The Oasis Consortium’s initial strategy is to try to persuade Silicon Valley and the rest of them to self-regulate, but we have seen how effective that has been when other bodies have tried to do the same thing with the current iteration of the Internet. That’s not to say the Consortium shouldn’t appeal to the better natures of Big Tech, but the chances of warm words penetrating those flinty organs are, shall we say, about as slight as me being elected the next Pope.
What is needed is a robust, international system to regulate, monitor and police the metaverse and to impose punishments as required, and the time to start devising such a system is now, not a year or two further down the line.
As David Reid, the Professor of AI and Spatial Computing at Liverpool Hope University, points out, “The metaverse’s ultimate aim is not just virtual reality, or augmented reality, it’s mixed reality (MR). It’s blending the digital and the real world together. Ultimately this blend may be so good, and so pervasive, that the virtual and the real become indistinguishable. And the market for that is gigantic. Whoever controls it, will basically have control over your entire reality. Many current MR prototype systems have face, eye, body and hand tracking tech. Most have sophisticated cameras. Some even incorporate Electroencephalogram (EEG) technology to pick up brainwave patterns. In other words, everything you say, manipulate, look at, or even think about can be monitored in MR. The data this will generate will be vast… and extremely valuable. That’s why we need a system in place to police it. No single company should ever exert control – it’s simply too important for that to happen.”
Professor Reid believes the answer is “collaboration, using open standard protocols, where a standard is freely available to be adopted and shared by others, in the same way that the World Wide Web evolved.” The Internet has the World Wide Web Consortium, the formation of which was heavily influenced by the “father” of the Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s quest for openness, and Professor Reid says the metaverse is in crying need of the creation of an equivalent body for the age of Web 3.0. According to the Prof, that could be something like “an INTERPOL for the metaverse… an international police force or a compliance committee or bureaucracy that will have to exist. I think that’s going to have to happen.”
Just how is yet to be hammered out is completely unknown, but the world should not allow the power and reach of the Big Tech companies to extend into the metaverse to the point that they effectively control it, and via that the existential reality of the billions of individuals that will spend much of their lives quite literally, living the dream – or the nightmare.
Back in 1901, the then US Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt, shortly later to become the 26th president of the United States, spoke at the Minnesota State Fair and explained his notion of a workable long-term foreign policy. It was, “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.” Those seeking to ensure the metaverse won’t be as perverse and corrupted as the current Internet should take good note and buy themselves a blackthorn shillelagh, a knobkerrie or a Penang lawyer as soon as is practicable.