The Metaverse is the name given to the concept of an iteration of the Internet as a single, universal and immersive virtual world facilitated by either virtual or augmented reality in which users can meet, collaborate and game. The term was coined by the science fiction author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash”, in the narrative of which a hacker investigates a virus of the same name that is infecting people both within the virtual world and without. Creating a real-life version of the Metaverse appears to be a key goal of Mr Zuckerberg — who recently rebranded Facebook, Inc. as “Meta” — with the entrepreneur having suggested that humanity will eventually spend more of their time in his Metaverse than reality.
Brian Shuster is a Vancouver-based entrepreneur who has developed his own digital world, the “Utherverse”. Despite this, he fears such virtual worlds have the potential to be misused.
The metaverse, he claimed: “Could be used to brainwash whole populations and basically put them under the control of the puppet master.”
He continued: “I don’t believe Zuck or Facebook will ever come to the conclusion they can sacrifice money for the benefit and longevity of humans.
“The money comes when people are happy or angry — [so you choose] which path you go down.
“We’ve seen the path Facebook has chosen, and [Meta] will choose the same path when it comes to the Metaverse.”
Mr Shuster added: “Nothing is random. Everything is algorithmically generated by computers and we’ve seen what Facebook does with algorithms.”
“You may think you met the love of your life in the Metaverse, but this is Zuck deciding who you are matched with.
“You may grow up hearing one line of opinion because the computer system figures out it will make the most profit.”
In this way, Mr Shuster proposed, the fully immersive capability of a metaverse has the potential to effectively brainwash its users — whether such is being run by Mr Zuckerberg or anyone else who could place profits over people.
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Alongside brainwashing its users via heightened “filter bubbles”, Mr Shuster also claims that the Metaverse could similarly amplify the isolating effect of Facebook.
He told Dailymail.com: “We already get so much less in the real world because of [Facebook].
“You can already hide who you are behind the screen. This will carry over into the Metaverse.”
Users in Meta’s “Horizon Worlds” app — their first real step towards delivering Zuckerberg’s grand Metaverse ambitions, which launched in the US and Canada late last year — have avatars, Mr Shuster noted, but they sport only a torso, legs and arms.
He added: “This precludes all kinds of activities. As humans, we need contact to feel emotionally supported. We need to go dancing, sit with people.
“In Horizon, avatars can’t come within a few feet of each other. How do you give someone a hug, and build real connections?”
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In the eyes of Mr Shuster, what Mr Zuckerberg has already done with Horizon Worlds, which has a monthly userbase of around 300,000 people, is “very damaging to humanity” — and, certainly, the app has already attracted negative press.
There have already been several claims of users being “sexually assaulted” in the virtual reality world.
In response to such incidents, Meta has noted that it has implemented a “personal boundary” feature which keeps non-friends four feet away from the user in-world.
Mr Shuster commented: “There are all kinds of ways to handle something like that.
“A way Meta tried to handle it is force boundaries so people can’t come close enough and get rid of legs and everything below the waste, which isolates people further.”
In contrast, he explained, his Utherverse allows you to “ignore” other users whose behaviour is problematic — meaning that they disappear from the blocker’s user experience — with moderators able to look into banning those who are placed onto too many ignore lists.
Mr Shuster concluded: “There is a complexity of creating this type of technology for real people and it involves understanding the psychology of humans and aspects of humanity.
“I have no reason to believe [Mr Zuckerberg] has any capacity to do this.”
Despite this, Mr Zuckerberg insists his Metaverse will be used as a force for good.
He previously said: “In many ways the metaverse is the ultimate expression of social technology.
“What I care about is inventing technology to enable people to engage with one other.”
He believes the technology will be the next big computing platform.
He told The Verge in July: “If we do this well, I think over the next five years or so… we will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a ‘metaverse’ company”.
Express.co.uk has contacted Meta for comment.