DailyPost 1973

Are we moving in the direction of creating a new universe? Will the tectonic changes in human existence brought forth due to the advent of the internet start looking puny? Are we moving from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 or hitting the new world of metaverse directly? COVID-19 saw the global internet usage grow by 50-70 percent and talking of dependence, we can call it near total. What we currently call the digital immersion age, would it even look like a pale shadow of the Metaverse. What have been our learnings from the internet age so far, mainly related to lack of democratization, regulation and being a level playing field, needs to be addressed as we get into the Metaverse Age. Will monopolization and cannibalization by the IT behemoths continue, or will sanity and equal opportunity become a part of Metaverse.

What it would be, no one knows exactly. It can end up being an integration of virtual and the physical spaces, it might as well turn out to be mirroring the real world or who knows it might be entirely a new one. The nearest we reach today is in video games like Second Life and Minecraft. Investments have started happening even without the lack of clarity. The jungle growth in the first two stages of the internet has hit us hard, are we going for the third one in the same cavalier fashion, notwithstanding the phenomenal benefits, it has accrued to mankind, making the world come to your fingertips, in a variety of ways. The Internet was supposed to ”democratize the good and disrupt the bad,” but finally it ended up creating international monopolies holding power more than governments. Sovereignty in a digital world needs to be redefined.

Vulnerable groups are already out of the digital mainstream due to infrastructural inaccessibility, and on the other hand hate speech, misinformation and disinformation reign supreme. Had we bargained for all this? Will the disconnect with the real world increase? Will it happen exponentially now, given what we are experiencing in the Social Media Age. The dream which the internet brought with it, for information and education to the remotest corner and integration on markets has certainly not happened. ’Disintermediation’ has still not happened and we are not moving in that direction either. Other way round, the corporations have gotten bigger and more powerful and data has become money, what next?

In the name of personalization and great user experiences, it has become one big Echo Chamber. ”Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon control to a large extent what we read, do, buy and work.” We want Metaverse to be more open and democratic. If governments keep on thinking that Metaverse may not happen, then if does, we land in an extremely perilous situation; of not having regulatory, economic, and social institutions that enable people to transition and thrive in virtual reality. Hardware and software technological sovereignty and robust technology policy mechanisms are a must, as we move into the Metaverse. The ethical side also cannot be relegated to the background, the same issues as it rages in the Artificial Intelligence debate.


Sanjay Sahay

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