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The United States Constitution is the foundation of America, and guarantees the rights and responsibilities of every American. Today, another new world is being created as we speak: the metaverse. Without some of the same guidelines, we fear the metaverse as a public and open system will fail and only recreate the blatant flaws of social media with doping.
Before we knew it could do this, Facebook was shaping the election and Twitter was embroiled in scandals over its impact on public safety and censorship. Without due diligence, the metaverse could turn into a much more terrifying beast.
Rich Geldrich and Stephanie Hurlburt are tech entrepreneurs and co-founders of binomial, a photo compression and textile company.
We must not be exploited by the metaverse. It must serve us. In order for that to happen it needs a constitution.
First, its building blocks must consist of open standards and open source code. Second, all data policies must be transparent and understandable. Finally, any research performed in the metaverse must be made immediately available to the public.
We must define exactly what is the metaverse and what is not. Merriam-Webster describes the metaverse as “a highly immersive virtual world where people come together to socialize, play and work.” Many may feel that Merriam-Webster’s definition of metaverse accurately describes all of our lives during the lockdown; The only place to interact with others is online. There is already a primitive metaverse here, now it has a name.
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It is also important to establish that the metaverse is not owned by a single company and certainly not invented by Facebook. Instead, rebranding it is an attempt to acquire it, and thus control it.
Facebook invested $10 billion in it this year alone. Bloomberg Intelligence estimates that the market size for metaverses could reach $800 billion by 2024. We may not know how it will turn out, all we know is that it is coming.
When social media first appeared on the scene, no one expected that it would be used to overthrow governments. Today, we’re in a Pandora’s box moment with the metaverse.
This is why we are proposing a constitution for metaverses. We believe it is very important to create a simple set of rules that can help us prevent making the same mistakes we have made in the past.
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Before we get into the modern metaverse, we first have to determine who has access to its building blocks, and the answer has to be everyone. When Tim-Berners Lee created the Internet, he released Master Bits as open source code free and available to everyone.
His vision was for the Internet to become a public good, just like public lands in America; A place owned respectively by everyone and no one. Metaverse and the future of the web should work on the same principle. At the very least, we should keep anything owned visible and open for all to see and change.
The second principle of metaverse should be that data policies are transparent and understandable. Companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google may indicate that they give away data. However, as everyone knows, not even the most diligent human brain can read, let alone understand this infamous text.
Left unchecked, mining and extracting personal data in the metaverse could amount to the most powerful monitoring mechanism ever invented. With Metaverse and its sub-headsets, companies can collect unimaginable amounts of fearsome bio-data. Before we allow ourselves or our children to run straight into this digital world, we must first know who is watching and how.
The constitution of the Metaverse may seem sublime, but there are practical ways in which it can be implemented. Governments can make laws and regulations about fair play in the Metaverse; Company earnings must be declared by law, and company research in the Metaverse can easily follow a similar rulebook.
Back in 2016, an internal Facebook report found that 64% of people who joined an extremist group on Facebook had recommended that group via the Facebook algorithm, even though these results were not made public. There is no reason why this form of cover-up should not be criminalized by law.
While the ultimate power flows from the government, corporations have a role to play. It is common for unions of individuals and companies to come together to agree on a set of ground rules (usually a patent pool or an agreement to share data publicly with the group) and create new standards that the industry agrees to follow. It is only a matter of collective will.
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However, even multinational corporations have a boss; The audience. Apple’s privacy push and Facebook’s rebranding show that no matter how big a company is, public opinion prevails. If the public showed enough appetite for the Metaverse constitution, Big Tech’s hands would be tied.
This is not a new area. The father of the Internet, Tim Berner-Lee, has already called for a global “law of rights” for the Web. At this critical juncture for the Web, we would be wise to heed his call.
Emerging technologies have a way of solving old problems while creating new ones. Tim Berners-Lee said, “Everyday life on the Web is like everyday life on the street, (it will) have its rough edges and its smooth edges.” The constitution of the metaverse would round out those smooth edges, while we protect ourselves from the rough.