Why I am not excited about the metaverse

Jun 21, 2022 at 10:00 am by nemirc

Why I am not excited about the metaverse
Why I am not excited about the metaverse

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article about a GDC talk concerning the metaverse. In that article, I hinted that I am not really that excited about it. This time I will share some thoughts about it, including some thoughts that came to me after that talk. To be honest, if I was not excited about the metaverse in the past, I am even less excited now.

Keep in mind I am very interested in technology in general. When stereoscopic-3D became a thing, I jumped right in to learn more about it, and I always like to test new technologies. I am not “anti-technology” at all. However, the metaverse is different, because it’s not just technology. It’s pretty much an entire digital world that combines tech, social network, services, and anything else creators might want to put in it.

I think that my biggest concern is related to the social network aspect of the metaverse. Granted this may be partially influenced by the fact that Facebook/Meta is creating its own metaverse. I am usually very neutral when it comes to companies, but Facebook is a company I want to avoid if I can. On one side, there’s those weird instances where Facebook or Instagram shows you advertisements suspiciously related to conversations you had. A lot of people have said that it’s just because Facebook knows you “very well” so the algorithm can guess what you need. That’s a good explanation, except when Facebook shows me ads about that specific Bulgarian Butter I love so much but I never talk about nor internet-search about.

Social networks demand a lot of information about you so they can “properly function”. I’m still waiting for that specific functionality that requires my annual income or my home address, but social networks insist that is necessary information for the platform to function as it’s supposed to. Your data should be yours and yours alone, but for some reason these companies feel entitled to have it.

On top of that, social networks have the tendency of producing really hostile people. If you’ve read my articles for a while, you know I used to use Twitter. However, now Twitter is one of those networks that I completely despise, because all I see is people insulting each other over any sort of disagreement. On top of that, regardless of how much Twitter talk about how they protect their users and how they enforce their TOS (specially the anti-harassment sections), in practice they clearly condone bullying certain types of individuals.

If a metaverse is going to be part social network, how do you know it’s not going to be a privacy hell-hole where you’re going to be miserable because the platform itself allows hostility directed your way for A or B reason? I am old enough to remember cases like that of Amanda Todd, so I don’t want to think what would happen when a platform, for whatever reason, allows the cyberbullying against certain users, in a virtual world.

The GDC talk touched on the subject of content ownership. I didn’t know about this, but apparently one of the goals of the metaverse is to be able to offer products and services. Facebook has already linked the Oculus Quest (Meta Quest) to the users’ Facebook accounts. I am not sure how deep the connection goes, so I don’t know if you need to have a Facebook account to operate the Quest, although my (very short) research shows that you need an account. So, the question is, what happens if you don’t have a Facebook account, or you have one but want to close it, or you get banned, or anything? Does the Quest become a very expensive brick? This is a valid question considering other companies have already turned into “service providers.” For example, if you have a Steam account, you don’t really own your games, because you will lose them if Steam closes, or if you are banned, or if you close your account.

So the question is, what happens to ownership? If you buy a service inside a metaverse, did you really buy it or is it more like an “open rental” that ends the moment you don’t want to use the metaverse anymore? Of course, regular companies will sell their services in the metaverse as well, so if you buy a digital product from a company in the metaverse, that offers the products in the real world, do you own the product you purchased, or do you own a metaverse-only version of that product?

Another thing is concerning kids. On a different website, I found that groups are researching the metaverse for education. My first question is if the kids metaverse will be the same metaverse, or a different metaverse, and what kind of rules will that one have. Considering how bad social networks are, I wouldn’t want kids to get anywhere near a metaverse that functions like a social network. On top of that, technology is many times used as a way to keep kids busy (YouTube or mobile games are good examples of that). Call me old fashioned, but I think kids should play outside if possible, or at least spend limited time with electronic devices and more time with regular toys (less Paw Patrol and more legos).

Lastly, a sentence taken from the GDC talk. If the metaverses are going to be free, we know the motto: “if a service is free, then you’re the product”. That phrase was mentioned in the context of privacy, data usage, and data collection, since many of these companies offer free services as a way to gather data for targeted ads. This reminded me of that scene in Ready Player One where the suits were talking about how much the screen be saturated before the player begins to feel uncomfortable.

But the most important reason why I am not excited about the metaverse is this: I suffer from motion sickness and I can barely use a VR set for 10 minutes before I start getting sick.

Sections: News & Features

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