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The Metaverse Faces Uphill Battle as Tech Giants Struggle to Turn Concept into Reality –

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While  tech giants continue to pour billions into the Metaverse’s development, industry observers caution that it could take years before the concept lives up to its promise. However, they also say that the technology’s nascent stage allows its developers to try to avoid repeating the mistakes that were made when the internet was created. 

As the Metaverse is “not yet set,” according to Micaela Mantegna, an affiliate at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center, and, owing to this, it could still be possible to reduce the toxicity, harassment and hatred which have spread across the web and social media. 

“[W]e already ruined one internet,” the researcher said during a recent panel discussion held the Game Developer Conference, as reported by Wired. 

Enforceable regulations and ethical guidelines could offer one way of tackling those issues. The Metaverse is a relatively new invention, but the solutions implemented in other tech fields, such as video games, could offer some guidance, according to Mantegna. 

“Video games have always led the way in these technologies,” she said. “I think maybe we can start this conversation here and start creating solutions for this.” 

The fight against online harassment extends to platforms such as Fortnite and Second Life, and the rapidly rising popularity of artificial intelligence (AI) among internet users is also drawing regulators’ attention across the world. 

“We need to think about all the experiences we already have thinking about AI ethics,” according to the researcher. 

Ryan Black, a lawyer focused on the video game industry who also appeared on the panel, observed that the Metaverse will most likely not constitute a single universe, but a set of realms designed to cater to the needs of various consumers based on their financial and tech capacities. 

“The evolution of the product is driven by the ability to monetize, to further the business purpose,” he said. For this reason, the implemented solutions will be based on what maximizes the financial benefits of the companies that are involved in the Metaverse’s development, “and not a lot of what works for our users/society.”

For now, many major tech companies such as Meta, the firm behind social media giant Facebook, continue to bleed money in relation to their virtual reality-focused efforts. Meta’s Reality Labs unit posted an operating loss of some $4.28 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022. In total, the venture’s operating loss for 2022 totaled as much as $13.72 billion. 

The unit’s total income from operations stood at $6.4 billion for the fourth quarter of 2022, and $28.94 billion for the full year, as indicated by data from Meta’s financial report for October-December 2022. At the same time, Meta’s leadership remains determined to maintain the firm’s investments in virtual reality and AI technologies, according to Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s CEO and the social media platform’s co-founder.

“The ethical shift would need to be one that recognizes that the metaverse/virtual reality we are creating (or that will emerge from whatever we create) is a place where people will exist, and they have rights here that transcend any organization’s business needs,” Black said. “That will be very complicated to do when we still have municipal, county, state/province, and country borders” which might not be present in the metaverse itself “but that will very much govern the meatspace humans that build it.”

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