The Metaverse is your imaginary digital paradise. But what about when the unexpected enters paradise? What will be the fate of us all when the place we run to escape becomes where what we are running away from catches us up with us?
The Forked Nature of Reality
What is reality? What happens when our consciousness is connected to our digital pair? Do we feel the same as the avatar, or does the Avatar feel for us? These questions come to mind when we begin to think of the possibilities of the Metaverse.
If there are possibilities that our minds cannot differentiate reality when in the metaverse, then we have to consider that we are going to face many challenges in the next decade.
The First Record of Abuse
On December 21, 2021, Nina Jane Patel, Co-Founder of Kabuni, Director of Metaverse Research, raised concerns about the safety of the metaverse. According to her blog post, she was ganged raped on Meta’s Horizon Worlds, and it felt as real as it would if it was a physical act.
“Within 60 seconds of joining — I was verbally and sexually harassed — 3–4 male avatars, with male voices, essentially, but virtually gang-raped my avatar and took photos — as I tried to get away they yelled — “don’t pretend you didn’t love it” and “go rub yourself off to the photo”. She wrote.
Of course, most people waved it off as not real. But what is real? If our senses are somehow connected to the environment we are in through VR, then the possibilities are beyond the threshold of the physical.
The Meta Scandal
Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee, On October 5, 2021, exposed Meta’s internal operations. She noted at a congress hearing, that Meta’s Algorithms were created to fuel addiction, and cause harm to teenagers. She also accused them of “prioritising profit-making over public safety”.
What most players hear when the word Metaverse is mentioned is Freedom. I mean the boundaries should be limitless for it to be the perfect escape from the harsh realities of the physical world. Building most metaverse protocols on the Blockchain is to improve transparency. The unfolding scenario, however, is that most big tech companies are forming alliances to control the Metaverse before it even begins.
The metaverse presents multidimensional possibilities for living, however, there will be dangers interacting with it.
Every innovation presents its benefits. But what about risks? What about the changes that follow after. Are we ready for what is to come? Are we safe interacting with controlled metaverse?
As envisioned by many key players, the metaverse will be virtually an XR universe. The broad spectrum of everything Artificial, Augmented, virtual, and mixed reality.
Most users argue that virtual reality has been a thing, and, in fact, the metaverse is nothing new. But the ideas of Blockchain underlying the use of the metaverse is setting it apart from ordinary VR. The ideas of the metaverse, however, tilt more towards game theory, Interoperability, tokenization and decentralization.
It is fun to experience these things in their early stage. Many users are already making money off NFTs, and in-game tokens. Others are connecting, and interacting in new metaverse spaces, but are we ready for what is to come?
Here are a few backlashes we may expect from interacting with the metaverse.
Will People Get Addicted to the Metaverse?
Interacting with the Metaverse will certainly lead to addiction. Addiction occurs when we repeat activities, and reconstructs the way our brain experiences the pleasure we get from such activity. It will be like the phone addiction epidemic. Millions of people globally are already addicted to their phones. People’s addiction to the metaverse will follow the same phone addiction mechanics but at an alarming rate. The potential consequences will be reduced sleeping hours, stress, loneliness, depression, and social disorders.
These will lay the foundation for mental health challenges that will follow.
How Will the Metaverse impact Mental Health?
Reports show that there is already a high increase in mental health challenges globally, some of which may be caused by people’s exposure to unhealthy content online as well as bullying. Addiction to the Metaverse will usher in new forms of mental health challenges, and behavioural and psychiatric disorders. This will happen as a result of the Social disconnect, long hours of use, reduced sleeping hours and lack of exercise. The Dangers of the metaverse lie in its intersection with the mind, reality and consciousness. When true immersion will begin to happen, we may not be able to predict the way our minds receive it, and its long terms effects.
Are We Going to Witness an Increased Suicide Rate Interacting with the Metaverse?
The World Health Organisation records that Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds. According to their findings, people with severe mental health conditions die prematurely as much as two decades early. Statistics show that many people interacting with the metaverse are primarily within this age range.
The Mental health Challenges that will arise from our interactions with the metaverse will take on new dimensions psychologists may not easily understand. At least during the first decade, after true immersion and interoperability happen, we may likely see an increased suicide rate more than what has been recorded before.
The Metaverse will Usher in Masked Crime
The type of crimes that will emerge in the metaverse will heavily be related to abuse and mind hack. Abuse can be both psychological and physical. There will be a possibility of uttering people’s minds relative to the deep connective immersion of mind and avatar. Of course, there will be account hacks, avatar theft, scams and illegal trade of substances. Since the avatar is a kind of semi-mask for Physical identity, it will be easy to commit a crime and go scot-free. The Nina Jane Patel rape experience is an example, that people can commit crimes while hiding behind Avatars.
Advancement in metaverse development is slow due to many factors. But the coming decade will see that these limitations are overcome.
While we expect that we will have mechanisms in place to tackle these and many more challenges, we should speak up about the things that will cause us greater harm interacting with the metaverse. The Future is going to be wild and weird. We cannot compromise safety and serenity, for Speed.