“The metaverse is the physical internet,” says cyberethicist Chris Bühler. According to top Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs, our digital future could “feel like you’re actually there with other people. You can see their facial expressions, their body language, and also see if they really have better cards,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained at the Facebook Connect conference in October 2010.
A dreamlike living environment in which one should immerse oneself with virtual reality glasses. A world in which we can hang out, dance, work, travel and get to know each other better than previously imagined. Our avatar, which we can design ourselves, will allow us to provide deep insight into our character and experiences. One of the market leaders in the technology supposed to make all this visible is called Oculus, of course a subsidiary of Zuckerberg’s meta-group.
The long shadows of the brave new world
Beautiful new world? Basically yes, because it involves massive technological advancements. But there is a shadow cast in this new world: For Thomas Metzinger, philosopher and adviser to the European Commission on artificial intelligence, the power of private companies is the problem: “An example: All politicians now use Twitter. When Twitter finally shut down Trump, suddenly all politicians realized that they too could be shut down. There was a very short wave when people realized that. It’s just as natural that enthusiastic children and young people are now flocking to Zuckerberg’s metaverse. There comes a time when you can no longer turn it off because it has become an infrastructure. This is an extreme accumulation of power that should in fact not be allowed in order to protect democracy.
I want my avatar to wear sneakers
Visually, Zuckerberg’s Metaverse resembles a variant of the Wii console worlds. Harmless – at first glance. But why are so many investors already securing a place on Metaverse platforms? The reason: You want to open new markets. After all, this is a new living environment in which new needs should also arise. Why shouldn’t my avatar wear a stylish sneaker, wouldn’t my digital alter ego in the sunny Metaverse look prettier with sunglasses?
On Decenterland, another Metaverse platform, residents can build and trade virtual properties via contracts on the blockchain – and then hold concerts or art exhibitions there, for example. Or go to the casino, where croupiers are paid for their work in cryptocurrencies. Decenterland should be owned by the users and will be developed by the Decentraland Foundation. The Etherum cryptocurrency-based platform had a market value of €7.4 billion as of December 2021.
children and young people
Another big player in the Metaverse platforms is the online gaming platform Roblox. Millions of video games are created there each year, and the developers of the platform share the sales. The company sets the rules. Roblox is mainly used by children under 13 years old. Thomas Metzinger criticizes: “The five American technology companies are not interested in the mental health of children and young people, nor in the emergence of responsible citizens. On the contrary, they have developed fantastic systems of attention extraction. They managed to hook a lot of us up and sell them as a product to advertisers. »
What kind of metaverse do we really want?
If you now think that you can free yourself from it on an individual level, you should take a look at your mobile phone and check if WhatsApp, Facebook, Google, Spotify and Co are stored there. Whether it’s Mark Zuckerbeg’s Metaverse, Microsoft’s AltspaceVR, or some other private company that wins in the end, what emerges really shouldn’t matter to anyone, because it will affect us all. Ultimately, we have to fund this new universe. Cyberethicist Chris Bühler again: “What we need is a lot more participation in this changing world. But first, we need a discussion: what kind of metaverse do we really want? Who is it supposed to help? How should it be structured? These are the important questions.
Questions we need to clarify. Because as long as we don’t take care of it, we remain at the mercy of the power of the Big Tech entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley. And above all, they build us a world that brings them money.
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