13. Metaverse and Gaming Technologies by Ethical Perspective

June 3, 2022 lectured by Assoc. Prof. Tolga Medeni and written by Dr. Merve Ayyüce KIZRAK

This week's lecture will discuss the metaverse that has come to the fore with the speed of digital transformation experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. We're going to have a discussion on the ethical debates and risks posed by the meta-universe idea, which is essentially an old idea. Let's be aware that there is an easy seduction in stories that make an already existing technology look new.

“The metaverse is here, and it’s not only transforming how we see the world but how we participate in it — from the factory floor to the meeting room.” — Satya Nadella

Concepts are changing as we move from Web2 to Web3. Fiat currency is replaced by cryptocurrencies, physical assets are replaced by NFTs, traditional companies are replaced by Digital Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), traditional finance is replaced by decentralized finance (DeFi), and social media and games are replaced by the metaverse.

It is said that the Metaverse has not yet been defined. But that was something I thought about when organizing this lesson. Should it be defined? Or by whom it should be defined, if not we. Therefore, I decided to try to describe myself as the person responsible for the course independently of everyone else.

Before Metaverse

Video Games

  • Sim City - Sims, 1989 - 2000

  • Knight Online, 2002

  • Second life, 2003

  • World of Warcraft, 2004

Movies and Animes

  • Matrix, 1999

  • Sword Art Online,2012

  • Log Horizon, 2013

  • Johnny_Mnemonic, 1995

  • Battlestar Galactica, 2004

  • Star Trek, TNG, 1987

  • Ready Player One, 2018

  • Free Guy, 2021

Crypto Currency

  • ETP-Metaverse, 2017

What is Metaverse?

Metaverse is a new form of social application that uses various technologies, especially the internet, object/things connection, and virtual reality. We can describe it as a multi-technology and hyper-spatial-temporal environment. We are talking about a social virtual-physical environment in which legal, economic, and cultural systems can be designed with the help of technologies such as blockchain.

Some scientific studies elaborate on the concept of metaverse from different perspectives. With the Metaverse, a new social form and shaping are mentioned. We are talking about a virtual world that is related to and designed in parallel with the real world. Sometimes it is anticipated that this can move away from virtuality and give a sense of reality and experience real emotions, events, and experiences. As such, the metaverse becomes a subject of ethical debates.

“The Defining and Building the Metaverse initiative provides the industry with an essential toolkit for ethically and responsibly building the metaverse. This will help ensure that we can fully harness this vital medium for social and economic interconnectivity in an inclusive, ethical and transformative manner.” — Jeremy Jurgens, Managing Director, World Economic Forum

Metaverse and Ethics

It will take time to regulate this developing environment. In this process, many ethical and moral problems will arise in a social environment with unlimited freedom and activity. Disinformation, fraud, and intellectual property violation are the first problems that come to mind. These are realistic and priority issues, but other agendas are being discussed in the future. For example;

  • What are the consequences of conducting morally wrong experiments?

  • Will our personal spaces in the physical world also apply to avatars? Or will the avatars be free to tap/touch? Or what will be the reward for killing an avatar? This metaverse also opens the issue of death for discussion.

  • Can an avatar in the metaverse and its environment be hacked?

  • How digital assets will be shared, stored, taxed, or inherited are also topics of discussion.

  • In the real world, is it possible to have more than one personality/avatar in the metaverse besides everyone being one and only? The requirements for the management of this process are also discussed.

  • Whether avatars will have to be in human form or whether there is freedom and limitlessness in this matter is another debate.

The way in which all these issues and more take place and exist in the psychology, and physiology of individuals, families, society, and governments will soon be gravid with new discussions. Even if we talk about games, science fiction movies, and human-computer interaction in this course, we highlight some more discussion topics in the lecture notes.

It is useful to think about the responsibilities of building or being a part of a metaverse. You can't build a metaverse overnight, even if you're a related metadata warehouse company like Meta (formerly Facebook), which owns this multi-technology by name. It advocates the view that cooperation and interoperability with policymakers, experts, and industry stakeholders are essential for this. That's why it has invested $50 million in global research and program partners to ensure the responsible development of metaverse products.*

May a Responsible Metaverse Be Built?

Focusing on building such disruptive technologies that are inclusive, participatory, and robust requires making sure that basic human and civil rights are included from the start. Instead of retrospective regulations, it is necessary to set out in line with ethical principles and values from the beginning of the design. Of course, there are many uncertainties and risks involved in developing new technology. Therefore, it is important that different stakeholders work together. We can foresee what can be done for this as follows:

  • Ways to sustain the burgeoning digital economy and promote competition appropriately must be developed.

  • While ensuring data privacy, technology should be developed transparently.

  • It should be ensured that it is resistant to cyber-attacks and that people are safe online.

  • It should be ensured that this multi-technology is designed as fair, equitable, and inclusive.

At this point, it would be correct to say that it is important to develop ethical approaches and recommend regulatory frameworks. In the near future, publications on this subject will increase. Next week, we will conduct an ethical review ranging from traditional organizations to digital organizations and digital government.

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