Metaverse: What could its biggest dangers look like?

“It’s like the very earth is being torn asunder. Your vision becomes obscured and nebulous. It’s raining death and the very ground turns crimson. You stumble slowly and painfully into a bunker in the aftermath of a mortal shelling. You feel the shrapnel wound pierce your abdomen. Everything fades and you realize that it was but an immersive simulation shaped in the contours of World War 2. ”

Such a scenario among many others, may soon become a real possibility thanks to developments happening in the metaverse. Today, we already find business and news circles abuzz with a panoramic view of what the metaverse could look like. While the metaverse is still in a conceptual stage, there are few discussions pertaining to the dangers a technological phenomenon that is likely to become ubiquitous eventually. So, what are some potential dangers that we are likely to see in the metaverse?

Let’s take a closer look based on insights from Weforum.

Risks exacerbated in the metaverse

Existing cyber­ hazards in the metaverse could be aggravated in a variety of ways. First, there are potential risks of unwelcome contact in a more intrusive multimodal environment, depending on how these digital places are controlled. These days, the only ways that people can get in touch with us on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, etc. if they don’t know us or aren’t someone we want to interact with are through text messages, images, emojis, and friend requests.

A multi-sensory environment brings new challenges

A metaverse is envisaged to be a multi-sensory environment. As such, something as seemingly innocuous as haptic feedback could be cause for consternation. While the metaverse could take haptic feedback to the next level by making it more realistic and precise. On one hand, haptic feedback could increase the degree of being immersed in a virtual environment, but bad actors could abuse it in ways that are not completely understood as yet.

Risk of virtual currencies

The proliferation of dangerous online content and behaviours is frequently made more difficult by the advent of virtual currencies. For instance, it is allegedly true that children perform lap dances in virtual strip clubs in exchange for the virtual money “Robux” using their avatars. According to a survey by ActiveFence, people frequently utilise cryptocurrencies to buy Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), as its decentralised management and freedom from financial institutions also guarantee anonymity.

With the transition to this web 3.0, the financial incentive and payment mechanisms that contribute to the spread of harmful information are likely to grow in size and complexity given the critical role that digital currencies are anticipated to play in the metaverse.

A polarized metaverse?

Social media has played a significant role in polarising society. The AI algorithms employed by social media networks follow user behaviour and preferences in order to serve them with the content they enjoy reading, as was described in the movie The Social Dilemma. The risk of this polarisation of viewpoints was made clear by the Covid-19 pandemic.

We run an even greater risk of polarisation in society and the resulting conflict if the metaverse is built on the same principles. When you can sense the presence of other people, building communities in the virtual world is much simpler, and realising how many other people agree with you can boost your self-assurance.

There is however a certain cognizance of these challenges that is why civil society experts, organizations, and academics are focussing on laws and regulations to ensure a hassle-free experience in the metaverse. In many ways, activities considered criminal in the real world shall also be punishable in the metaverse. It is also imperative that an elaborate framework is created at the inception to mitigate the potential impact of risks in the promising technological confluence known as the metaverse.

What a polarized metaverse could look like?

Imagine ambling along the sidewalk of your neighbourhood. As you take a quick glance at the people around, you notice glowing bubbles of information that you can see. Despite the initial purpose being harmless such as one being able to depict relevant information in the metaverse that does not violate one’s privacy. However, third parties have taken over and put a paid filter without these individuals realizing it. A flashing tag labels these individuals as ‘Left Wingers’, ‘Right Wingers’ or something meant to be demeaning such as ‘bigot’, ‘immigrant’ or ‘addict’. These tags could be put on individuals without them knowing or realizing. Wouldn’t chaos ensue in the aftermath? It would breed mistrust and ostracization that could be significantly worse than on social media. The vitriol that would follow could destroy lives. It is precisely such a nightmarish scenario that must be avoided in the metaverse.




Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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