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The Metaverse

A lot like real life. And that ain't good.

Before I dive into this week’s rant, I gotta say something.

Those VR headsets look stupid as fuck. Even more so when someone’s wearing them. Like something out of a 50s sci fi C movie. D, even. Now that I think about it, when I see pix of people wearing those things, it reminds me of a comedy skit from that 90s show In Living Color — The Buttheads. Yep, it’s just what you’re thinking. Like the Conehead family’s pointy skulls, the Buttheads family’s were butts. Ridiculous and hilarious.

I pray that sometime soon, somebody’ll figure out how to make a headset like Geordi’s. For all our sakes, now and in the future.

So, it’s being called the metaverse, but it’s nowhere near that ideal. The way I understand it, the metaverse — Web 3.0 — is supposed to work much like Web 2.0 does now, with its most important attribute being decentralization. That ain’t what we got. The platforms are proprietary, like The Sandbox, Meta’s Horizon, Microsoft’s Mesh, and others. They’re not interoperational, like in the old, old, days when PCs and Macs were not on speaking terms. If you’re on one platform, you can’t take your avatar and skins to another. Wherever you go, you’re back on square one.

One reality is more than enough for me, thank you.

Dude, I’ve got enough identity problems as it is. Throw in a bunch of alternate realities, and I’ll be in the psych ward for life.

I’ve been reading accounts of people’s experiences in the metaverse, whether in gaming environments, or anywhere else. The sexual harassment of women and men — and children. One woman who was interviewed said in the game she was playing, all avatars appeared identical, distinguishable only by voice. Her avatar was groped by a male player. Each time she moved away, he followed, and groped her again. A different woman reported the same kind of incident while on Horizon.

I was disgusted. Look, I know people behave horribly behind the internet’s protective screening, sometimes to the point where their victims have been driven to suicide. But think about it. Their despicable behavior is evidenced by words and pictures. In 2D. That’s bad enough. Now picture it happening in an immersive environment. In 3D. And in the true metaverse, these assholes can follow you from platform to platform.

As for the woman who was groped on the Horizon platform, she contacted Horizon to report it. The interviewer got in touch with Horizon to get their response. The person spouted a lot of happy talk about the importance of feeling safe while on the platform, but the gist of her happy talk was to “just block him.”

Alternate reality is shaping up to be reality.

I want to know why this fucker wasn’t kicked off the platform. Blocking him? Sure. The point, though, is if he groped the one woman’s avatar, surely he’s enough of an asshole to grope another’s. Blocking by one person will do nothing to deter his behavior. These platforms need to let people know from the get-go that certain behaviors will get them banned. And unlike Facebook’s “community standards” bullshit, the types of behaviors are spelled out. Then program the algorithms accordingly.

Hey, Twitter threw me in jail for tweeting a guy needed to be bitch slapped. Facebook threw me in the clink for writing the phrase “Black people are thugs” because the algorithm made no allowance for context. Spelling out and enforcing behavioral rules can’t be that hard. Right, Horizon? If your sibling Facebook can do it, why can’t you?

That goes for the rest of you platforms, too. A woman I know told me her son had been sexually harassed on Roblox. He’s 13.

Control your virtual world.

Let me just say I get it. Real life isn’t safe, and we have to be proactive about protecting ourselves. Society in many countries are decentralized, if you will, but even if enforcement efforts were diligent and conscientious, the people doing the enforcing can’t be everywhere at once. You’d need a Skynet for that, and…yeah. If the visionaries have their way, the alternate reality of the metaverse will be little different from reality. It won’t be under the control of any one person or persons. Decentralized. Don’t have a problem with that.

But we’re talking about proprietary platforms, controlled by a private entity. Entities that have no qualms about taking our personal information and selling it to others for as much as they will pay. Entities that have no problem with sanctioning users if their algorithms decide they’ve broken the rules. And remember, we’re talking about immersive environments. It’s bad enough to see some jackass’s words on a screen describing what they’d like to do to you. But now you can SEE what that jackass is doing to you, and in real time. So, don’t talk to me about providing a safe space when you’re not doing jack to make and keep it that way.

Don’t know why, but I guess I was hoping alternate reality would be different from the one we deal with every day.

A foolish hope.

Alternate life just ain’t that way.





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