Why the metaverse should be open but regulated?
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The metaverse is not a new concept. In fact, the term was coined in a 1992 novel, Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson. As the novel defines itthe metaverse is essentially a virtual universe controlled and owned by a “global information monopoly that users can access through personal VR glasses.
In 2022, when a new computing revolution creates an interactive, virtual world in which we can collaborate, work and play, industrial viewers will call this new world the metaverse.
And of course we want this metaverse to be open.
Just as we have benefited from the Internet, we want competition and open access in this evolving metaverse. Likewise for regulations. The metaverse needs to be watched closely for security, privacy, and antitrust reasons, just like the Internet did.
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“The metaverse is the natural evolution of the Internet,” said Tuong Nguyen, senior principal analyst at Gartner.
Nguyen and other experts at MIT, the EthicsNet for AI and Machine Learning, the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, and the Open Source Initiative agree that if the industry isn’t paying attention now, professional and citizen developers, and users of the metaverse alike can be negatively affected.
With technology as complex as anything the internet could follow, contributions from citizens and professional developers alike could shape much of the metaverse in the same way.
And in some ways, the metaverse comes as an opportune moment. The older days of a relatively open internet have been under threat of late from increasingly powerful technology companies, including Google, Meta (formerly Facebook), and Microsoft. The US government has has only just begun antitrust proceedings against these giantsand still has a long way to go.
Now that the machinery is set in motion, it’s a good time to make sure we get things right for the metaverse. Indeed, those same three companies – Google, Meta, and Facebook, all have the size and scale to tip the metaverse in their favor. Ensuring that they are regulated and that there is free play will be critical if a core tenet of the metaverse – movement between virtual worlds – is to be maintained.
“As an ethicist, open source, [and open] access is always best because it empowers more people to create, and this largely for the common good and social justice,” said Don Heider, the executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. should generally be as widespread and accessible as humanly possible.”
“Ideally, even the governance of the metaverse would be open, like a joint collective where you would have governing bodies that, along with industry groups and citizens, form a collective that would agree on principles and standards,” Heider said.
As a parallel or alternate reality, the metavers may not be bound by the same laws of physics as our real world. Therefore, in theory, the metaverse could provide meaningful improvements to accessibility and interactions for people with other disabilities, Elenor “Nell” Watson, the president of EthicsNet, told VentureBeat.
The open invitation to innovate aspects of the metaverse could “…be fantastic for experimentation and tremendous creative possibilities,” Watson said. From now, 98% of websites on the internet are legally inaccessible to people with disabilities, according to the 2020 Web Accessibility Annual Report. What would have made achieving internet accessibility easier from the start would have been to develop it with accessibility in mind.
Like Mitchell Park, the marketing manager at cielo24 wrote in a blog post: when looking at “introducing the metaverse space, this” [is a] technology [that] perhaps the successor of the internet. That comes with a huge responsibility to ensure accessibility for all users. This time, however, all the necessary technology and features are already in place for the most part. So developers need to keep innovating in the metaverse while prioritizing its accessibility.”
Accessibility and open innovation within the metaverse could provide an escape for people with disabilities, but who want to experience the world – giving everyone access to different degrees of freedom for individuals, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.
Opening up the metaverse to widespread innovation could also lead to technology upgrades for sectors such as education, educating future doctors how to do that. perform operations in a metaverse environment before doing this on a real person, or individuals learn to drive before actually getting behind the wheel “hands-on” experience without the risk, until they hone their skills enough to transfer their practice from the metaverse to the real world .
However, there is a dark side.
Regulating a space we can’t fully open or predict
Many laws in modern society are in effect because an incident made it necessary. But how can technical decision-makers anticipate regulation for the security of the metavers before a situation arises that requires it? (We’re already behind. A week after opening, Meta’s Horizon Worlds was already experiencing its first instance of a woman’s avatar being sexually harassed.
It is essentially impossible to prevent those who want to do evil from doing it in a space that is largely unknown and that brings new tools and opportunities. However, protocols can be established when considering who can access the metaverse and what impact experiences in the metaverse can have.
If the metaverse is accessible to children, and perhaps to individuals with mental health problems, experts point out that there should be barriers for protection.
“For example, if we want to prevent someone from being ‘cybersexually abused’, which can cause real trauma in certain individuals — or if people are exposed to content and experiences that might be intentionally traumatic — in a metaverse environment, our minds can find it very difficult like to get out of those kinds of incentives and just pinch ourselves and tell us it’s not real,” Watson said.
“I think it will be important that we embed safety and ethical standards into these experiences, especially when we are immersed in something that can affect us on such a deeper and more vicarious level than has ever been possible before,” she said.
Another concern about the metavers is how society can prevent such traumatic things, or whether the regulation of potential harm within the metavers is ultimately left to the businesses who have thrown in their hats.
“The metaverse calls on us to rethink how we can regulate things in a new environment for society at large,” said Stefano Maffulli, executive director of the Open Source Initiative. “Right now we are still in the early stages of figuring that out, but the one thing we cannot allow as a society is [for] one to three companies that own the space and introduce new products and concepts, which may have long-term implications.”
It’s not a dystopian novel yet, and it probably won’t be for a long time. After all, there are companies that still use pen and paper to keep track of expenses and fax machines to send memos.
There are professionals who are already thinking about these ‘what if’ scenarios and believe that our world is able to handle the technology and regulate it appropriately.
“Many organizations are technically capable of regulating the metaverse. I know some are already working on something similar and have been for a while,” says Maffulli. “For what it’s worth, it would be a good idea for a working group of individuals to get together and discuss implications and norms.”
“Something like this could be a space for nonprofits like the Open Source Initiative to be a part of to talk about research, implications, and how principles apply to openness and information sharing. I know other organizations like the Oasis Consortium and others have task forces focused on this and working and looking at the metaverse, AI and related technologies from an ethical lens,” he said.
Meta and other companies looking to stake their claim in the metaverse have released information on how they plan to approach development responsibly.
A blog post by Andrew Bosworth, VP of Facebook Reality Labs, and Nick Clegg, VP of Global Affairs, discuss how Meta plans to prioritize collaboration with the other companies also working on developing the metaverse.
And when Facebook launched its supercomputer for the metaverse this week, it took some effort to explain how explain how secure it was to create the data who used it to power it.
Yet other metaverse thinkers, such as Matthew Ballhave pointed out that tech giants like Apple can slow things down considerably by using their control over the internet (due to the significant market share of smartphones and 30 percent app store tax), and by default the upcoming metaverse. He has called Apple the ‘de facto regulator of the Internet’.
No one can predict what will happen as more companies deploy their versions of a ‘metaverse’. But the evolution of the internet can be used as a guideline to predict what might happen to the rise of the metaverse.
“The next five years will still be the emerging metaverse and pre-metaverse phase,” Gartner’s Nguyen said. “In this phase there is no metaverse, so no metaverse companies, solutions, applications. This may sound anti-climactic, but it’s the reality. It is insincere to say that we will see “the year of the metaverse” during this period. We will certainly see exciting developments, [though].”
Mullani of the Open Source Initiative said widespread accessibility to the metaverse and the technologies that develop it is vital for the metaverse to reach its full potential, and is likely to follow a similar path of innovation and regulation as the Internet.
Mullani adds that “the most important thing is that society works towards the metaverse in a way that allows it to become a space where we can use our democratically functioning tools, our rights and a check and balance of the delegation of powers on can hold its place.”
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