Facebook has announced its ambition to develop a “metaverse”, a parallel digital universe in 3D where it will be possible to communicate, meet, walk around and shop in the form of a virtual body with facial expressions and gestures , called an avatar. The Metaverse will be accessed through a virtual reality helmet, sensory gloves and likely developing systems that reproduce odors and scents. In this universe that Facebook (now Meta) has set itself the goal of controlling, companies will open shops, stalls, offices that will be their 3D digital showcases, already valued economically, according to their “proximity” to the future central core of this world.
It should be noted that it will not be accessible to all Internet users because it will require costly technological leaps, both for terminals, sensory interfaces and for the Internet network (very fast network, computing power that, according to some, multiplied by a thousand compared to current standards). On this condition, through your avatar, you can make purchases in incredible virtual stores, touch an object or a piece of clothing, view it from any angle, walk through avenues and frenzied places, dance, see movies, attend concerts and public events, this ” contactless” and without the physical limitations of the real world. Just like 10 years ago, when today’s social networks emerged in the public space, social mobilizations will undoubtedly invest these places for collective “metamobs” with speeches, virtual crowd movements and instant interactions. In this space of all possibilities you can also meet the avatar of your distant loved ones, resume their appearance, their gestures and their voice, which you will feel as if you are touching them or taking them by the hand.
“If designers have imagination, evil minds have too”
And since Facebook Metaverse has 15 years of data, exchanges and photos taken by its 3 billion current users, we can predict that nothing will prevent such moments from sharing with a deceased person’s avatar their appearance, their voice, their behavior, even their beliefs, synthesized from the publications made during their lifetime … deceased stars, historical figures will also be able to be “reborn” and attract multitudes of “metavers”. Disturbing sensation of “Internity”, this word I coined 10 years ago to symbolize survival after death in “the cloud” (digital). Everything seems possible and limitless except the imagination of the designers!
Yes without limit really! Because if the designers have imagination, the evil spirits have it as well. In the same way that Facebook-Instagram and most social networks are faced with the problem of regulating foul language or cyberbullying, this “new world dream” will certainly be the site of excesses of a completely different dimension, exactly allowed by its new dimension, which unfortunately makes the observation of current behavior predictable. Collectively, this space will be a new playground for cyber attacks by individuals, organizations or states, aimed at paralyzing targeted virtual places, to prevent transactions, disrupt a show, a gathering, a mobilization.
How to regulate?
There will certainly also be underground spaces, accessible by side roads, where you can find everything, just like there is already a darknet independent of the net. The sex industry, which has always invested in all kinds of new media (successively books, the press, cinema, Minitel, Internet, social networks, etc.), will certainly develop massively in the Metaverse, such as that of current dating sites and dedicated meeting places, backrooms, distant digital brothels, successors to the one that rose from the ashes of Pompeii, are to be expected.
“It can allow for verbal, even physical or sexual aggression”
On the individual level there are avatars fakes, trolls, purely virtual bots, not linked to a physical person who will however walk by your side, whom you will meet, with whom you will interact… they will have a physical appearance, a voice, a constantly renewed conversation to drown out repetitive commercial information, swear words, “spammer”. Remote takeovers and usurpations of avatars of real people can also be foreseen with the aim of diverting their payments or putting them in an unwanted virtual space (scenes of violence or sex, unpleasant sensations from gloves, etc.). And how do you distinguish the true from the false in this “false-true world” synthesized from scratch?
Above all, it will be able to accommodate verbal, even physical or sexual aggression, made all the more realistic with 3D, the multiple senses mobilized by the immersive experience of the Metaverse and the slightest perception of the physical, even moral, inherent barriers on designed this place with the idea of unbridled freedom. They can result from isolated or coordinated avatars in meetings with very realistic scenes of intimidation or violence perpetrated by avatars with unfriendly faces, yelling, insulting, approaching, obstructing the field of view or “touching” yours and elsewhere. such an attack. True, the “victim” will always be able to immediately remove their virtual reality helmet and gloves, but it is clear that these kinds of experiences affect sight, touch and hearing with a rendering that is all the more realistic because it is exactly expected that it was designed for this purpose in this world can have much more traumatic consequences than an insulting comment about a publication.
“It will be necessary to regulate actions, gestures, movements of avatars while ensuring the “collective security” of payments, places, entrances”
So how can order reign in this world by regulating the relationship between digital avatars, by detecting and neutralizing fake avatars, and by defusing individual or collective evil actions? This promises to be much more difficult than the current moderation of comments, photos and videos on social networks, which are already problematic and unfinished. For much beyond that, it will be necessary to regulate actions, gestures, movements of the avatars while ensuring the “collective security” of payments, places, entries. Will it be a private font, Facebook’s, or public? And what about the differences in regulation between states in a system that is globalized by definition? The lines of the Metaverse’s computer programmers will therefore not be limited to creating this world, but promise to be heavy with underlying societal meanings.
ALSO READ: “The metaverse is above all the symptom of a complicated relationship with reality”