Experts Think Facebook’s Metaverse Means The End Of The World

Some experts are warning against what Facebook is planning with its metaverse, thinking it will ruin the current fabric of the world

By Dylan Balde | Updated

This article is more than 2 years old

facebook metaverse

A fully interactive custom reality will only amplify the excesses and social fragmentation caused by social media, experts warn backers of Mark Zuckerberg’s impending new metaverse upgrade. The company once known as Facebook is restructuring the popular social networking service to adhere to metaverse technology, converting standard text and media spaces into online 3D environments made accessible by extensive VR and AR overlays.

As demonstrated in Zuckerberg’s October 29 Keynote presentation, digital avatars are expected to replace user profiles, affixing every personalized URL with its own data map, allowing strangers and friends to view otherwise confidential information using augmented reality extensions without our consent. Virtual offices replace tedious Zoom conferences, holograms elevate gaming in ways Nintendo and Sony could only dream of, and trade will flourish in virtual marketplaces. As exciting as these developments sound, some experts view this significant leap in digitized networking with reasonable suspicion, with computer scientist Louis Rosenberg marking the event as the beginning of the end as far as the very fabric of reality goes. By definition, going meta implies living in a manufactured world, immersing yourself in a society where reality and virtual blur, and allowing it all to mediate every facet of life. Metaverse may promise impressive strides in the way we communicate, but like social media today, the system is prone to abuse and misuse.

Rosenberg helped pioneer metaverse tech all the way back in 1991 with the Virtual Fixtures project, an augmented reality simulator launched by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and funded by Stanford University and NASA. It involved developing a massive exoskeleton — an ancestor of modern-day VR headsets, if you will — through which test subjects accessed a rudimentary vision system that effectively merged virtual objects with realistic scenery into one cohesive whole. Rosenberg had an inkling AR was going to revolutionize the world someday, but at the time failed to take into account the pitfalls of mixing social media — then an improbable dream — with advanced AR and VR tech.

facebook metaverse

The past decade has since witnessed the rise of social networking, and with it, the dangers of allowing technology to permeate every layer of human interaction. The Internet has evolved to a point where it’s no longer possible to live a functional existence without it. Big corporations are regulating access to relevant information. A purely digital space arbitrates between individuals, grossly affecting the tide and turn of relationships. Intelligent algorithms filter public opinion and a planetary framework influences how we choose to govern our everyday lives. Rosenberg cautions Facebook (or Meta Platforms, as it’s called now) against taking the app’s more negative features further, as metaverse tech will only magnify social media’s more harmful and invasive aspects to a point of no return.

A future with metaverse technology constantly facilitating daily living isn’t as cushy as it sounds. It’s Black Mirror’s Nosedive, White Christmas, USS Callister, Arkangel, Hang the DJ, and Striking Vipers in one chaotic dystopia. Remember how quickly Lacey (Bryce Dallas Howard) spiraled in Nosedive after excessive metaverse reliance drove her so far up the wall she couldn’t function in the real world any longer. Or how the grain, a projected AR accessory used to filter and “augment” reality with virtual overlays, ended up adversely influencing how Liam handled his marriage in The Entire History of You and cultivating noxious parenting strategies in Arkangel.

This is the metaverse world Facebook is offering users: paid filter layers defining people for them, auto designations perpetuating toxic labels, encouraging further division and ostracizing otherwise functional individuals in the AR and VR sphere. 24/7 visual overlays will limit freedom of choice, thereby exposing previously unseen behaviors and impinging on our privacy. Reality will eventually “disappear,” Rosenberg warns, as the digital world is gradually converted into a version of Second Life where even taking a break becomes impossible. Such immersive online features will inevitably result in the decline of modern human society as communities begin to depend on metaverse for meaning, emotional and spiritual nourishment, and work. It’s Mike Cahill’s Bliss with an extra dose of addictive crystals.

Social media may have degraded the depth of human interaction possible, but AR and VR expansions are no better. We already can’t fathom the idea of even briefly parting from our smartphones. Living in an imagined realm a la Plato’s theory of forms isn’t any better. And Facebook originated all of it. As fellow metaverse expert Ethan Zuckerman said in an October 29 The Atlantic editorial, “Facebook’s promised metaverse is about distracting us from the world it’s helped break.” Facebook’s new metaverse upgrade is expected to roll out shortly.

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