What does the Future look like for a Metaverse-integrated Society?
The arrival of the Metaverse has allowed individuals to exist and express themselves within a newly created virtual space that holds no intrinsic connection to the real world if we don’t want it to. While the interactions you have in the Metaverse are very real, what are the ethical, social, and political nuances that are worth exploring within the Metaverse?
A Reflection of Our Reality?
The Metaverse, in its truest form, acts as a subset of our actual lives. In essence, it aims to emulate the interactions, social norms, and demeanors that we find relevant on a virtual scale. Primarily, this is because individuals within the Metaverse, after all, exist within the physical realm and therefore have certain thoughts and principles that they abide by.
However, while these principles set up the foundational ethical guidelines for the Metaverse, it also brings in the implication of unethical tropes from our physical society reflected in the Metaverse. For instance, the fact that behavior such as bullying and hate-speech exists within reality has allowed for these occurrences to take place within the Metaverse too.
An Ethical Safeguard
The similarities between the Metaverse and its method of policing compared to the real world are vastly different, however. Because virtual worlds ultimately are owned or administrated by certain entities, they reserve to right to maintain a decorum which they see fit.
In most cases, this leads to nefarious entities or individuals who propagate violence or other non-amicable behavior to not exist within those spaces. This strict enforcement of guidelines has allowed the Metaverse to ultimately turn into a safe haven for marginalized communities as well because their freedom of expression cannot be robbed in virtual spaces.
The Virtual Societies of the Future
As the Metaverse expands its feature set and capabilities, individuals who are looking to escape from the tedium of daily life have transitioned to spending more of their time within the confines of the Metaverse.
For instance, gamers spent more than 10.4 million human years playing Fortnite in 2022. And, that number has only steadily grown in the past three years. Eventually, this will lead to the creation of virtual villages where thriving societies will exist within these virtual spaces.
As the world has embraced remote work, allowing people to work within the Metaverse and spend most of their time there, it wouldn’t be a far-fetched idea to presume that active investments in virtual real estate and commercial opportunities will start making sense for these individuals – actively boosting an already thriving market.
The real-world impact of this will be both positive and negative. Firstly, individuals that wish to exist outside of virtual paradigms will easily be able to do so, and so will those more acclimated to the Metaverse.
However, we’ll soon be met with both virtual and physical societies thriving in their own perspectives, which raises questions of what exactly makes a society, and whether communities should exist on the basis of geophysical proximity, cultural similarities, or on other metrics instead.
Creating a Global Village
An inter-connected village that transcends beyond physical boundaries and houses people of various cultures and races sounds like a utopian dream. However, with the Metaverse, this will soon turn into a reality as more join the fold and embrace the distinct advantages of virtual loving.
However, in such a connected atmosphere, elements of marginalization can still exist as they’re ever so prevalent in the real world. While not necessarily illegal, individuals within the Metaverse can create certain situations which favor a particular group more than the other.
In these situations, it is pivotal for the creators of these virtual spaces to construct policies to promote openness and transparency. In fact, we shall most likely be seeing crowd-operated entities that advocate for safety and transparency in the Metaverse in the near future, a much-needed step to ensure that the widespread growth of the Metaverse is mutually beneficial for all parties involved.
Privacy and Digital Rights Within the Metaverse
The Metaverse acts as a means to escape for a lot of individuals. While some may do so for recreational access, others aren’t lucky. Individuals from marginalized communities tend to use pseudonyms to hide their physical identity so that they can operate safely within virtual spaces.
However, this begs the question, is it not possible for these identities to somehow be linked to their physical identity? Even very subtle methods of interrogation done in social settings by a nefarious actor can lead to drastic consequences for entire groups. Instances of identity espionage are widespread in social spaces nowadays, and, without proper awareness – we can expect the same to happen within the Metaverse.
Establishing total anonymity in virtual spaces is nigh impossible, as one’s physical identity will always need to somehow be connected to their virtual self. However, with relevant awareness, an individual can establish a relatively anonymous presence on the Internet, allowing them to express themselves appropriately.
Data Privacy in the Metaverse
Social Media companies are notorious for having somewhat of a shaky standpoint when it comes to data privacy. In most cases, data is sold off to companies for targeted advertisement and data analysis. The Metaverse, in comparison, contains a lot more personal data about a user compared to social media platforms due to its all-encompassing nature.
Because of this, Metaverse administrators will need to ensure that users are informed of when their data is being recorded, and they should also reserve the right to their own data and the promise of anonymity should remain universal regardless of who that individual is.
The Ethical Implications of the Metaverse – Is There a Bright Future?
Yes! The Metaverse is filled to the brim with fantastic corporations and brands that’ve been extremely ethical with their proceedings. From Roblox to Fortnite, data violations are taken seriously, user privacy is certainly retained, and best of all, these brands have retained their transparency with their core user base, allowing for a channel of communication that conventional social media platforms generally have not had.
All in all, the Metaverse is going to be expanding really fast. And, it is up to us as creators and users of this brand-new technology to ensure it remains an ethically aligned safe space for all parties.