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, shop in the form of a virtual body that incorporates facial expressions and gestures, called an avatar. Metaverse will be available via a virtual reality helmet, sensory gloves and probably systems that reproduce perfume, smells, still under development. In this universe, which Facebook (now Meta) has set itself the goal of controlling, companies will open shops, stalls, offices, which will be their 3D digital showcases, already financially valued, according to their “proximity” to the future central core of this world.
It should be noted that it will not be available to all internet users because it will require expensive technological leaps, both for terminals, sensory interfaces and for the internet network (very high speed network, computing power which some consider multiplied by a thousand compared to current standards). In this condition you will be able, through your avatar, to make purchases in incredible virtual shops, to touch an object, a piece of clothing, to look at it from all angles, to stroll in avenues and wild places, to dance , watch movies, attend concerts and public events, this “without contact” and without the physical limitations of the real world. As 10 years ago, when the current social networks appeared in the public space, social mobilizations will undoubtedly invest these places for collective “meta-mobs” with speeches, virtual audience movements and instant interactions. In this space of all possibilities you will also be able to meet the avatar of your distant loved ones, resume their appearance, their gestures and their voice that you will be able to have the feeling of touching or take in hand.
“If designers have imagination, so do evil spirits”
And since Facebook-Metaverse already has 15 years of data, exchanges and photos taken by its 3 billion current users, we can predict that nothing will prevent such moments of sharing with the avatar of a deceased person resuming their appearance, their voice , their behavior, even their beliefs, synthesized from the publications made in their lifetime … deceased stars, historical figures will also be able to be “reborn” and attract crowds of “metavers”. Disturbing feeling of “internality”, this word that I created 10 years ago to symbolize survival after death in the “cloud” (digital). Everything seems possible and unlimited other than the designers’ imagination!
Yes without borders really! Because if the designers have imagination, the evil spirits have it just as much. In the same way that Facebook-Instagram and most social networks are confronted with the problem of regulating offensive language or cyberbullying, this “new world dream” will certainly be the place for excesses of a completely different dimension, just allowed by its new dimension, which the observation of current behavior unfortunately makes predictable. Overall, this space will be a new playground for cyber attacks from individuals, organizations or states, aimed at paralyzing targeted virtual sites, to prevent transactions, disrupt a show, an assembly, a mobilization.
How to regulate?
There will certainly also be underground spaces, accessible by taking side roads where one can find everything, in the same way that there is already a dark net independent of the net. The sex industry, which has always invested in new media of all kinds (subsequent books, press, cinema, Minitel, internet, social networks, etc.) will certainly develop massively in Metaverset, just as it does with current dating sites and dedicated meeting places, backrooms, remove digital brothels successors to the one who rose from the ashes of Pompeii is to be expected.
“It can enable verbal, even physical or sexual aggression”
On the individual level, there will be avatars — fake, trolls, pure virtual bots that are not attached to a natural person, who, however, will walk by your side, whom you will meet, whom you will interact with … they will take on a natural person appearance, a voice, a constantly renewed conversation to drown out repeated commercial information, invective, “spammer”. Remote takeovers and takeovers of avatars by real people can also be envisioned for the purpose of redirecting their payments or bringing them into an unwanted virtual space (scenes of violence or sex, unpleasant sensations from gloves, etc.). And how can one distinguish the true from the false in this “false-true world” synthesized from scratch?
Above all, it will be able to enable verbal, even physical or sexual aggression, made all the more realistic with 3D, the many senses mobilized by the immersive experience of Metaverse and the slightest perception of the physical, even moral, inherent barriers to this place designed with the idea of unrestrained freedom. They may be due to isolated or coordinated avatars in encounters with very realistic scenes of harassment or violence committed by avatars with unfriendly faces, shouting, insulting, approaching, blocking the field of vision or “touching” yours and elsewhere. a woman has already complained of such an attack. Admittedly, the “victim” will always be able to immediately take off their virtual reality helmet and gloves, but it is understood that this kind of experience that affects vision, touch and hearing with a rendering that is so much the more realistic as it is precisely expected that in this world it is designed for this purpose can have far more traumatic consequences than an insulting comment to a publication.
“It will be necessary to regulate the actions, gestures, movements of avatars, while ensuring the” collective security “of payments, places, entrances”
So how can order rule in this world by regulating the relationship between digital avatars, by detecting and neutralizing false avatars, and by neutralizing individual or coordinated malicious 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. Too far beyond that, it will be necessary to regulate the actions, gestures, movements of the avatars, while ensuring the “collective security” of payments, places, entrances. Will it be a private font, Facebooks, or public? And in the latter case, what about the differences in regulation between states in a system that is by definition globalized? The lines from the computer programmers in Metaverse will therefore not be limited to creating this world, but they promise to be heavy with underlying societal meanings.
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