October 7, 2022

Opinion: The metaverse could be transformative, but it’s a legal and ethical minefield

5 min read

Editor’s note: Jane Thompson Frontier is a Dubai-based writer on technologies and social change, whose books include “Applied Ethics in a Digital World”. She is a member of the editorial board of the peer-reviewed journals “Frontiers in Blockchain”, “Global Health Journal” and “Journal of Metaverse” and the chair of Web 3.0 investment company Casey Holdings. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.


The metaverse is here, it’s big and it’s not going away. Collins Dictionary lists the metaverse as one of these. Top 10 words Another one in 2021 Recent surveys It found that 74% of the public had heard of Metaverse in March 2022, up from 32% in July 2021.

An immersive, always-on experience, Metaverse is a combination of blockchain, virtual reality, augmented reality, mobile and computer technologies. Big money is being invested, and More than 160 companies Areas as diverse as gaming, commerce, real estate, entertainment, socialization, health, education and government are competing to create the most popular metaverse.

Jane Thompson

Governments are exploring how they can use it to deliver better services more easily – South Korea’s capital, for example. Seoul plans to create a metaverse. for its municipal administration. In healthcare, Apollo Hospitals Group, for example, plans to engage consumers. Virtual reality-mediated activities Empowering them to control their emotions. Metaverse education will revolutionize how people learn. Astronomy students will step into a Star Trek-style transporter and take a spacewalk, while history students can. Travel in a time machine..

It is both tempting and frightening to imagine visiting different metaverses in the form of an avatar, who could be a replica of himself. You can send your avatar to shop for clothes. It can try on outfits to find the perfect fit, which can then be ordered and delivered to your home. For the frail, disabled and elderly, who may not be able to leave their homes, the attraction of being able to go to a virtual space, get services, meet people, travel and have fun is compelling.

But what about the negative aspects? Internet problems will be magnified in the metaverse environment. Here are some of the biggest challenges.

The rapid development of immersive technologies will amplify biases, create alternative realities and affect human emotions. Monica Manulova, a digital ecosystem expert in Bulgaria, warns. The addictive nature of immersive environments As forms of escapism. The lines between the real and digital worlds are blurring with the convergence of social networks and geo-locations.

gave European Parliament Report That, if used in excess, Metaverse can cause mental health problems and reduce physical activity. Emotional vulnerability can lead to a situation where the impressions of an immersive experience can change or completely change a person’s life. People who use immersive technologies, such as VR headsets, may become disoriented and Oblivious to real world dangerswhich may result in injury.

Jurisdiction in the metaverse would be difficult to determine. Does it apply to the location of the user, the location of the avatar, or the location of the computer infrastructure? Intellectual property will be a challenge in the metaverse as content is distributed and copied across decentralized networks.

The multi-layered structure of virtual environments can enable bad actors to hide behind encryption and untraceable NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens – which are unique digital assets), making them difficult to identify and act upon.
Related: Non-fungi tokens explained.

NFTs will be the lynchpin of the metaverse economy, enabling verification of assets, property and identity. Yet the European Parliament highlights the regulatory risks for NFTs – for example, the difference between owning an NFT and owning a right. Exploit a copy of a copyrighted digital work..

An NFT cannot exist without an underlying digital asset (for example, an artwork), and copyright protection exists only for the asset to which the NFT attaches. Not for the NFT itself.. There is often a loose connection between an NFT and this asset.

Gary Vee explains NFTs from the Metaverse.

Counterfeiting is an emerging problem. There is currently no standard Regulatory oversight of NFTs lags behind..

The metaverse offers the possibility of unwitting or intentional automation of large-scale unethical behavior, and a plethora of ethical questions arise.

Ideally, consent should be informed, but an immersive experience in the metaverse will require the integration of access points – for example mobile devices connected to other devices, such as wearables, wallets and glasses, that the user Can share metadata about profile, device type and more. Geolocation without consent. This could include tracking body movements, brain waves and physical responses through wearables.

Data collection would be unnecessary and continuous, making informed consent nearly impossible. How can we avoid a scenario where people can be monitored, manipulated and monetized?

How Paris Hilton Became the ‘Queen of the Metaverse’

Some academics suggest that people in virtual worlds have rights to liberty and welfare and have the same moral rights and responsibilities as their real-world counterparts; This premise can lead to some interesting questions – for example, if you kill people in a virtual world, are you a murderer?

Avatar can. Exaggerating negative aspects Social network engineering, such as groupthink, silos and heat chambers. Research has found that self-representative avatars Be an anchor At the same time in the real world, more abstract representations allow users to completely disconnect from reality and live new, potentially harmful experiences.

Metaverse promises children a unique and enriching experience. However, in a highly realistic, immersive environment, it can be difficult to discern the difference between what is real and what is augmented, as the technologies are engaged. Sensational experiences which affects the brain, memory and cognition. This can result in harmful side effects for vulnerable children if they are exposed to abuse, harassment, bullying, racism and pornographic material. How do we know which users are children? How do we protect them?

Can we ask the creators of the Metaverse to consider appropriate safeguards? One possible solution might be to tie developers more closely to the ethical consequences of their decisions and algorithms, and encourage the community to take a more proactive and demanding stance on ethics.

As we move into this fascinating, unique, immersive world of the future, we must intentionally construct answers to the ethical questions that already emerge. The metaverse will change humanity on a depth and scale rarely seen.

Life in the metaverse can be fulfilling and rewarding, creating social purpose and providing new sources of economic activity. But will we be able to influence the digital overlords, gaming titans, and Web 3.0 innovators who are racing to create a metaverse so we think morally right?

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