but its just an avatar…

For those that have been working in VR for the past years or decades, there have long been discussions about “rights and responsibilities” in virtual environments. While social media certainly has exposed many of the seedy underbellies of humanity, comments left on YouTube or an Insta feed are one thing. And even behavior in an MMOG can give people pause. But once you move into a more embodied experience (Ala VR), the weird gets weirder.

Good to see the more mainstream press taking up the issue. This Financial Times piece (also on Ars Technica), explore some of the issues, using the framing of employment law to highlight challenges we’ll face. Worth a read, but a few things to consider:

  1. the metaverse(s) are/will be persistent and enable a combination of embodied and more traditional screen interactions.
  2. by design the metaverse(s) will instrument *everything*. We’re talking where you look, where you go, what you do. One goal will be to predict user intent (work we did at USC some years back for the Army). The other will be to gather amounts of data that make current social media metrics pale by comparison.
  3. VR changes the game. Just as digital marked a huge departure from analog (which we’re still struggling with), embodied vs screen border interactions will require new ways to think about *everything* in the virtual world.

As the metaverse(s) begin to emerge, we’ll have to be thinking seriously about policy – both inside the metaverse as well as at the intersection of analog and digital. We also risk exacerbating the current digital divide, and having “Web 3.0” become less equitable and less accessible than our current social media-driven virtual world.

All hard challenges, but if we don’t at least acknowledge them, we’ll never make progress. The time to be asking the questions is now, not after we build it…

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