Will Scandal-Ridden Facebook CEO Escape to His Own Metaverse?

Facebook’s new company name and logo (Meta is short for Metaverse):

By Tab O.

What is it with these tech billionaires who want to rule the world? I actually think Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a mental condition called a “God Complex.”

Last month he announced that Facebook is changing its name. While the social media platform retains the Facebook brand, the company itself will now be called Meta. The name change heralds the reorganization of Zuckerberg’s empire around one concept: the Metaverse.

So Zuckerberg is rebranding his company? Big deal. I’m pretty sure he’s not going to change his ways.

The metaverse concept isn’t anything new, either. Zuckerberg never was a true visionary (like, say, Elon Musk). Zuckerberg just builds upon the work of others. (Or in the case of Facebook, he stole the idea from his Harvard roommates.)

Metaverse Timeline

A metaverse (a portmanteau of “meta-” and “universe”) is basically a highly immersive virtual reality creation in which users around the world can interact with each other to socialize, play games, and work within an extensive computer-generated environment.

1992: The Metaverse was first coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 dystopian novel Snow Crash. The author imagined the virtual realm as an escape from a dismal society run by mega-corporations.

1994: Ethan Zuckerman pioneered an online metaverse in November 1994, when the graphical web was still in its infancy. Following Zuckerberg’s announcement, he wrote an article stating: “Hey Facebook, I Made a Metaverse 27 Years Ago. It was terrible then, and it’s terrible now” (The Atlantic, October 29, 2021).

2003: Second Life, an application that allows people to create an avatar for themselves and basically have a second life in an online virtual world, has been around since 2003.

2011: In Ready Player One, a 2011 science fiction novel by Ernest Cline that was later made into a movie, the primary escape for people in the year 2045 is an expansive metaverse called the OASIS. Accessed with a VR headset and wired gloves, it functions both as an MMORPG and as a virtual society.

2021: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced, in a long interview with the Verge, that his social network is readying itself to become “a metaverse company.”

Zuck’s World

In his metaverse, Zuckerberg has ambitious plans to merge virtual life with real life. During his October presentation, Zuckerberg raved about going to virtual concerts with your friends, fencing with holograms of Olympic athletes, and joining mixed-reality business meetings where some participants are physically present while others beam in from the metaverse as cartoony avatars.

In his metaverse, Zuckerberg promised that “you’re going to able to do almost anything you can imagine.”

Hmm, I don’t know if that’s such a great idea! Sounds like an open invitation for cybercriminals and human traffickers to commit crimes with impunity. Not to mention all the online trolls and bullies taking their hate and harassment to the next level.

“There is a potential for that harm to be really ramped up,” said Amie Stepanovich, executive director of Silicon Flatirons at the University of Colorado. Moreover, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen warns that Meta will create a whole new set of dangers.

Philip Rosedale, founder of the virtual escape Second Life, which still attracts hundreds of thousands of online inhabitants, said Meta might not be the best institution to lead us into the metaverse. He’s right. Zuckerberg should get his own house in order first.

Even The Wall Street Journal says “God’s Universe Beats Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse.”

Furthermore, what’s to keep the same Big Tech companies that have control over the current internet from serving as the holier-than-thou gatekeepers to the metaverse while continuing to harvest our data, barrage us with advertisements, and get rich off our misfortunes? (See: Facebook and Google Profit from Video of My Daughter Being Murdered.) People are becoming wise to it all and getting pretty fed up.

Ironically, Zuckerberg’s Meta announcement came just as privacy advocates and critics of facial recognition systems had breathed a collective sigh of relief, when Facebook said that it would shut down its Face Recognition tool and delete the collected facial templates of more than a billion people. Of course, then the social network’s parent company, Meta, stated that the commitment does not apply to its metaverse products.

Surprise, surprise.

Weird timing, too, with the company mired in real world problems after the Facebook whistleblower leaked hundreds of internal documents that provide deep insight into the company’s internal culture, its stance on censorship and moderation, its newsfeed algorithm, and research that shows Instagram is harmful to the mental health of teens.

Perhaps Zuckerberg wants to create a make-believe world in which he can hide from all the damage Facebook has done???

The Open Metaverse

Zuckerberg claims that the metaverse he plans to build will be a boon for creators, content producers, and developers.

But some open source metaverse enthusiasts, who already have been working on the concept for years, want to make sure Meta doesn’t ruin their vision with misinformation, manipulation, and surveillance.

“The open metaverse is created and owned by all of us,” said Ryan Gill, founder and CEO of metaverse-focused startup Crucible. “The metaverse that Mark Zuckerberg and his company want is created by everybody but owned by them.”

On the bright side, maybe Zuckerberg will get lost in his alternate reality and let the rest of us live our real lives in peace.

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