August 26, 2022
Note: This article is part of a series discussing the Metaverse and should be read in order. It is also important to note that ideas won’t be discussed in a linear manner. Additionally, articles will be released in due time and links to previous and next articles will be at the bottom of this article.
If you didn’t read part 4 yet READ it.
No one company, entity, or being can dominate and control the Metaverse. People should develop the Metaverse together to unite all the Metaverses via a universal virtual layer and standardized protocols. The less collaboration merely slows development as there are fewer resources are put into each Metaverse.
Hypothetically speaking too, if one entity controls the Metaverse or a Metaverse, this control implies absolute power in that virtual world. The entity could create, ban, censor, and silence anything or anyone; the entity can bend reality to its will because the entity, created the reality. Now, what type of thing has absolute power, creator, and ruler of reality? A God does, that’s why a single entity controlling the Metaverse would have too much power. The amount of power given could possibly rival those of governments. And power in new industries produces new opportunities to make money.
In addition, big tech companies want a piece of the Metaverse pie. Meta especially wants to control a considerable size of the industry, literally renaming their company to be seen as a Metaverse company. A convenient name for the creator and owner of the Metaverse, it’s almost as if that’s what Meta wants (hint). Additionally, Meta has acquired Reality Labs, which owns the Oculus brand name. Oculus headsets are a large portion of the VR headset industry, with 67% of VR headsets on Steam as of March 2022, a video game distribution service, and more than 50% of all headsets being Quest on Steam as of March 2022.
These percentages are worrying as Meta holds the majority share of the VR headset market. While no other headset or big tech companies has shares as large as Meta’s within the VR industry. It seems as if the Metaverse can’t be mentioned without mentioning Meta, probably since Meta’s PR campaign and amount of power.
“With great power comes great responsibility” – Uncle Ben
A responsibility Meta, on multiple occasions, has been shown they can’t and don't deserve to handle. Meta is infamous for a long history of scandals, criticisms, and unresolved issues. For example, failure of moderation in non-English speaking countries, one example is India. Facebook is a 2D site, imagine how terrible Meta or any other corporation trying to moderate content on 3D platforms with multiple elements, not just text and images.
Worst of all, Meta actively knows but decides to not make any substantial efforts to fix this issue and not tell the public; instead, focusing on making a quick buck. Also remember this example is just one of many problems with Facebook and thus Meta. Meta and other corporations that put profit over people shouldn’t be trusted with the future of the Metaverse; because naturally they’ll put money first and ethics later. Nonetheless, the problem still stands, how can we be certain this technology benefits us?
Don’t Let History Repeat
Recall the consequences in part 4. Some folks may feel disturbed and avoid or “boycott” the Metaverse because of the consequences. Humans in general have a pattern of fearing new things including tech. It’s happened with phones, television, video games, etc, and now the Metaverse. Naturally, people fear the unknown and are biased towards negativity, convinced new tech is bad.
Despite that the Metaverse will inevitably boom and be utilized, people mustn’t resist technology or “boycott” it. Instead, we as individuals should take action and be certain it’s the Metaverse we want as a society, not by investors or corporations; but by the people and for the people. Also, it is of the utmost importance during the action that history doesn’t repeat itself and we learn from the mistakes of the internet.
Note: When I refer to “a Metaverse” I’m talking about one platform. The Metaverse can’t be developed since it covers the entirety of VR and all Metaverses. Everything below are propositions for individual Metaverses, not the Metaverse.
First and most important of all are developers, a Metaverse development needs an immense amount of manpower; thus it will require many companies, individuals, and plenty of funding to develop it. Developers should also be socially motivated, not financially, and transparent throughout the development stages.
To further this transparency, the code of a Metaverse should be open source, essentially meaning that the code can be viewed for the public. This measure is to discourage shady things coded into the program, it also grants the ability for 3rd party individuals to contribute or learn how a Metaverse functions. Though being open-source implies exploiting and hacking will be considerably much easier.
Secondly, people over profits shall be a core principle during design, unlike the big corporations of now. The developers should serve the people, not money; therefore constructing this technology with humane design is key. Addictive and financial incentivized design choices should be avoided. For example, spamming personalized ads from questionable data collecting sources. The best video illustrating how a Metaverse should not look is “HYPER-REALITY.”
The design must respect the user's privacy. This respect is vital as a Metaverse has the potential to collect large sums of data since there’s multiple elements that can be tracked, including: movement, interactions, voice, people talked to, people talking to you, etc. It is crucial to collect data but creepy excess amounts are unethical.
Thirdly, a healthy community ought to be fostered; therefore rules will be established which means moderation systems to be in place. Virtual crime, not to be confused with cybercrime, is a thing and people need to be punished for indecent behavior. That’s why I believe there should be user and government involvement with real life consequences. A Metaverse shouldn’t be a Wild West like the internet where you can do whatever you want without punishment.
Understandably moderating a 3D platform as said before is difficult. Without excess data collecting such as logs of voice recordings, moderation will be considerably harder. There is merely not a sufficient amount of moderators for the size of a Metaverse to keep things in check. Therefore user moderation within their communities is the only option, commercial moderators are still necessary. The user-based moderation system designed to reward and punish, while also balancing user data-privacy and accountability for moderation to be successful.
Lastly, as individuals, people should learn how to use this technology responsibly and its importance. Now this issue is out of the reach of any developer, rather education and the media. The only way we get the “good ending” is when the public realizes and takes action.