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To be or not to be: Ethics, democracy and morality in the nascent metaverse

Activity in the metaverse suggests it could be the next frontier of human connection. Game developers and nations are creating metaverse development grants. Nissan is testing metaverse sales, and even court cases are being relocated to VR.

In November 2022, licensed trademark attorney Mike Kondoudis reported a record number of trademarks filed for NFTs, cryptocurrencies, and the metaverse.

Yet, if governments and court cases enter the metaverse and digital reality activity increases, serious ethical concerns will arise.

A digital conglomerate of numerous physical cultures has what morals? How do local and metaverse laws interact, given that the metaverse is available to everyone?

Emerging technology have spawned these new ideas, yet they stem from some of humanity’s most pressing ethical issues.

New technology raises moral and ethical concerns. AI and invasive wearable devices have proven this.

ChatGPT-4, an advanced AI chatbot, passed the bar exam and SATs, raising ethical concerns. Cambridge University issued its first AI ethics policy to establish morals around this technology.

Users and developers will continue to grapple with metaverse ethics as it grows.

Animoca Brands CEO and co-founder Yat Siu said the “foundation in the physical world” is still useful in early digital reality development.

“It’s ongoing,” he told Cointelegraph. “Some governments are considering local law frameworks for digital assets.”

Siu’s jurisdiction comment relates to the reality that the metaverse is technically accessible to users everywhere, but it’s being created purposely and in certain ways in some countries.

Saudi Arabia partnered with The Sandbox for metaverse development, and Colombia held a metaverse trial.

So, local ethics and morals will apply in geographically particular cases.

The Colombian court decision raised questions about virtual world law and ethics.

The Colombian court case was a civil proceeding regarding a traffic offense that took place outside of the metaverse. Punishing metaverse-based unethical behavior is more complicated. “At the moment, the immediate sanctions against criminals in the open metaverse are generally implemented by the community itself and are technologically based, such as blacklisting the offenders’ wallets and penalizing them,” Siu said.

Siu suggests reversing transactions by achieving consensus on the blockchains where metaverse crimes occurred.

This method is “more controversial” and requires “a degree of law enforcement in the actual world.”

John Kobs, CEO and founder of digital artist residency Wildxyz, agreed with Siu, telling Cointelegraph that developers should construct the metaverse’s ethics and morality with integrity and trust for users.

“We are accountable for ensuring these new online venues are filled with respect and diversity and held to a high ethical standard.”

Physical civilizations have struggled with morality for generations. Greece invented democracy in 5 B.C.

Yet, civilizations and nations that have attempted democracy have shaped this moral system. Many nations’ democracies differ from the ancients’.

Hence, when humans develop a new digital world, it will likely shape morals and ethics.

Kobs noted that at Wildxyz, “We believe the culture and institutions we develop will play a big role in defining a safe space for everyone who wish to participate.”

Siu stated that the open metaverse values “justice” even though it is “more subjective” in digital, decentralized democracy.

The metaverse allows us to construct new digital lives that are less affected by unfair conditions like disease, handicap, and poverty.

“Physical world cultures originated in a pretty decentralized fashion and subsequently morphed into royal systems, which are not at all democratic or decentralized,” added Siu.

He added that practically all decentralized and centralized civilizations have been “replaced by democratic ones” notwithstanding this oscillation.

The open metaverse has more democratic potential than the physical world because participation is formalized by the framework, making it harder to be illegitimately disenfranchised, cheated, ostracized, etc.

Metaverse use is predicted to alter many aspects of physical reality. 69% of users think metaverse activities will change society.

Nonetheless, the metaverse and its usability, including ethical procedures, are very young. There is no single “metaverse” or set of digital ethics and morals.

Developers and academicians are concerned about how humans would behave morally and ethically in a digital universe.

Academic articles on the topic are appearing. “Good, Evil and Avatars: Ethics in the Metaverse” was a discussion at the mainstream South by Southwest festival.

Digital sustainability is gaining attention. “A new culture is emerging,” Siu concluded.


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