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The Metaverse: How Will It Impact the Young? – Impakter

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The World Economic Forum (WEF), the annual meeting of global political, economic, industrial, academics and non-profit organisation leaders, met last week in Davos Switzerland. This year’s WEF meeting set out to address eight key issues currently affecting global security and stability. One topic on this year’s agenda was “The Metaverse.”
The WEF aimed to define and build an “open and inclusive” metaverse.
“We aim to foster collaboration among multiple stakeholders to build the metaverse in an integrated and open way, and to help it fulfil its promise by transforming consumer experiences and business models across industries.” 
In sum, it was proposed that the metaverse could be a force for good in an uncertain world.
The concept of the metaverse has been around for a while, but came further into the spotlight when Mark Zuckerberg renamed his company “Meta”  in 2021.
At the WEF Metaverse meeting last week, CEO of Magicleap Peggy Johnson defined the metaverse as “a blending of your physical and your digital worlds.”
“Often the dialogue around the metaverse is centred around virtual reality, where you might out on a headset and enter another world,” Johnson said. “But there’s also augmented reality where you still see your physical world but you augment it with digital content in front of your eyes.”
What the Metaverse will look like and consist of when finalised is debated, but it is mostly agreed that the Metaverse will be a catch-all term for many replications of the physical world in a digital context. Interactions will seem real through simulation with 3D holograms or avatars, allowing conversations in a completely immersive and realistic environment through “digital twins” that simulate real-world scenarios. 
In essence, the metaverse will encompass augmented reality, the digital economy and Web3, and is expected to significantly change the way we interact with technology.
In the coming years, the Metaverse could transform education, job training, recruitment, e-commerce, healthcare, and travel. It could thus have a positive societal influence by enabling people to interact with each other and experience new places they otherwise wouldn’t be able to. In other words, the Metaverse offers us the opportunity to expand on the world we live in to make it “better.”
Interest in the metaverse has grown hugely in the last six months with involvement from big brands, such as Nike’s with its Nikeland and Gucci with its Gucci Garden. However, the full potential of the metaverse is yet to surface, and the next few years will see many more uses of the metaverse. 
Over time, there could be an interconnected world of metaverses, as it is likely that tech firms such as Google and Apple may create metaverse platforms of their own.
The Metaverse is flawed by its exclusivity to only those in society with access to technology, as is often the case with new, emerging technogies. Dependency on the metaverse could then divide society rather than unite it.
Metaverse environments also raise concerns over data collection and will considerably complicate data privacy, creating new challenges for validation and identity authentication.
Then there are the risks of harassment and damage that could (and already do) occur in the Metaverse.
In 2021, co-founder and vice-president of metaverse research at Kabuni Nina Jane Patel shared her experience of being “verbally and sexually harassed” within 60 seconds of logging onto “Horizon Worlds.” She reported that several male avatars “virtually gang raped” her, took photos of her and shouted crude remarks.
In Channel 4’s documentary “Inside the Metaverse: Are you Safe?”, aired this April, Yinka Bokinni undertook a similar investigation. Bokinni entered the metaverse listed as a 13-year-old girl, but was soon subject to disturbing graphic scenes and harassment.  
 Within the first 10 minutes of putting on a VR headset and entering a chat room, I saw underage kids simulating oral sex on each other.”
There was also much racism:
“I came across one user who was spewing the most disgusting language I’ve ever heard in my life. I’m talking extreme racism – hate speech, listing the kinds of people he hated, the kinds of people he wanted to kill. It was just so violent.”
Although Bokinni tried to “find good things to latch on to,” she says that the “bad stuff kept coming.” This climaxed in one moment when seven users surrounded her and tried to force her to remove her safety shield so they could do things to her body. 
“I tried to run away, but they backed me up against a wall, trying to grab at me, making sexual comments. It was the virtual equivalent of sexual assault,” Bokinni commented. 
From this experience, Bokinni concluded that the main issues seemed to be monitoring and reporting bad behaviour and indecencies, and how “real” everything felt. The VRchat app she was using, where users can create “rooms” within which they interact as avatars, is supposed to be suitable for seven-year-olds. With her profile set at age 13, Bokinni found she could access many deeply disturbing things. After three trips into the metaverse, Bokinni realized that she herself was becoming “desensitised” to “extremely violent language that was homophobic, racist, sexist.”
Although Bokinni recognised that some apps may have better content moderation than the VRchat she was on, it is clear that comprehensive legal change is needed, and, as a first step, the onus must be on the creators of this technology to take responsibility for making these technologies safe, instead of users moderating content; but unquestionably, the overall “toxicity” of the environment makes this challenging.
Avatar-based platforms are often aimed at children, but in the light of the aforementioned examples of Patel and Bokinni’s experiences of posing as children on these sites and being exposed to sexually explicit interactions, concerns in terms of child safety on these platforms must be raised.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)  warned of the dangers of the metaverse for children, calling out technology companies for not adequately safeguarding children’s safety, which, as Andy Phippen, Professor of IT ethics and Digital rights at Bournemouth University argues, cannot be tackled by tech companies alone.
Demands for companies to prevent such incidents, such as putting more age verification measures in place, have been around for a long time. However, reliable online age verification is difficult to impose without infringing upon data privacy concerns. It is also difficult to police communication through algorithms with great accuracy, and constant human moderation on all interactive online spaces is needed, which would require a huge investment effort.
VRChat does provide tools to block abusive users and report them, which could mean a user has their account removed, but this does not prevent disturbing experiences from taking place in the first place.
Phippen argues that other stakeholders can also play an important role. If parents are going to buy their children VR headsets, they need to consider safety features and monitor usage, or perhaps check the apps before their children start using them.
A 2018 study by virtual reality research agency The Extended Mind found that 36% of males and 49% of females who use VR technologies regularly reported having experienced sexual harassment.
And now, proposals such as those discussed at the WEF meeting calling for establishing the metaverse as an educational venue for children through virtual learning, and thus reshaping the future of education, could cause serious damage if proper attention isn’t paid to the risks of allowing children to have free/unsupervised access to the metaverse. This, as Meta’s Global Affairs President Nick Clegg pointed out, would “require a distinct moderation approach.”
The #Metaverse will be the next playground for the Great Reset & the Fourth Industrial Revolution #4IR. The WEF believe the #Metaverse will signify the next step in our digital evolution, and it's already targeting the next generation.pic.twitter.com/D0dwseSbVo
— Sikh For Truth (@SikhForTruth) April 7, 2022

But as Facebook’s chief technology officer Andrew Bosworth admitted in a leaked internal memo last November, moderating behaviour on the metaverse “at any meaningful scale is practically impossible” – and seems even less feasible if we consider Meta’s current approach to internet policing.
The Metaverse, Clegg explains, is “just a sort of philosophically, technologically and legally different phenomenon because you’re dealing with something which doesn’t stick around and it’s not persistent, and so you simply cannot moderate it in the same way.”
Indeed, Metaverse interactions are different. They are immediate live speech rather than posted text, so social media rules on content are difficult to apply. Because of this, Meta may end up being more “hands-off” with regard to some of its services and what content is allowed. 
All this gives children safety advocates more reason to fear for children using the metaverse on a mass scale. Meta’s plans to provide “industry-leading parental controls in this space” based on “age-appropriate experiences” in the metaverse just may not be enough.
The regular internet is plagued by harassment and hate speech. Since this is unlikely to disappear in the metaverse, and is even likely to have a more forceful visual impact, it becomes vitally important that we establish governance processes to ensure that the metaverse does not worsen society or harm children. 
Like Internet Protocol standards, the metaverse will need similar globally accepted safety standards. The future of the metaverse comes with great uncertainty, but the discussion of the metaverse at the WEF signals that we are at a crucial point in time where it could still be guided in the right direction. To do that, much ethical, legal, and philosophical debate to arrive at workable solutions is needed.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com.In the Featured Photo: Metaverse Graphic. Featured Photo Credit: Pixabay.
Alba MacGillivray is from London and is completing an MA Politics degree at the University of Edinburgh, where she also writes for the student magazine. Currently, she is based at Sciences PO Paris on an exchange. Her writing interests include international relations, culture, geography, and climate change.
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Lamina1 Presents Inaugural “Open Metaverse Conference” Connecting the Worlds of Blockchain and the Metaverse for a Next-Gen Internet – Business Wire

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Featuring a keynote from co-founder and futurist Neal Stephenson, the first-of-its-kind event aims to empower creators and coders to build the Open Metaverse together
LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Lamina1, a Layer 1 blockchain optimized for the Open Metaverse, today announced its role as founding sponsor of the Open Metaverse Conference, a first-of-its-kind industry event bringing together the worlds of the Metaverse and Web3 to build a more open and immersive Internet. The two-day conference will take place from February 8-9, 2023 in Los Angeles, California, and will gather experts and builders spanning Metaverse experiences, Web3, and entertainment.

Co-founded by Neal Stephenson, renowned futurist and science fiction author who originally coined the term “Metaverse,” and cryptocurrency pioneer Peter Vessenes, founder of the first VC-backed Bitcoin company, Lamina1 will provide the infrastructure to empower rapid expansion of the Open Metaverse. As the founding sponsor of the Open Metaverse Conference, Lamina1 will provide a forum for critical conversations around identity, privacy and interoperability, while exploring how audience engagement, creative storytelling, and the technicalities of blockchain can work hand-in-hand to make the vision of the Open Metaverse a reality.
The Open Metaverse Conference will feature keynotes from renowned technologists and storytellers who are pioneering visions for the next era of the Internet. Attendees will hear from Lamina1 co-founders Neal Stephenson and Peter Vessenes, as well as Philip Rosedale, founder of virtual world Second Life (Linden Lab) and co-founder of virtual platform High Fidelity, John Gaeta, Oscar-winning VFX pioneer (The Matrix) and CCO of character persona company Inworld AI, Cathy Hackl, Metaverse and Web3 strategist and founder of design consultancy Journey, and other industry crossover leaders to be announced. Keynote sessions will be complemented by diverse speakers and side events spanning games, art, entertainment, and commerce. To connect these key areas of culture with the technology that enables them, the Open Metaverse Conference will also facilitate technological deep dives for attendees from leaders in Web3, immersive computing, and technology standards groups. Presenting partners include the Metaverse Standards Forum, the Open Metaverse Interoperability Group, and the Open Metaverse Alliance for Web3 (OMA3), all organizations fostering interoperability.
“We are at a moment in time when developers, creatives, and producers can finally design the seamless and persistent experiences we’ve dreamed about,” said Jamil Moledina, Vice President of Games Partnerships and Media at Lamina1. “The Open Metaverse Conference will serve as the big tent for everyone who’s thinking about creating never-before-possible experiences that allow creators and consumers to enter unique virtual worlds on a level playing field.”
“OMA3 is pleased to collaborate with Lamina1 and the Open Metaverse Conference in promoting interoperability,” said Robby Yung, CEO of Animoca Brands. “OMA3 looks forward to developing talk tracks to encourage the creation of a more open and immersive internet.”
The conference will encourage interdisciplinary dialogue through debates, pitch sessions, roundtable discussions, and networking opportunities to help drive new ideas and connections.
“We felt a real sense of urgency to facilitate discussion with our colleagues and creators across the spectrum,” said Rebecca Barkin, President of Lamina1. “We know that the Open Metaverse will be built collaboratively and with a set of shared values, and we’re happy to provide this forum to address the needs of the community and to solve big problems together.”
For more information on the Open Metaverse Conference, visit www.openmetaverseconf.com.
About Open Metaverse Conference 
The Open Metaverse Conference (OMC) is an industry-first event presented by Lamina1 focused on bringing together the Metaverse and blockchain technology. The conference gathers key stakeholders spanning developers, creatives, producers, product owners, and executives to ask and address big questions around the development of a truly Open Metaverse that leverages open-source, collaborative principles and blockchain decentralization.
About Lamina1 
Lamina1 is a Layer1 blockchain optimized for the Open Metaverse. The brainchild of legendary futurist Neal Stephenson (who first conceptualized the term “Metaverse” in his 1992 best-selling novel Snow Crash) and Peter Vessenes, a foundational leader in the crypto space from the early days of Bitcoin – Lamina1 is on a mission to deliver the blockchain technology, interoperating tools, and decentralized services that will establish it as the preferred destination for creators building a more immersive Internet. It is the first provably carbon-negative blockchain in the world.
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kc.maas@wachsman.com
K.C. Maas
Wachsman
kc.maas@wachsman.com

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Facebook Founder, Zuckerberg Drops Out Of 10 Richest Men After Losing Half Of Fortunes – SaharaReporters.com

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According to Forbes, the Facebook founder has lost more than half his fortune—a staggering $76.8 billion—since September 2021, dropping him from No. 3 on The Forbes 400 list of the U.S.’ wealthiest people to No. 11. Worth $57.7 billion on this year’s list.
 
Meta chief executive officer, Mark Zuckerberg has lost his spot in the list as one of the 10 richest people in America.
According to Forbes, the Facebook founder has lost more than half his fortune—a staggering $76.8 billion—since September 2021, dropping him from No. 3 on The Forbes 400 list of the U.S.’ wealthiest people to No. 11. Worth $57.7 billion on this year’s list.
Zuck trails Walmart heir Jim Walton, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and other tech moguls such as ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. No one in America has lost as much money over the past year as Zuckerberg.
He has the cratering stock price of Meta (formerly Facebook) to thank for his exit from the top 10. Shares have plunged 57% since last year’s Forbes 400, which used stock prices from September 3, 2021. Tech stocks are generally in a slump with the market downturn, but Meta’s fall outpaces both the Nasdaq (-9.8%) and the S&P 500 (-13.5%), as well as Microsoft’s 14% decline, Google-parent Alphabet‘s 25% drop and Amazon’s 27% dive.
Investors are spooked by a privacy policy update from Apple last year that made it harder for tech companies to track users across apps, impacting Meta’s ad sales. Meta reported its first-ever quarterly revenue decline in July–a 1% drop, to $28.8 billion.
“Facebook makes most of its money from advertising, and now it just doesn’t have that data anymore,” says Mark Zgutowicz, an analyst at research and investment banking firm Benchmark.
“All those data signals went away, which basically means that advertisers are having trouble telling whether a campaign was successful or not.”
Compounding the problem for Meta, TikTok is luring away advertisers, along with lucrative Gen Z and millennial users. In February, Meta announced its first-ever quarterly loss of daily active users. A recent internal report showed that Meta’s TikTok clone, Instagram Reels, is struggling to compete, according to Wall Street Journal report.
Under normal circumstances, a slight dip in revenue might be manageable, but Meta is also investing heavily in virtual reality and the metaverse, which is dragging down operating profit. In 2021, the company’s metaverse division, Meta Reality Labs, lost $10 billion. While the metaverse is all Zuckerberg wants to talk about, investors are less enthusiastic so far. “It’s a long tail investment and, for now, it’s kind of a cash suck,” Zgutowicz says.
Zuckerberg first became a billionaire in 2008, just four years after founding Facebook. At 23, he was the youngest self-made billionaire at the time, debuting at No. 321 on The Forbes 400, worth $1.5 billion. By 2011, Zuckerberg’s net worth had increased nearly 12 fold to $17.5 billion.
This year isn’t the first time Zuckerberg’s net worth has taken a dive. After Facebook’s famously disappointing IPO in 2012, Zuckerberg fell from No. 14 to No. 36 on The Forbes 400. But it didn’t last long. The following year, Zuckerberg bounced back and, up until now, his fortune has continued to climb. Despite the litany of controversies and scandals plaguing the company, Facebook’s ad machine had reliably churned out enough money to impress investors, sending Zuckerberg’s net worth soaring to $134.5 billion last year, his highest net worth ever.
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Disney CEO Bob Chapek plotting a metaverse for Disney+ that will recreate their parks online – Daily Mail

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By Alex Oliveira For Dailymail.Com
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Disney is plotting a metaverse that would let people experience the most magical place on earth without ever setting foot in the theme park.
CEO Bob Chapek said the media giant’s metaverse would exist on its streaming platform, Disney+, and allow ‘the 90 percent of people that will never ever be able to get to a Disney park,’ to experience it in virtual reality.
‘We call it next-gen storytelling’ Chapek said in an interview with Deadline, noting that he didn’t like use the phrase metaverse ‘because it has a lot of hair on it.’
But regardless of whatever Chapek prefers to call the planned platform, many have responded by calling the move out of touch with Disney’s fanbase, and argued that if the parks stopped hiking prices more people would be able to visit.  
The move comes as Chapek – who took the helm at Disney in 2020 – struggles to make a name for himself in the shadow of his innovative predecessor, Bob Iger, and keep afloat amid controversies ranging from the park’s rising prices, to Disney’s stance on Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill. 
Just last week, Chapek broke a months-long silence on an apology he issued in an attempt to quell Disney staff who were outraged by his failure to speak out against the controversial bill last spring, saying he chose to remain mum on the matter because he didn’t want to get Disney caught in a ‘political subterfuge.’ 
Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the media giant’s metaverse would exist on its streaming platform, Disney+, and allow people to experience park rides in virtual reality
Disney’s metaverse move comes as Chapek – who took the helm at Disney in 2020 – struggles to make a name for himself in the shadow of his innovative predecessor, Bob Iger
Chapek characterized the Disney metaverse as a way to experience the theme parks for the multitudes of people who are unable to actually make the trip in person.
‘We wish every person would have the opportunity to come to our parks, but we realize that’s not a reality for some people,’ he told Deadline, ‘we have before us an opportunity to turn what was a movie-service platform to an experiential platform and give them the ability to ride Haunted Mansion from a virtual standpoint.’
He said metaverse users would have an experience beyond what regular parkgoers have, and be able to step out of the ride-cars to explore sets and interact with characters. 
‘Maybe we’ll give them the opportunity what every single person in the park wants to do, and unfortunately too many of them do it, just to get off the attraction. See how it works, see how those ghost dancers move,’ he said. 

But many responded to the news by saying if Disney would just stop raising its prices, more of those 90 percent of people who cannot visit the parks would be able to.
‘Damn Disney. Just say it direct like that,’ wrote tech critic Juan Carlos Bagnell on Twitter, ‘90% of the HUMAN POPULATION is too poor to visit our parks, but hopefully some are less-poor-enough to own VR goggles and ride our rides in a metaverse clone…’
Commenters on the Deadline interview were equally unimpressed, with one saying ‘The reason 90% of people may not be able to experience the parks is because you keep hiking the cost of GOING to the parks beyond what most people can actually afford, Bob.’
‘Costs are up at the parks. Moral appears to be down. Iger had imagination and could adapt,’ said another.

Disney park prices have skyrocketed since Chapek was fully given charge at Disney in 2022. At California parks, ticket prices jumped 6 percent to $164 for single-park passes, while the price of getting into more than one park over the course of a day rose 9 percent to $319.
At the Florida parks the price to get into the park after 2pm rose to $169, while before 2pm fans were asked to fork over $194. Those prices could also rise based on an increased demand on any day.
‘If you’re the kind of person that budgets or saves for vacations, Disney Parks aren’t for you any longer,’ wrote a fed-up customer on Reddit, ‘That’s a Premium Physical Experience, and there’s plenty of national and international wealthy families to afford going indefinitely.’
And in August, as inflation scorched the US economy, Chapek warned those prices could continue to rise.
‘It’s all up to the consumer,’ he said, according to The New York Post, ‘If consumer demand keeps up, we’ll act accordingly.’
Disney’s metaverse would allow people to experience park rides like the Haunted Mansion without ever setting foot in Disney World
Chapek noted the virtual reality experience could go beyond simply sitting in the car and experiencing the ride the way park-goers do, but would allow people to step off of the tracks and explore the ride sets up close
Chapek has hardly been the happiest CEO on Earth since he took the reins at Disney.
After beginning his tenure in February, 2020, he was thrust immediately into the chaos of navigating Disney through the perils of the pandemic, which saw the media company’s primary revenue streams – theme park revenue and movie theater tickets – vanish like a pair of glass slippers at midnight.
To help steady the ship, Iger – much to Chapek’s ire, reportedly – was kept on in a leadership position through 2021.
But as soon as Chapek was given full control in 2022 his price hikes had customers raising eyebrows about whether he was up to the same scratch as the visionary Iger.
Those doubts were doubled-down on by Disney staff after Chapek decided to remain quiet on Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill, a law which barred schools from discussing sexuality or gender with children between kindergarten and third grade.
Many Disney employees viewed the law as homophobic and an affront to the inclusive values of Disney, and publicly voiced their outrage that Chapek did not speak out against it.
Chapek said the metaverse would also work in conjunction with real-world visits to Disney theme parks
Disney is plotting a metaverse that would let people experience the most magical place on earth without ever setting foot in the theme park
He later apologized to staff, publicly decried the bill, and announced Disney had paused all its political donations within Florida.
Last week, Chapek addressed that apology for the first time since he issued it, saying he had struggled to balance the needs and beliefs of every one of his employees and customers.
‘What we try to do is be everything to everybody,’ Chapek told The Hollywood Reporter in a recent interview, ‘That tends to be very difficult because we’re The Walt Disney Company.’
‘We certainly don’t want to get caught up in any political subterfuge, but at the same time we also realize that we want to represent a brighter tomorrow for families of all types, regardless of how they define themselves,’ he said.

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