Mark Zuckerberg announced ambitious plans to build the "metaverse" The virtual reality construct is intended to merge virtual life with real life. Zuckerberg, CEO of the company formerly known as Facebook, even renamed it Meta to underscore the effort. "You're going to be able to do almost anything you can imagine," he said.

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 version of the harassment and hate that Facebook has been slow to deal with on today's internet? Or ends up with the same big tech companies that have tried to control the current internet serving as gatekeepers to its virtual-reality edition?

"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. He describes Meta's flagship VR product, Horizon, as filled with "presumptively male participants" and a bullying tone. Second Life was an internet craze 15 years ago and still attracts hundreds of thousands.
Posted by CA carly
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