More unpredictable than anyone could have anticipated, the metaverse’s future appears. Digital businesses that are truly devoted to the idea, like Facebook, which evolved into Meta, and Disney, must deal with the fact that they are expanding on a theoretically existing idea that hasn’t really taken off.
Even those who work in the video game business, which has spent years investigating the area through online communities like Second Life, have questions about their ability to fulfill their promises. But, there is also opportunity in this stage of development: if the metaverse succeeds, its creators may be able to avoid making the same mistakes twice.
According to appearances, the metaverse “isn’t set yet,” according to fellow Micaela Mantegna of Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center.As a result, it might still be possible to control the extreme toxicity that has crept onto the web and social media.
The metaverse is still linked to its more natural origins, and if those who inhabit it, whether they be people or organizations, can keep in mind the lessons they’ve learned about online safety and moderation, the metaverse might be a less terrible place to be. Or, to put it another way, Mantegna stated during a recent panel at the Game Development Conference, “We’ve already damaged an Internet, but there’s hope for what’s to come.
Some of these issues could be addressed with robust—and enforceable—laws and ethical guidelines. Regulation probably shouldn’t be left to the companies behind Metaverse efforts. But as other platforms have shown, laws can’t keep up with the speed of the internet. You don’t have to look far for examples; Earlier this year, streamers who received deepfakes found their options for justice severely limited.
Most laws dealing with these issues attempt to apply “meatspace laws” to web problems, says Ryan Black, a video game industry-focused attorney who appeared on the GDC panel alongside Mantegna. Additionally, Black told WIRED, they are too “territorial” to meaningfully impact any particular platform. “In the absence of regulations and laws, we have essentially ceded control and authority over their terms and conditions to the operator,” he says. People’s relationship with the modern Internet is “very much a provider-to-user” relationship, he says.
The Metaverse is unlikely to be much of an equalizer. As of now, there is no set metaverse, but a diversity that spans multiple platforms and interests. People also have access to different levels of technology. And without the robust infrastructure needed to access the metaverse—a stable internet, for starters—this inequality gap will only widen. Companies will likely develop services for people to benefit from. “The evolution of the product is driven by the ability to monetize to further the business purpose,” says Black. Questions and solutions therefore follow what works for a company’s business, “and not much of what works for our users/society”.