Pew Metaverse Report

The reputable Pew Research Center just released a report on experts’ view of the metaverse in the future. Here were my responses:

[Thoughts regarding blockchain]

“Blockchain will make virtual assets more valuable. Many people currently think of virtual items as being ephemeral or something that is not a physical asset or ‘property’ (e.g., do people list virtual items in their will?), but blockchain will make ownership of digital assets meaningful.

[Generic thoughts about metaverse adoption]

Yvette Wohn, associate professor in informatics at New Jersey Institute of Technology and director of the Social Interaction Lab, responded, “Purely from an accessibility perspective, I do not believe that the metaverse as described by Meta and others will be something that most people will be using  by 2040. It requires significantly advanced computing resources, both in terms of hardware and Internet infrastructure.

“The metaverse is neither a positive nor a negative space. Its designers have to consider the social consequences their designs will bring. For example, will activities be restricted to only those who have certain hardware or software? Will it lead to dystopian scenarios in isolated virtual spaces?

“If I were designing the metaverse, it would be something that seamlessly integrates with one’s offline life, that is compatible and integrated with all previous versions of the Internet, and something that enriches life as a whole instead of further deepening the divide between online and offline.

“My doubts should not indicate that I do not see merits in the metaverse. I believe the metaverse will create more jobs in ways that we cannot even imagine now. I believe the metaverse has the potential to enrich the quality of our lives, especially for people who lack physical resources. But like any new technology, the derived benefits are contingent on how the technology is designed.

“If we are not to repeat the mistakes that were made in the past, it is essential that more stakeholders are involved in the design and development of digital spaces. This includes people of diverse expertise – not just programmers, but also social scientists, educators, policymakers.

“If we expect the metaverse to be an integral part of life in the future, we should not expect that for-profit companies will represent all of the needs of all of society. Placing all of the accountability on companies is unrealistic and to some extent irresponsible.”

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