more dependent on than our smartphones and will be able to measure your brain activity, so far there has been no adequate response from Meta as to how they plan to keep the privacy of their users. Another issue that must be solved is the future dependency and how will Meta ensure that humans don’t lose their stimulus to interact in the real world with the user being able to live all of their fantasies, what would make them want to leave the metaverse and continue with their life as an average joe? Today we see the impacts of social media on teens, leading them to be unhappier and worsen symptoms of depression, one can only imagine how living these two lives would impact not only teens but the entire human race. Not to mention the algorithms in place in social media to keep you longer in the app could be similar in the metaverse, only presenting the things that you want to see to keep you longer on the metaverse.
There is still a good amount of time till we see the metaverse as Meta imagines it but it’s important to prevent all of this becoming a real life episode of Black Mirror, by making it open source, although it will take longer to develop this way it’s extremely important to ensure that user privacy is key to creating the ideal metaverse. Decentralization of the Metaverse to something like the internet is like today is also an important factor to the success of the metaverse to guarantee that Meta does not have too much influence and control over people’s lives. People should also advocate and pressure Meta into taking these decisions that would aim to help society as a whole instead of profit.
Will we experience a dystopian future? Only time will tell, but to avoid it actions must be taken today. It’s better to be early than sorry because when we are sorry there is no turning back.