Facebook’s metaverse is a petting zoo for control

Matrix Deus Ex Machina

Right, there is so much about the metaverse, I can’t help myself but comment.

Although I do love the Iceland tourist video piss take.

Lets be clear, the metaverse and what Facebook (bloody Meta) are planning is not a metaverse any one really wants. I’m calling it the corporate metaverse, as I do think there is some useful parts which are worth exploring. However there is too much which isn’t because its always described in a commercial/capitalism space.

Neal Stephenson who coined the term in Snowcrash, did proposal a virtual real estate owned by a global commercial group. So Meta isn’t that far off the mark, especially with Ernest Cline’s Ready player one making the metaverse the literal Oasis from the real world. Leading me to the conclusion that the metaverse is not a good idea for humanity.

So I thought about it and picked out some parts, framing it within mainly the Matrix.

The metaverse under capitalism

Morpheus with a battery

This is pretty damning but in the arms of a commercial company or market, you don’t need to look far to realise the Matrix has a lot of the answers.

Quoting Morpheus in the Matrix

“What is the Matrix? Control. The Matrix is a computer-generated dream world built to turn a human being into this.” *Holds up a battery*

I won’t go as far as to say a battery but rather a resource of data or funding (almost a cash cow?). The computer generated dream world is apt and the control statement is spot on!

While immersed in the computer generated dream world, we can/will  be controlled. Complete surveillance of movement, emotion, discussion, everything. Something of the big data pipe dream, but within the tight (fist) environment of a corporate provider (overlord). The temptation is there to maximize all the data (batteries).

Morpheus with agent smith

Quoting Agent Smith also in the Matrix

“I hate this place, this zoo, this prison, this reality, whatever you want to call it.”

Agent Smith complains about the Matrix the computer generated dream world. What got me was the idea of it being in a zoo (although prison and reality is perfect too), and even more so the idea of a petting zoo. The animals are always surveilled and controlled with fences and systems. So much so, it changes their behavior, the way they think, react, etc.

The reason why a petting zoo is because the corporate owners allow their extra paying customers to pet/play with the animals. Remember this is on top of the on-going surveillance. Petting zoos are fun for the customers but I’d say less so for the animals?

Some will laugh but frankly I’m not the only one (thankfully) thinking this.
While the rest of the media does its cheer-leading and stone throwing of meta’s metaverse. The debate (its not really a conversation) isn’t going anywhere useful.

The metaverse for the public interest?

I have thought quite a lot about what public service elements could exist within a public metaverse (oppose to one owned by a corporate entity, although I don’t actually think this will happen because companies don’t want to share and we know monopolies are very bad).

I remember when I first came across the fediverse, which thanks to the use of interoperability at different levels, allows you to move between different instances with minimal pain. The other absolute fantastic thing is being able to have different friends on different instances and having no real differences (Just like email). Whats this got to do with the public interest? Do you think the corporate entity would be interested in supporting this free form of communication? Can the animals in a petting zoo, talk to each other?

Thinking about the Matrix (there is a loose theme here).

“Your appearance now is what we call residual self image. It is the mental projection of your digital self.”

Residual self image and portability of identity is something a public metaverse could/should provide. Your self image is something you control and manage and across different instances/nodes/spaces or within the bigger metaverse. I can see modification based on the public space, in the same way most people change the way they look at a funeral or wedding. There will be spaces/nodes/instances where rules/cultural/ethos. Similar to the way, Mastodon have instance/server level rules.

There is a ton of real/virtual places type things where I’d lean on public architecture, thinking of Jane Jacobs incredible book.

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

There must be a clear demarcation between what is public space and what is private space. Public and private spaces cannot ooze into each other as they do typically in suburban settings or in projects.

The metaverse must be created by everybody not just a privileged few or a corporate overlord. In a interconnected virtual space, it should be much easier to build your own and work together in a public way but this needs a lot of thought. There are lessons to be learned from our semi-democratic physical city/town planning.

With the metaverse being placed directly in the xR (extended reality) space. I certainly think its time we got to the infrastructural side of the metaverse. Everything from how data is used, how, where, etc. A long time ago I talked about X-Ray mode, so you can see the underlying data & infrastructure. Something like when Neo can finally see the Matrix code while still inside of it.

Matrix code of agents

Part of the data/code is of course the algorithms which should be public and transparent for the public benefit. Is something I’ve seen in parts elsewhere but not really in the xR space. It certainly would even up the scales. Its something we build into the living room of the future funny enough.

In summary

Although very messy thoughts, there are parts worth exploring. As mentioned at the start I think there is interesting parts to a metaverse but the corporate petting zoo is something which has become the dominate view. I see similar when people talk about social networking and social media. Their frame of reference is pinned to a dominate corporate wet dream and it clouds what it really could potentially if you start from the public interest at the core.

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Sept 2021)

Metaverse

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed seeing the lack of coverage for facebook whistleblower sophie zhang, thinking about those batteries and yet another data breach.

To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

You are seeing aspects of this with seeing twitter crop bias bug bounty, the discussion about removing the landline and the social dilemma free on youtube for a month.


Tech Crunch gets on the moving train

Ian thinks: Reading this, I can’t really take Techcrunch seriously, because for every one of these startups focused on privacy and security. Theres at least 20 more startups covered the opposite. Maybe its just me?

Envisioning the future of social media

Ian thinks: This interview with Ethan Zuckerman is full of some great points to get you thinking, I find it hard to disagree with Ethan especially around using affordances and setting up small town based on Mastodon.

Values not eyeballs please

Ian thinks: Its always interesting to hear from experts in the space, on the work you are involved in. Its a really good read especially if you haven’t come across the Human Values, which also has new podcast interviews.

Apple cares about your privacy?

Ian thinks: I do find it so ironic, Apple making a song a dance about their privacy changes but their own browser Safari, not including any strong level of privacy? Of course Apple are in privacy hot water for much more too.

What is really behind Only Fans new policy? and its Uturn?

Ian thinks: There is a important question about the platform and who has influence over the platform. As this twitter thread says, you really need to think about the platform & infrastructure,

The dystopia which is the metaverse

Ian thinks: There is so much talk about the metaverse but few looking at the privacy, security, infrastructure and trust within this space. Till then I can’t help but think Vice is kind of right.

Its started with a MP3 player

Ian thinks: Dan Hon’s rant starts with a want and spans the internet media ecosystem, pointing out so many of the problems we all know too well.

Blackhat & Defcon happened, here’s the scary flaws

Ian thinks: I always love seeing what comes out of these security events. You can also watch the full videos from Blackhat and Defcon online here.

Web Monetization showcase

Ian thinks:The webmon showcase is a nice summary of some of the projects which came out of the Grant for the web initiative

Mozilla thumbs down Facebooks claims about Ad Observer

Ian thinks: Its so interesting to see Facebook’s concerns around Ad observer squashed in one post by the privacy first Mozilla. This is deeply concerning behavior, what is Facebook worried about?


Find the archive here

Adventures in the Metaverse with Immersive Arts lab – Feb 11th 2021

The Bridge: metaverse

I will be giving a keynote talk at the Immersive Arts lab’s Adventures in the Metaverse

Fancy an adventure in the Metaverse? Or interested in what the next evolution of the internet is going to be?…

As computing becomes spatial, virtual and more mobile, and as the building blocks of the internet changes to a blockchain network, in the next decade – the internet as you know it, is going to fundamentally change. Come and learn more and join the future.

I’m going to focus on the public service internet side of things, rather than the layers on top of it. Other speakers will cover that better than myself. Imagine what kind of data can be collected in Virtual reality systems like the Oculus Riff by Facebook. Imagine the possibilities for awful abuse  There is also the big risk of pushing out smaller platforms who are more focused on civic and public purposes.

We are only scratching the surface here… I recommend getting a ticket and hearing more on the 11th Feb.