Don’t get into the Metaverse, yet — A cynic’s version
Metaverse is here to stay and given the way it is shaping up, looks like Metaverse is also here to ruin things that have come naturally to us. The oceans, the nature, the view.
- By Dhivya Raj, CoffeeBeans Consulting
Metaverse is a technology that helps you build a virtual world. what is new, you may ask? It is not new but it is an exponential enhancement to how we were viewing digital worlds or virtual reality until now. This day was definitely on the horizon, visible right from the time we started building animations and rendering live graphics live. But the pandemic has triggered such paramount speeds in the development of this technology that it would be just a couple of years before this becomes mainstream and maybe a little more and it becomes a part of everyone’s household.
‘It is a great technology’ is the immediate perception. I almost agree. I was fascinated by it when I first experienced it. But like every other tech and invention mankind has done, I bet that the Metaverse will also build tentacles in applications, many of which may not be that pleasant.
Here are some applications where Metaverse can be brilliantly used for the benefit.
• Conference calls will not just be 2D calls now, it will be 3D calls. Your uniforms will be your sensor suits. It will be as good as meeting the person face to face but in the luxury of your own comfort space and clothes. Thus eliminating zoom fatigue.
• Tourism will no longer be about going outdoors. It will bring outdoors to your indoors. The mighty oceans, the seas, the Everest.
• Integration with e-commerce for a better shopping experience. Thoroughly eliminating the need for brick and mortar stores.
• Create a world that is the same for everyone.
• Education can be done much more hands-on. You can go pinching plankton, you can go to the city of Pompeii as it burnt down, or perhaps even traverse through the solar system as you move from one planet to other.
• It can serve as a tool for physically challenged folks to enjoy the same world as the other folks
• Medical diagnoses can be done much faster and more accurately. The highly sensitive and accurate wearables in Metaverse can be used to gather the data and the doctors can quickly diagnose the results.
Yet with all that It can offer, the concept of Metaverse itself screams of a repeat of Pandora’s box in the newer generation. Here are some of the obvious things that paint a bad picture.
• Loss in connecting with nature — This will eliminate the need to go outside at all. While It seems like a good thing given the covid cases now, we humans are social animals. With everything at our fingertips literally, we will no longer have the motivation to step outside, breaking all connection to the outer world.
• Decline in physical health — One does not have to be a doctor to know that the physical health of an average human has drastically dropped in the last few decades since the advent of computers and the need for software technology. We have technologically evolved to massive degrees but we are also taking the fall for it. What came naturally to our generation before us with great health, is a struggle in our lives today. The little times that we move our body also will be reduced by Metaverse and its presence in our regular lives.
• No emotional relationships — With the advent of social media and the likes from folks from across the globe, we have suffered a loss of emotional connection with the folks physically closer to us. Imagine now if I were to make everything else built within the screen that covers your eye. You will be sitting in the same room and may never have the need to talk to the other person sitting beside you. A world that would have seemed ridiculous only 2 decades ago but much imaginable now. Sex may become mechanical. Not just figuratively but even actually. We will live in silos and relationships and the meaning will go extinct.
• Human body as Data generators — Out data and our actions will become sellable. We will be nothing but data generators from the time we move to the time we sit. You can say that it is already the case. But here the data that others have is only from the devices you use, or the internet you connect to. In some cases, yes if the uni-eye does exist, then your movement is also tracked. We, humans, created a furore when we realised our data was being consumed without our approval. Even though that case is not sorted yet and by day we see soaring usage of the applications adding more data. But with Metaverse, the data is going to increase not just in number but also in the quality and the sectors. From your body language to your real-time health, you no longer hold a device that collects the data, the device holds you for your are encompassed in that zone, in that wearable
• It would become hard to differentiate reality — What differentiates a VR(virtual reality) today is a significant degradation in the video quality. You know when you are in a VR world. However, with demand increases the quality. There are animations now that are extremely life-like that one can be confused if it is a human with makeup or an animation. When Metaverse goes mainstream, the need for better quality will increase putting more pressure on technologists to improve the quality to make it real-like. And when it happens, excessive use of Metaverse will greatly influence losing track of reality. We will live in a world like the movie Inception where we wouldn’t know which is reality and which isn’t.
• Lack of regulation — Even today, we suffer from a lack of policies or governing bodies to moderate the usage of data across in a smaller world controlled by devices. We are grappling with the uncontrolled usage there. Yet already, as of today, Barbados has created a virtual embassy in the Metaverse. A month ago, a woman was groped in the Metaverse with the perpetrator claiming, ‘It is the Metaverse, I can do what I want’. The extremely optimistic time it takes for a proposal to become a law is 10 days in regular cases. You can release a new technical feature into the world in a day. Our governments are not equipped to build a policy at the speed that technology is changing. This is a struggle that we have now. And with an alternate reality (or infinite realities) that Metaverse offers, the risks and the problems that come without having a governing body are humungous and extremely dangerous.
• Impact on Inflation — As of Jan’2022, just a few weeks after Metaverse was introduced, it became possible to buy land in the Metaverse. It is easy you would think. After all, it is all virtual and we had the cloud at our disposal. But it is much more than that. You can buy things in the multiverse via NFT which given the rate it is in today is at a starting rate of millions of dollars. You build a home/space with NFTS across. In the Metaverse now you are going to build a small land by the river which will become a colony heading to a community and the next thing you know, it is a city and now new countries and a whole space in that virtual reality. One will be so invested In the growth of their property in the Metaverse that billions will be exchanged and the status symbol just like it is done in the real world, would be determined by ‘how much does your NFT cost’. As this world in the multiverse creates a zone of itself, inflation will increase in the real world because now a lot more are richer and a lot more costs are available for spending. The financially poor stand no chance against this tsunami of inflation. The definition of need will change drastically. With NFT’s and crypto at their disposal, a lot of folks can begin to play around and get hooked to it, leaving behind the not-so-fortunate folks. This will take the economic inequality to heights never fathomed.
• Creating barriers — Each generation as it comes will lose track of the natural order much faster. In the years to come, we will lose connection with the things around us and with the next generations knowing the real world much lesser. In the decades to come, everything will be unrecognisable.
• Hacking — Hacking in a metaverse can be much more dangerous. The possibility of someone stealing your identity, in the Metaverse is a matter of timing, a few lines of code, and a good skill set that can be developed. There would be nothing unique about it. Every encryption method can be hacked as history has proved. Someone can hack into the reality that you own/build/believe, into the one your child is viewing. This will probably become far easier than breaking into someone’s home. And undoubtedly far riskier.
• Being spoilt for choice — Metaverse will offer infinite alternate realities, with a lot more options for a single person than a common Metaverse. In the last couple of decades, the generation gap has increased even with folks only 5 years apart. This is because we see and live in different worlds. Imagine the silos if all were building a world of their own and a world for each aspect of their life.
The applications are plenty if only, a strict choice is made to use them ethically.
Hence the suggestion to venture carefully. Tread those waters very carefully. This is not to say that we should not continue with the exploration and experiencing this. As of today, we have companies like Google, Meta (formerly Facebook), Microsoft, Apple, and Disney investing heavily in Metaverse projects leaving all these questions unanswered. Who then is going to regulate all this?
It is hard to predict currently how Metaverse would change the world. There is no denying that it would. Would the real world wither and dust away as we are busy building green lush fields in the virtual world? Or will our lack of interest in the real world and us staying away from it, actually revive it to its former glory or even more? Would Metaverse follow the usual way all the other tech have followed creating an even more glaring gap between the savvy and the non-savvy folks with everyone always constantly in a catch-up mode of the latest tech to fit in? Or would we for a change, create a world seamlessly infused into the one we have for everyone to use? The choice, as always, is yours.