XR pioneer calls for metaverse regulation

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This article was provided by Tony Witt, a technology analyst at Acceleration Economy.

XR pioneer Louis Rosenberg, who developed the first interactive augmented reality system at the Air Force Research Laboratory in 1992, believes that we will now face similar concerns with social media (but possibly more, worse) metavars.

“Twenty years ago, everyone was excited about the possibilities of social media to bring people together, to democratize the world. We saw it as utopia. But two decades later, we now feel that social media is creating dystopia, “he said.

In a recent discussion at the Metawares 2022 conference, he argued that we should learn from the mistakes we made with social media while developing Metawares and now is the time to get started. First of all, to understand what we have to do in the future, it breaks down the problems we are now facing in social media.

If you have watched a Netflix documentary Social dilemma, You will be well aware of the problems that social media is causing in our society. The latest post on Utopian goes deeper if you are curious.

In addition to being highly addictive, the use of social media often goes hand in hand with political polarization, spreading misinformation and undermining trust in institutions, media, governments and experts. We have seen how Facebook, YouTube and other platforms have created confusion and anger in the face of the COVID-19 epidemic. The documentary also plunges into the discussion of teen suicide due to the pressure of social media.

However, Rosenberg says the most destructive aspects of social media stem from three common practices: monitoring, manipulation, and monetization.

Social media platforms monitor user behavior by looking at what you click, where you hover your cursor, what you buy, and who you interact with. As we move more and more daily routines into the digital realm, this data paints a fairly good profile for you. That profile is used to target you with custom promotions, political messaging and misinformation, all paid by advertisers – it’s part of monetization. Platforms also use that profile to manipulate what you see, so that you can be stopped on the site, spun-fed to see your next TikTok or to follow the account.

The catch is, Dr. Rosenberg expects these three social media-related issues to only get worse as we move into metavars.

Monitoring in Metavers

Instead of tracking what you click, immersive headsets and metavers platforms know where you go, what you see, how long you look at things, your facial expressions, your feelings, your voice expressions, your posture and posture. Reveals will be able to track. Also important signals like your heartbeat.

While this sounds like science fiction, Dr. Rosenberg points out that even existing technology, such as smartwatches, is capable of tracking such data. And as headsets become more popular, features like eye-tracking and facial expression tracking will become commonplace.

Manipulation in Metavers

“The whole point of VR and AR is to fool the senses,” says Rosenberg. Immersive technologies create an ideal environment for fraud, coercion and misinformation.

But unlike traditional advertising on the 2D Internet, Metavers can be filled with more powerful and reliable technologies. Dr. Rosenberg gives the example of virtual product placement, when a company sponsors the appearance of a particular product in the field of your vision, taking advantage of personal data to target the right people at the right time.

He also mentioned a more dystopian idea: an AI or a simulated speaker that communicates with you in a way that explains you. Using data on your behaviors and responses to other content, such agents can pitch the product better than any human seller, delivering the entire line at full time. It may not be limited to sellers, but even political groups try to persuade you for an ideology.

In the immersive world, carefully crafted experiences can be obscured by authentic, unreliable visits. The things you see and the people you talk to may not be real, let alone that you collided with them by chance. Algorithms and corporations guide not only what we see, but what we do – and through that we know what we believe and who we are.

Monetization in Metavers

Like social media, it is incomprehensible that users of Metavers will still be a product rather than a consumer, especially if we continue with the ad-based business model we currently have.

The only difference is that immersive technology collects more intimate data and the digital realm is more closely intertwined with our non-digital lives. Fooling the senses is a great thing, but at what cost?

What is the solution: Media and Regulation in Metavers

Rosenberg cites a non-regulatory solution to the problem – replacing the current ad-based business model with something like subscriptions can alleviate many concerns. The downside is that subscriptions will exclude many potential users from being part of the metavers.

Instead, he believes the best way forward is regulation. Laws should be enacted to bring maximum transparency in what data is being collected and how it is being used. In addition, creating hyper-accurate user profiles over time should be banned – biometric data such as eye movements should not be stored indefinitely. Having less data makes AI-based targeted ads a little less powerful. Ideally, most data streams should be kept strictly on real time.

Lewis also advocates banning tracking of vital signs, such as heartbeat, for medical purposes, and to notify users when something is advertised, including information about third parties and their agenda. In addition, synthetic agents should be distinguished from real humans and should not be capable of real-time emotional analysis to make their engagement dynamic and ultra-personal.

“Now is the time to think about the Metavers Regulation,” he said.

If we are going to create a more ethically immersive Internet, we have to start before rigid systems are installed. Organizations that build metavers should uphold ethical practices, perhaps by adopting other business models, and regulators should hold those organizations accountable. If you are a person, think twice about what kind of world you and your children want to live in before you help build it. If you want to stay on top of this emerging industry, check out my blog / podcast The Utopian.

“It’s not the metavors technology we should be concerned about,” Rosenberg said. “It’s the fact that metavers platforms will give large corporations more power and influence than any other medium in human history.”

Tony Witt is a technology analyst at Acceleration Economy.


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