Surfing the metaverse: Inside Mark Zuckerberg’s scary VR universe
Many of us are already wary of the metaverse before it’s even been released. Mark Zuckerberg’s latest venture into an entire VR universe has plenty of people ready to trek into the unknown digital life, while others question the legitimate safety hazards it poses. Will surfing the metaverse be as idyllic as Zuckerberg advertises?
Several experts have raised concerns over the possible enhancement of Facebook’s already uncontrolled whirlpool of hate speech, sex trafficking, and illegal activities. Additionally, the inherent security issues that’ll follow leave many skeptical about the metaverse. Will all of these unresolved issues follow into Mark Zuckerberg’s new universe?
Plenty of potentially dangerous downfalls
The most troublesome and likely problem that will plague the metaverse is the obstinate hate speech that continues to fester on Facebook. With a VR universe, these damaging words won’t just be text on a screen, but possibly avatars yelling directly at you. Amie Stepanovich, executive director of Silicon Flatirons at the University of Colorado, detailed that the only escape to this attack would be switching off the machine.
“We approach that differently — having somebody scream at us than having somebody type at us,” she said. “There is a potential for that harm to be really ramped up.”
That’s one reason Meta might not be the best institution to lead us into the metaverse, said Philip Rosedale, founder of the virtual escape Second Life, an application that allows people to create an avatar and have a second life in an online virtual world.
The risk is that creating these online public spaces that attract a “polarized, homogenous group of people,” said Rosedale, will incite an environment filled with “presumptively male participants” with a bullying tone.
In a safety tutorial, Meta has advised Horizon users to treat fellow avatars respectfully and offers tips for blocking, muting, or reporting those who don’t, but Rosedale said it’s going to take much more than a “schoolyard monitor” approach to avoid possible virtual hate crimes.
Issues of privacy when surfing the metaverse
Timoni West, vice president of virtual reality at Unity Technologies, has discussed the need for strong protocols on security & privacy as the metaverse promises an entirely virtual life.
“Being able to share some things but not share other things” is important when you’re showing off art in a virtual home but don’t want to share the details of your calendar, she said. “There’s a whole set of permission layers for digital spaces that the internet could avoid but you really need to have to make this whole thing work.”
Although the Facebook app has recently removed facial recognition settings, the metaverse will rely on technology that tracks users’ gaits, body movements, and expressions to animate their avatars with real-world emotions. With both Facebook & Microsoft releasing metaverse apps as essential work tools, there’s a potential for even more invasive workplace monitoring & distrust.
Activists are requesting for the U.S. to pass a widespread digital privacy act that would apply to the metaverse. Evan Greer, an activist with Fight for the Future, said, “This is Mark Zuckerberg revealing his end game, which is not just to dominate the internet of today but to control and define the internet that we leave to our children and our children’s children.”
Metaverse retail locations coming soon
According to the New York Times, “people with knowledge of the project” as well as internal company documents reviewed by the paper detail a plan to open a range of retail locations that will ultimately expand into a worldwide chain of Meta stores.
The Meta store plan is for the shops to present products manufactured by the company’s Reality Labs division, which currently makes virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Quest. Mark Zuckerberg has already explained his hopes for augmented reality glasses meant for comfortably surfing the metaverse.
According to the Times, the first Meta store would have been planned for Burlingame, California, where Reality Labs has an office, but if or when this store will open has yet to be revealed.
What are your thoughts on Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse? Will you be surfing the new VR universe? Let us know in the comments below!