Companies planning to have a presence in the metaverse have a golden opportunity to influence how it’s built from the ground up. Solutions for safety and security work better when they’re considered from the beginning—just look at the internet. Instead of leaving safety and inclusion to be just an afterthought (and creating a never-ending race to keep up with threats), we are responsible for creating the metaverse with these considerations from the start. It’ll save time, energy and money—and will likely attract customers faster, as well.
Ready Or Not, Here It Comes
The metaverse is coming, whether we like it or not. If the word brings to mind some dystopian world where people’s bodies waste away while their minds explore a digital universe, you’re not alone. However, we still aren’t entirely sure what the metaverse will look like. Will it be a digital stand-in where you have boring meetings with clunky avatars of your co-workers, or will it be something more exciting and all-encompassing?
The metaverse will provide incredibly immersive experiences that aren’t possible in real life, but it’s not designed to replace human interaction. This misconception is probably why many people still can’t define what the metaverse will be, and the vague nature of the metaverse leaves most companies building from the ground up. That said, we can’t let it get too out of hand.
Platforms like a fully-immersive metaverse can quickly devolve into harassment or threats of violence and intimidation. The internet’s anonymity can provide cover for people’s worst tendencies and inclinations. With its promise to completely revolutionize how we do business and interact in a digital environment, we must take steps to control anti-social behavior. Otherwise, we run the risk of squandering this incredible opportunity.
The Challenges We’ll Face
There are plenty of challenges we have no way of foreseeing, but we can glean insights from the challenges we’ve faced in social media. Humanity has had trouble keeping up with rapid technological evolution, but we’ve learned many lessons. The internet offers a shield of anonymity to people, which can increase examples of anti-social behavior. These instances often impact underprivileged populations and present a trend that may also carry to the metaverse. Even the little things, like Chanel expanding their lines of nail polishes to be more inclusive of minority customers, can go a long way to making everyone feel welcome in the metaverse.
Meta is building the metaverse, but for now, it seems that it will mainly be a platform for content creators and companies to fill. Just as much of the content on Facebook, Instagram or other social media platforms are uploaded by users, the metaverse will likely employ users to generate much of the experience. In other words, Meta will provide us with the tools to build our own worlds within the metaverse. This means the responsibility for a safe environment, free from discrimination and harassment, will fall on those generating the content.
The importance of ethically approaching this responsibility is difficult to overstate. People of all ages will likely be using the metaverse, and we want to ensure their safety from being exploited. The EU has made great progress in keeping kids safe and secure online, and many of these best practices should be incorporated into metaverse development efforts. This is already a significant problem on social media, and we can’t let it bleed over into the metaverse. Just as we prevent predators from approaching our kids at a playground, everyone has to take steps to protect them in the metaverse, too.
It doesn’t stop at kids, however. If the metaverse becomes a one-stop shop for business and pleasure, many people will move more and more of their lives to its servers. That is an additional concern; a safe metaverse is one where people can “unplug” without feeling compelled to spend every hour online. We can look to countries like Japan for tips on how to keep people from spending too much time online.
We have a chance to prevent many problems from the real world from entering the digital one. Platforms must anticipate these safety and inclusion concerns to keep the metaverse accessible to everyone. Furthermore, we must develop the metaverse openly and transparently with a spirit of cooperation between the private sector, legislatures, civil society, academia and, most importantly, the user base. No single company or entity can build an equitable and inclusive metaverse—it’s up to everyone to develop open, secure and trusted virtual environments.
The Time For Change Is Now
The metaverse is at a critical early stage in its development. We’re not sure what it will look like yet, but we’re confident it will create a considerable upheaval in people’s daily lives. We have a perfect opportunity to fix some of the mistakes that have caused our society such pain, but it’s only possible if the right players get involved early enough. If developers, governments and users don’t collaborate, the metaverse will simply be an extension of our real-world problems—and that’s precisely what we’re trying to escape.