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Gearing up for the metaverse: real-world (part two)

Gearing up for the metaverse: real-world (part two)

Part one of this two-part blog attempted to define what metaverse is and what it could become. Part two will discuss how metaverse, without effective rules and regulations, standards and practices raises cause for concern.


Transforming ourselves and the world


Metaverse is already in existence. Just like when we connect to the Internet, we are knowingly or unknowingly becoming ‘live’ to that world and our apps are ready to ‘talk.’  Metaverse, otherwise called tomorrow’s Internet will be even more immersive, where we will ‘enter’ the realm and change ourselves and the world in the process.


Let us delve into a few metaverse use cases that explain the immersive quality of the tech.


Towards a location agnostic workplace


Recent times have rendered work locations to become irrelevant for many businesses. There exist different modes of work: work from home, hybrid and work from anywhere. As a result, there is a growing need for tools and technology that can make work environments, location agnostic.


Metaverse has the potential to smoothen this transition for both enterprises and consumers. ‘Working from metaverse’ could become commonplace – powered by what Microsoft Mesh or Meta’s Horizon World are already facilitating. 


With this move, enterprises and consumers will expect the ability to remotely leverage advice and inputs from experts. Companies will also be able to engage with a digital replica or avatar of their employees alongside digital copies of nearly everything for easy hands-free transitions. More importantly, metaverse will allow such work environments to scale and be ‘carried’ to anywhere and everywhere (wearables connecting an employee to metaverse). Interestingly, an environment in metaverse is eco-friendly and sustainable – running on low operating costs. 


The power to skill and reskill


According to Global Talent Crunch, by 2023, 75 percent of the global workforce will be millennials. Unsurprisingly, traditional methods of onboarding and training will become outdated. Increasing enterprise complexity will also push ahead new ways of working like co-working with machines. Workforce safety compliance requirements will add to the complexity.


Metaverse-enabled onboarding and training over remote collaboration will solve some of these challenges. The future of both work and the workforce will be more metaverse-ready and emerging tech like XR will help manage enterprise complexity.

Providing self-sustainability 


Metaverse’s key characteristic is its ability to create a new economy of creators and co-creators. Metaverse is expected to fund content creators transparently, with Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). For example, take the sale of the GIF Nyan Cat for  USD $600K. 


NFT technology will allow metaverse users to own digital assets and trade them on marketplaces where the original creator will receive a royalty for every transaction. In anticipation, there is a surge in the number of marketplaces including Cryptopunks, Hashmasks, SuperRare, Rarible, Sandbox, NFTically and WazirX. We expect this marketplace to only grow.

However, NFTs are still nascent and do not match the needed scale for metaverse. Looking at current loopholes in the infrastructure and the legal system, investment in NFT still has to develop before we see more investments in them.


Hosting land deals and events


Metaverse could enable the trading of virtual real estate. People could buy/sell virtual land on metaverse, build houses and buildings, sell or rent it, earn from advertisements on their property and more. Decentraland is a good example of this.


Just as with physical properties, people will own properties in metaverse. Events and concerts could be hosted at these locations on the new tech platform. Today, there are a number of virtual reality events taking place around the world from convocations to award shows to virtual conferences to concerts and more.

Taking ‘meet and greet’ to the next level


Beneath all the razzmatazz, metaverse is all about human connections. A rather radical use case is allowing people to meet departed friends and family who no longer live amongst us.


On the other hand, metaverse could also provide special abilities to the differently abled and help create a sense of joy that comes from human connection.

Concerns surrounding metaverse’s rapid growth


Metaverse’s emergence and power is not entirely worry-free. Just as with any technological evolution, metaverse raises concerns especially in relation to personal information and identity. 


Protecting identity


Metaverse allows people to maintain multiple social identities but safeguarding one’s metaversal identity could be difficult, especially without robust laws and regulations. At the moment, it might not be very difficult to impersonate others. 


Here are a few scenarios:

  • Someone represents you in your office or society, without your knowledge

  • Someone accesses your property/assets without your knowledge

  • Social media trials (or metaversal trials) could cause irreversible impact on social reputation, health and wealth - not dissimilar to today’s ‘cancel culture’


To safeguard against such scenarios, people may need something resembling a Universal Virtual Identity that will require collaboration between governments, institutions, legal authorities and enterprises to create.


Protecting privacy


We already are and will continue to expose more of our personal information to the Internet, becoming more vulnerable to exploits. Constant surveillance in a world where individuals wear camera-enabled smart glasses or smart contact lenses will only add to the risk. We should expect new types of restrictions to be imposed – not being allowed to enter a certain area with a camera or smart glasses. 


When discussing legal implications, how would one define compromise of privacy in metaverse? Or should one perhaps begin by defining compromised privacy and checking if the current justice system recognizes such a scenario?


Impact on mental health


Addiction to physical substances is well established and more recently, we have witnessed addiction to virtual gaming. We should anticipate the same concerns with the metaverse. A Forbes article on Legal Heroin is interesting further reading on the subject.


Law and order


Metaverse is exploding but without coherent policies and regulations. Crimes in the real world may not be crimes in metaverse. Here are a few questions to ponder:

  • Will we have a metaverse court?

  • How would we identify crime? Do we have such tools and tech?

  • Who will maintain law and order in metaverse? Will there be a virtual police force?

  • What would be the punishment for crimes in metaverse – blocking people or placing them in a virtual jail?


While we may not have answers to all the questions, I am sure there are conversations taking place around these topics that will help further along this important discussion. 


Building awareness, getting the requisite training on how to responsibly build or co-create in metaverse, adopting ethical means to solve real world problems and joining hands with enterprises, governments and institutions to build best practices for individuals and groups – are a few ways to ensure an inclusive and safe metaverse.


There is an opportunity for us to play a part in ensuring that the next stage of the Internet promotes ethical use cases.

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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