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Insights into Editorial: How is Facebook embedding the real world in computing?

 

 

Context:

Recently, Facebook CEO announced the rebranding of his company to Meta. The change, said in a post, has been brought about “to reflect who we are and the future we hope to build”. Facebook, the social media platform, will, however, keep its name.

 

What is the future it is hoping to build?

It is called metaverse. Metaverse is what the Facebook founder calls “an embodied internet”.

It is where “you’re in the experience, not just looking at it”. Mr. Zuckerberg gave a glimpse of the metaverse through a demo video. It shows him being called in to join his friends playing cards in a virtual space.

Metaverse, for him, marks an evolution of how people connect with each other: “We’ve gone from desktop to web to mobile; from text to photos to video. But this isn’t the end of the line.”

 

What is Decentraland?

It is a virtual world where the visitors can [perform various activities like watching concerts, visiting art galleries and gambling in casinos. The plots of lands are also being sold which are worth 100s of thousands of dollars in MANA (cryptocurrency).

 

Examples of metaverse:

  1. In today’s world there is a lot that goes on virtually. NFTs or Non Fungible tokens can be considered an example of metaverse already. Even cryptocurrencies are one of them. However it is still far from the complete metaverse experience which would actually mean living lives on the internet.
  2. As per Zuckerberg’s description, the metaverse is an “embodied internet, where instead of just viewing content you are in it.”
  3. In order to access the metaverse, Facebook would require the biometric data such as eye scans, voice recordings, pulse rates, etc.
  4. All of this information would then be collected by Facebook Inc. This data would then be used to build the multiverse.

 

Is metaverse exclusive to Meta?

  1. Metaverse is a virtual environment that will lend itself to immersive experiences.
  2. It means, according to Mr. Zuckerberg, “having a shared sense of space and not just looking at a grid of faces”.
  3. “Metaverse”, coined by science fiction writer Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash, has a lot more romantic appeal. Writers have a habit of recognising trends in need of naming:
  4. “cyberspace” comes from a 1982 book by William Gibson; “robot” is from a 1920 play by Karel Capek.
  5. Recent neologisms such as “the cloud” or the “Internet of Things” have stuck with us precisely because they are handy ways to refer to technologies that were becoming increasingly important. The metaverse sits in this same category.

 

Benefits from the metaverse:

  1. If you spend too long reading about big tech companies like Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, you might end up feeling advances in technology (like the rise of the metaverse) are inevitable.
  2. It’s hard not to then start thinking about how these new technologies will shape our society, politics and culture, and how we might fit into that future.
  3. This idea is called “technological determinism”, the sense that advances in technology shape our social relations, power relations, and culture, with us as mere passengers.
  4. It leaves out the fact that in a democratic society we have a say in how all of this plays out.
  5. For Facebook and other large corporations, determined to embrace the “next big thing” before their competitors, the metaverse is exciting because it presents an opportunity for new markets, new kinds of social network, new consumer electronics and new patents.

 

Is technology the only challenge?

No. It is only a part of the issue. Like with any technological disruption that impacts human lives and how they interact, one cannot discount the impact metaverse will have on our lives.

Take for instance, the evolution of social media such as Facebook. Far from connecting with friends, the company have come under scrutiny for hate speech and resulting violence, anti-trust lawsuits for abuse of dominance, and privacy and security breaches.

The metaverse, too, will have similar issues related to data security.

According to Ball, “The metaverse will need altogether new rules for censorship, control of communications, regulatory enforcement, tax reporting, the prevention of online radicalization, and many more challenges that we’re still struggling with today.”

 

What are critics saying?

Privacy is an area of concern because in an immersive environment, such as metaverse, a lot more of one’s personality and information will be revealed.

Social media platforms, like Facebook, essentially make their money through targeted advertisements.

It has to be recorded, however, that Mr. Zuckerberg has in his note mentioned privacy and safety as things that “need to be built into the metaverse from day one”.

The concept that he has a full plan to pivot his trillion-dollar social media firm into a metaverse company in the coming years.

 

Conclusion:

The Internet is a wide set of protocols, technology, tubes and languages, plus access devices and content and communication experiences atop them. Metaverse will be too.

Zuckerberg not only has to develop the hardware, software and experience on its own, it also requires a lot of investment to create the core infrastructure and billions of dollars of investment to make the metaverse a reality.

Going by Facebook’s track record with privacy and misinformation, consumers might not choose to live in a virtual reality ‘metaverse’.