OPINION / ANALYSIS
Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse will be full of opportunity, and entrepreneurs are already finding ways to financially benefit from it. But it comes with significant risk. And the risks associated with this new technology should scare you.
The Future Today Institute (FTI) included the Metaverse in its 2022 Tech Trends Report. The FTI conducts research into emerging trends in various industries, and releases annual reports on trends for that year. While the report doesn’t focus on Zuckerberg’s version exclusively, his company Meta (formerly Facebook) is primed to become a dominant player in the market.
The Metaverse is presented as a promising place worth exploring, especially for tech entrepreneurs, however the report warns about some of the pitfalls of the new technology.
To start, the Metaverse will inevitably lead to people’s physical worlds and virtual worlds fusing together, in many cases becoming inseparable.
The boundaries between our physical world and the virtual Metaverse may ultimately fall away asFTI – 2022 Tech Trends Report
we come to view the physical and virtual
as equally real.
Stepping into the Metaverse will be the equivalent of plugging oneself into a Matrix-like environment. It’s not hard to envision people becoming more entwined with virtual worlds and less concerned with the real world.
We’ve already seen the beginning stages of this with cellphones and video games. The average young person already spends hours immersed in virtual worlds via their smartphones and gaming consoles. Advances in virtual technology will likely lead to people spending even more time living in a virtual world.
While the concept of living in a virtual world of one’s choosing sounds promising, these virtual environments have the potential to be exploited by bad actors. This includes large corporations looking to suck money out of people, and political actors looking to shape how people think, feel, and vote.
Imagine if a shady PR company like Cambridge Analytica had access to people’s bio-metric data?
Deep-fakes and hyper-realistic avatars can be used to falsely gain the trust of an individual and exploit them, particularly in Metaverse workspaces.FTI – 2022 Tech Trends Report
Synthetic media including realistic deep-fakes have the potential to take fake news, disinformation, and propaganda to a whole new level. This is especially true if it is weaponized by a nation-state, such as Russia or China.
Beyond media manipulation, there’s also the issue of harassment, stalking, and sexual assault. People have already reported traumatic experiences being harassed, bullied, stalked, and even sexually assaulted in the Metaverse.
Earlier this year, a woman reported being gang raped on Zuckerberg’s Metaverse platform Horizon Venues. This is just one example of the Metaverse can be abused by bad actors. Concerns surrounding how tech companies including Meta (Facebook) plan on policing their platforms persist.
Big Tech companies tend to be more reactive than proactive when it comes to combating online harm. Often it takes the threat of legislative action before Big Tech companies move a finger. Usually, these companies do the bare minimum to get the media and lawmakers off their backs. Their main focus is profit, and it always will be. The damage their products cause will always be secondary.
The introduction of this new technology raises important philosophical questions such as: what is reality? And what effect will this have on people as individuals? What effect will this have on society at large? Will people completely tap out of the real world, isolating themselves in fantasy? Will the Metaverse be abused, with people trapped in virtual dystopias?
It’s hard to say what the future holds. But the Metaverse isn’t going away. So, we best prepare for the challenges this new technology will create. And when it comes to Zuckerberg’s Metaverse, we all should be afraid.
Read the source report from the Future Today Institute: https://futuretodayinstitute.com/mu_uploads/2022/03/FTI_Tech_Trends_2022_Book03.pdf