By Ashir Rao
The promise of the internet was a world of unrestricted connection and collaboration. One where everyone, everywhere, could share endless ideas. Despite Mark Zuckerberg’s wide-eyed claims of a utopian future, his Metaverse is a perversion of these ideals.
VR (Virtual Reality) technology, though fairly recent, has come an incredibly long way. Meta, parent company of Facebook, will likely realize Zuckerberg’s bizarre vision soon. As blocky as Metaverse avatars seem, new technologies have potential to make them more realistic.
The issue isn’t that the Metaverse is technologically impossible. Its problem is that it conflicts with human nature. Although smartphones are often criticized for limiting real human interaction, most people still enjoy meeting and talking to friends and family in person. The reason we still do these things is because smartphones, at least relative to VR headsets, are a less invasive technology. When using a smartphone, you still perceive the world around you. VR however, takes that away, separating the user from the real world. This is entirely by design. Watching someone with a VR headset, disconnected from the world, feels awkward. Put simply, the Metaverse runs contrary to social norms and human interaction.
Furthermore, Meta is well known for its unethical ways of making profit. Facebook was implicated in the mass manipulation of millions during the 2016 U.S presidential election. With even more data, they can be more effective in their exploitation. They also stand accused of facilitating hate speech in Myanmar against the ethnic Rohingya and in India against Muslims. The Metaverse has the potential for even more damaging speech. Meta’s greed extends more infamously to its advertising model, which collects and ruthlessly exploits data for advertisements. By attaching a headset to your body, Meta will be able to collect more data for its models, including possibly health data. The Metaverse would be an unprecedented intrusion on privacy, extending Meta’s internet surveillance into their user’s homes.
Finally, the Metaverse platform will be under Zuckerberg’s control. Zuckerberg sells the Metaverse as the next iteration of the Web, but he forgets that the Web is not controlled by one company. It is made of thousands of private and public servers with thousands of companies that compete with each other. If the Metaverse is adopted by the world, it will give Zuckerberg unprecedented power over speech, commerce, and anything else the Metaverse could be used for.
So, when Meta inevitably attempts to push the Metaverse on everyone, do not buy in. Zuckerberg’s promised utopia is much more likely to become a corporate dystopia.