These are just some of the main criticisms and concerns surrounding the Metaverse, and it is important for developers and policymakers to address these issues as they work towards creating a functional and responsible virtual world.
As with any new technology, the Metaverse has also attracted criticism and concerns. Some of the main criticisms and concerns include:
- Privacy and security: The Metaverse raises concerns about privacy and security, as users will be sharing personal data and financial information within a virtual environment. There is also a risk of cyberattacks and hacking, which could lead to theft of personal information or digital assets.
- Addiction and mental health: Critics have raised concerns about the potential for addiction and negative mental health impacts of spending too much time in a virtual world. Some fear that people may become so immersed in the Metaverse that they neglect their real-world responsibilities and relationships.
- Inequality and exclusion: There are concerns that the Metaverse could perpetuate existing inequalities and exclusion, as not everyone will have access to the technology or the resources to participate fully in the virtual world. This could create a new digital divide between those who can afford to participate and those who cannot.
- Environmental impact: The development and use of the technology required for the Metaverse could have a significant environmental impact. This includes the energy usage and carbon footprint of the data centers that power the virtual world, as well as the manufacturing and disposal of the hardware required to access it.
- Content moderation: As with any online platform, there is a risk of harmful or illegal content being shared within the Metaverse. Ensuring effective content moderation and preventing the spread of harmful content will be a major challenge for the developers and operators of the Metaverse.
Criticism and concerns
In a February 2022 article for The New York Times, Lauren Jackson argued that the metaverse is “stalled from achieving scale by a lack of infrastructure for both hardware and software, a monopolistic approach to platform development, and a lack of clear governance standards.”
In December 2021, Raja Koduri, senior vice president of Intel, claimed that “Truly persistent and immersive computing, at scale and accessible by billions of humans in real time, will require even more: a 1,000-times increase in computational efficiency from today’s state of the art.”
In an article for The New York Times on October 26, 2022, Ryan Mac, a technology reporter, claimed that for the past year, Mark Zuckerberg has struggled to find the best way to achieve the metaverse. Unfortunately, he failed.
Information privacy is an area of concern for the metaverse because related companies will likely collect users’ personal information through interactions and biometric data from wearable virtual and augmented reality devices. Meta Platforms (previously Facebook) is planning on employing targeted advertising within their metaverse, raising further worries related to the spread of misinformation and loss of personal privacy. In 2021, David Reid of Liverpool Hope University argued the amount of data collection in the metaverse would be greater than that on the internet stating “If you think about the amount of data a company could collect on the World Wide Web right now, compared to what it could collect with the metaverse, there is just no comparison.” In fact, the current metaverse technology is very immature. Abdulsattar Jaber, a professor at Iraq’s Middle Technical University, found that the new technology used by the metaverse may cause many problems related to the security and privacy of system users.
User addiction and problematic social media use is another concern. Internet addiction disorder, social media, and video game addiction can have mental and physical repercussions over a prolonged period of time, such as depression, anxiety, and various other harms related to having a sedentary lifestyle such as an increased risk for obesity and cardiovascular disease. Experts are also concerned that the metaverse could be used as an ‘escape’ from reality in a similar fashion to existing internet technologies.
Virtual crime like sex abuse, child grooming, and harassment are significant challenges within existing virtual reality social platforms, and may be similarly prevalent in the metaverse. In February 2022, investigations by BBC News and The Washington Post found minors engaging in adult activities in applications such as VRChat and Horizon Worlds despite an age requirement of 13 years or older.
With the emergence of the metaverse, many are calling for new regulations to protect users when they interact in the virtual world and to ensure that intellectual property (IP) laws are extended to both physical and virtual objects, respecting the rights of inventors, designers, and owners of trademarks, just as they would in the real world.
Metaverse development may magnify the social impacts of online echo chambers and digitally alienating spaces or abuse common social media engagement strategies to manipulate users with biased content. Keza MacDonald of The Guardian criticized the utopianism of technology companies who claim that a metaverse could be a reprieve from worker exploitation, prejudice, and discrimination. MacDonald stated that they would be more positive towards metaverse development if it was not dominated by “companies and disaster capitalists trying to figure out a way to make more money as the real world’s resources are dwindling.” Marketing professor Andreas Kaplan, citing their experience studying Second Life users, argues that the metaverse may have a generally negative societal impact due to their strongly addictive potential.