Mark Zuckerberg announced ambitious plans to build the "metaverse" The virtual reality construct is intended to supplant the internet. Zuckerberg, CEO of the company formerly known as Facebook, even renamed it Meta to underscore the significance of the effort. It’s not clear how long it will take Meta, or anyone else investing in the metaverse, to consider such a plan.

Holograms could be used in mixed-reality business meetings. But it’s just as easy to imagine dystopian downsides. Suppose the metaverse also enables a vastly larger, yet more personal version of the harassment and hate that Facebook has been slow to deal with.

"There is a potential for that harm to be really ramped up," says Amie Stepanovich, executive director of Silicon Flatirons. "We approach that differently — having somebody scream at us than having somebody type at us," she says. What happens when social media evolves into a vast collection of virtual gated communities?

The danger is creating online public spaces that appeal only to a "polarized, homogenous group of people," says Philip Rosedale, founder of Second Life. He describes Meta’s flagship VR product, Horizon, as filled with "presumptively male participants" and a bullying tone.
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