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Morality and Ethical Concerns of the Metaverse

cryptoknowmics.com 19 May 2022 22:31, UTC
Reading time: ~4 m

The augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) industry has transformed how we live and work and will continue to do so. This concept combines people's physical and digital identities forming a "phygital world." In the metaverse, people can create and recreate themselves many times. Unlike their physical bodies, their digital identities, avatars, will not be limited by social constructs. Brands can reach consumers in new and unprecedented ways through virtual worlds, immersive experiences, and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). The metaverse promises a safe virtual utopia that fosters equality and allows people to express themselves. However, it remains plagued with ethical issues.

Issues of Concern in The Metaverse

Below are some of the concerns regarding morality and values in the metaverse that needs addressing.

Privacy Issues

The amount of personal data collected by companies running the metaverse is one of the main concerns about users' privacy. Compared to social media platforms, the platforms can track users more intimately. Companies can monitor users' physiological responses and other vital signs in real-time while the users are in the metaverse. This data gives advertisers a better understanding of their users' behaviour and allows them to tailor their advertising campaigns in an incredibly targeted manner. Today, many consumers do not read every privacy policy. It is concerning that they are not paying attention to these policies. It implies that they will continue to accept these policies in the future, giving too much access to their personal lives. There has been a rise in data breaches, and the number of people becoming careless with their data is increasing. People must take the necessary steps to safeguard their data.

Identity Issues

The social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter allow users to connect with their friends and family by sharing their photos or any other information they may like. On the other hand, LinkedIn allows users to display their professional identities. But we do not know what the metaverse platform will enable people to share. Non-fungible Tokens (NFTs) permit users to create a unique and authentic avatar by embedding codes into their digital assets. What will their appearance be in the metaverse? Do they have to appear the same in real life, or do they have the freedom to create their avatar however they wish? People are expected to accept what they are born into in the real world. In the metaverse, users will be able to create their own identities without society's pressure. It will allow them to find their true self without conforming to society's expectations.

Harassment Issues

The rise of social media and the increasing popularity of smartphones has shown that people can still express their opinions that they would never do in real life. Unfortunately, social media platforms have become breeding grounds for harmful and abusive content. Despite the technological advancements, law enforcement agencies are still incapable of handling these issues. With the ability to hide behind their digital twin or avatar, some people would bring their worst behaviour forward. Laws and regulations need to be put in place as soon as possible. Furthermore, a framework for ethical conduct is agreed upon in the interim.

Inequality in the Tech Industry

The goal of the metaverse is to be inclusive so that everyone can feel valued and included. Companies can do this by reducing existing inequalities and creating digital environments that are both inclusive and diverse. A survey conducted by Heidrick & Struggles revealed that over 80 percent of data analytics and artificial intelligence executives identify as men and 65% as white. There are still gaps in the number of tech jobs held by women and people of colour in the US. We need to bridge this gap. The industry needs to treat everyone with dignity and respect. It must build environments that appeal to all user needs.

Author’s Take

By 2024, Bloomberg Intelligence estimates the metaverse to be worth approximately $800 billion. While it is still in its infancy, the platform is already becoming an inevitable part of the digital world. The technology used in the metaverse is neutral. It is our responsibility to use it in a way that benefits everyone. So far, the rise of the metaverse has prompted the call for more regulation. As the ecosystem grows, we will have to identify the numerous challenges and restrictions necessary to ensure its responsible operation. The sector might also need to adopt the same rules used on the internet, such as blocking and privacy controls. With the addition of bubble-like features, users can feel safe and secure in their personal space.

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