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How to Guard Against the Biggest Dangers of the Metaverse

The metaverse needs to be designed carefully so that we can learn from the problems of the internet.

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The is one of the hottest trends in product design right now. Dozens of articles describe the concept of the metaverse and how it will be a successor of the modern internet. But fewer articles describe this 's dangers to our society.

There are several problems that the metaverse might create if we don't design it carefully with the public's great good in mind.

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is one of the most notable problems of the internet. Approximately 37% of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 have been bullied online. Young people who suffer from cyberbullying have a higher chance of self-harm and suicide.

But the metaverse can move this problem to the next level. It's one thing when you read a nasty comment on or , and another thing seeing an abuser in front of you in virtual space. The will immerse us in interaction and blur the boundaries between real and virtual identities. As a result, any insulting or abusive behavior from the other person will feel much more personal. Without proper moderation, the problem of cyberbullying can boost the number of psychological traumas.

But moderation cannot happen without specific rules on how people are expected to behave. The metaverse creators will likely write a set of rules for the metaverse that will allow moderators and AI-based tools to evaluate user behavior in the virtual space and act accordingly. The rules will probably reflect real-world ethical codes with some specific relevance to the interaction in the virtual world.

Related: Why Your Business Needs to Prepare for the Metaverse

Social polarization

Social media has been a major factor in polarizing the United States. As was mentioned in the film The Social Dilemma, AI algorithms used by social media systems track users' behavior and preferences and provide them with content they love to consume. The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated that this polarization of opinions can be dangerous.

If the metaverse is designed with the same foundation, we have an even higher risk of polarization in society and the tension that is typicaly caused by this. It's much easier to create communities in the virtual world when you can feel the presence of other people, and seeing how many other people share your point of view will give you more confidence.

Health issues

(VR) is considered a primary interaction medium in the metaverse. We will wear a VR headset when we interact in virtual space. It's a known fact that modern VR headsets can cause eye strain when people use them for prolonged periods. Our eyes and brain need to have a break from virtual activities, but the metaverse will be designed to increase user engagement. As a result, people will spend long hours in the virtual world, negatively affecting their health.

It's possible to mitigate some problems that people experience today with VR headsets by improving the technical side of the devices. For example, most VR headsets available today have a 60Hz or 90Hz refresh rate. Some experts believe that 120Hz is the minimum refresh rate that makes interaction in VR space more natural for the human eye (the higher the refresh rate, the smoother the motion).

But the metaverse creators should also introduce mechanisms that prevent users from staying long hours in the virtual space. It's also essential to introduce tools like parental controls that prevent teenagers from spending too much time in the virtual space.

Related: Don't Fear the Metaverse — We've Been Through This Before

Privacy violation

If the ad-based revenue model is transferred to the metaverse, we will likely see more privacy concerns.

The more data you can collect about the user, the better you can predict what the user will want. Imagine a virtual world where your every move is tracked so the business can collect the information about your preferences to show you relevant ads.

Despite the metaverse being based on web 3.0 and blockchain technology, data privacy might be an illusion. It's essential to have GDPR regulations in place prior to the first user joining the metaverse.

Data security

The worst data security problem that can happen to you today is if someone hacks your account and gets a fraction of your data (access to your bank account, photos, personal messages, etc.). The worst data security problem in the metaverse is if someone hacks your digital identity with all your digital assets. Improving data security will be one of the key goals for the metaverse creators.

Industry leaders are constantly searching for new ways to improve data security. Using biometric data during account creation and login is one of the ways to protect a user's digital identity. For example, facial recognition and fingerprint scanning will likely be a default part of the sign-in process in the metaverse.

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