GDC: ethics and governance in the metaverse

Jun 09, 2022 at 08:00 am by nemirc

GDC: ethics and governance in the metaverse
GDC: ethics and governance in the metaverse

This year at GDC there was also talk about the metaverse. The talk is now free to watch on YouTube so you can watch it for free. I admit I was very skeptical about this talk, because I am not a fan of the idea of the metaverse, and also because, sometimes, these talks turn into strange “paint-by-the-numbers” talks where they force things into players (for example, aggressive anti-consumer strategies) to please investors and forgetting about those who actually pay for the products. In this specific case, I thought it was going to be a one-hour panel about telling people that they need to be excited about the Metaverse because the metaverse is the future.

I was pleased to see that was not the case.

The talk was divided in 3 main parts. Who will control the metaverse, how the revenue models will impact in digital rights, and what are the legal and governance challenges.

During the talk there was this discussion about all the different metaverse initiatives, and whether there should be only one, or many metaverses. There was actually an interesting back and forth, and they were talking about a centralized metaverse versus decentralized metaverses, how there can be interoperability between the metaverses so you don’t have to create a separate account and avatar each time, and what metaverses can learn from open and walled gardens. If you ask me, one thing I would definitely not like is a single metaverse. If our current time can show you one thing about this, is what happens when a single company controls an entire platform. For example, Facebook has no competitors in the social network arena, and Twitter has no competitors in the micro-blogging arena. Imagine a single company controlling the entire metaverse ecosystem, and if that’s not already bad enough, imagine Facebook or Twitter controlling the entire metaverse ecosystem.

Another interesting point was the user data. Interoperability between metaverses, or even operability in a single metaverse, will require a certain amount of data from the users. That posed questions about how the companies must protect the data, how they should make sure the data is not stolen, and how the data could be exchanged between platforms.

Then they talked about revenue models, and the more they talk, the more you know there’s a lot of room for things to go wrong. For example, they were talking about NFTs, and how a lot of people in the industry, and the gaming space, hate NFTs, but rather than just badmouth NFTs they talked about how NFTs could evolve to produce more tangible value and ownership.

Then they talk about the business model all “free” platforms use as well, which is collect all your data so they can sell it to advertisers. If you use social networks, then you have either heard of, or experienced that strange situation where the website recommends something based on a conversation you had. Some people say the AI systems from those companies are so advanced “they know you more than you know yourself” but that doesn’t explain how those platforms know how to recommend very specific things (for example, legal services to sue the guy that installed your pipes), specially if you never ever did an internet search about those issues. One of the concerns shared in the talk was exactly this, because a lot of users are very concerned about their privacy.

If you have the time, you should watch the talk even if you are not interested in the metaverse. As I said before, the talk was not meant to sell you the cool idea of the metaverse, but rather to share questions and concerns about it. It’s not meant to change your views on it, just make you think about stuff.

Watch the talk:

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