The metaverse: a world explained through questions
Published on 01/12/2023
Since Facebook became Meta in October 2021, the development of the metaverse has sped up. All the tech giants have plunged into this virtual world. While the commercial, sociological and technological value has been demonstrated, its massive widespread deployment will not occur without a great deal of difficulty.
Alain Goudey, associate dean in charge of digital technology in NEOMA BS, discusses the main challenges of this innovation.
Can we distinguish reality and real life?
If we take the perspective found in the Matrix and in Plato’s allegory of the Cave, each individual constructs their reality from what they experience, see and feel through their senses. The metaverse will show things and provide sensorial experiences that are potentially different and unique at each turn and individualised to the extreme. Reality becomes individualised, straying even farther from a social consensus on what is real or not.
Will our brain be able to absorb so much stimulation?
We’ve already seen in our time that hyper-stimulating digital apps have harmful effects when used at an unreasonable level. It would also be helpful to study how much time we should be spending on these tools.
What usage data will be collected?
The metaverse technologies will be able to collect a lot of different data, from movements and the hot zones of the user’s gaze, to in situ behaviour and emotional reactions. They are particularly intrusive. The question of protecting this data is a vital one.
What will its management and regulations be?
On a large scale, it comes down to asking questions concerning its commercial aspects, potentially harmful forms of behaviour, the possible manipulation of vulnerable people, etc. A piece of technology acts in neither good nor bad faith in and of itself; everything depends on how it is used.
What is its energy consumption?
Continuously displaying a 3D world is not neutral and requires much more power since this virtual world will be vast and graphically intricate. Given the climate and energy issues involved, the metaverse’s added value is also a central concern.
What about platform interoperability?
Currently, thousands of metaverses are being created, which mean creating a large number of avatars. For the moment, it’s unmanageable, especially if the objective is to create an economy (more importantly, a decentralised one). It’s a major technical challenge at the moment.
Does the world today still have the ability to establish international technological standards?
Geopolitics is found everywhere behind technology. Will American and Chinese metaverses be truly interoperable? My belief is that Europe must gain a foothold in web3 technologies to prevent increasing its digital dependency. It makes sense to have one or more European metaverses that respect people’s private lives while still providing a rich, multicultural experience.