A pioneer of the internet warns the metaverse, in the wrong hands, has the potential to be the most dangerous technology since the invention of nuclear weapons – and those hands likely belong to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta.
Brian Shuster, who has 17 years experience with the metaverse and also created his own digital world called Utherverse, spoke about how people can misuse the metaverse for their own benefit.
‘It could be used to brainwash whole populations and basically put them under the control of the puppet master,’ Shuster said in a phone interview.
‘I don’t believe Zuck or Facebook will ever come to 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 want to go down?
‘We’ve seen the path Facebook has chosen, and they will choose the same path when it comes to the metaverse.’
Zuckerberg once described the metaverse as ‘the successor to the mobile internet,’ is a set of virtual spaces where you can game, work and communicate with other people who are not in the same physical space as you.
The idea is that we will spend more time in the virtual world than the real world, a time when we wake up, put on the headset and stay there for more time than we spend with the headset off – interacting, shopping, going on dates, working and going to school in the virtual world.
The Meta CEO has also made claims that humanity will eventually move into his metaverse, leaving their reality behind for a new world that they control.
Nothing is random. Everything is algorithmically generated by computers and we’ve seen what Facebook does with algorithms,’ said Shuster.
‘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.
The concern is that there is a full immersive brainwashing capability of the metaverse.
Shuster also notes that is not just Zuckerberg we need to worry about, but anyone who will put profits over people.
Not only does Shuster fear the metaverse has the potential to brainwash people, if of course in the wrong hands, but he notes it could create generations of isolated people – just has Facebook has already done.
‘We already get so much less in the real world because of Zuck [referring to Facebook]. You can already hide who you are behind the screen. This will carry over into [his] metaverse,’ he explained.
‘They [Meta’s metaverse] has avatars, but are only a torso, head and arms. 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.’[This will] create generations of isolated people that never get a true sense of what it means to be close to someone – to care about people.’
Meta’s Horizon Worlds is currently a test of its grand metaverse. Currently an app, it includes in-app purchases for creators to sell virtual items and effects within their digital worlds.
And what Zuckerberg has done with Horizon is already ‘very damaging to humanity,’ according to Shuster.
‘I started looking at metaverse 19 years ago. I did it because I saw the future of it being a human Matrix, he said.
‘But this is the ultimate ability to control humanity. Left to its own devices, it could become a Facebook.’
Although Zuckerberg’s metaverse is still in its infancy, it has already made headlines for being a dangerous place.
In May, a woman was virtually raped by a stranger in Horizon Worlds while another user ‘watched and passed around a bottle of vodka’, according to a report from SumOfUs, a non-profit that campaigns to curb the growing power of corporations.
As a result, Meta said it has the Personal Boundary’ feature that keeps non-friends four feet away from users.
‘There are all kinds of ways to handle something like that,’ said Shuster.
‘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 over concerns an avatar will be harassed.’
He continued to explain that Utherverse handles such incidents through a community operations.
‘If someone is bothering you, you can stick them on an ignore list and they disappear,’ Shuster said.
‘You will never wind up in a place where you encounter them. If a person winds up on too many ignore lists you can report them to community moderators and they could be banned.’