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Getting a closer look at the metaverse.



The metaverse is not a brand-new concept.

In 1992 Neal Stephenson wrote a science fiction novel, Snow Crash, in which the term metaverse appeared for the first time and was described as a virtual urban environment that runs around the circumference of a spherical planet [1].

Almost a decade later, in 2003, Linden Labs, a San Francisco-based company, created Second Life, a digital, virtual environment in which people could create avatars and immerse themselves in a digital life through the use of an Internet connection and a computer [2].


A logo of Second Life.


Following these early attempts to build digital, virtual, and immersive environments, investments from the gaming industry, including Roblox, Active Worlds, Epic Games and many other businesses, provided a fertile ground from which the metaverse and its correlated applications literally mushroomed.


During the same period, other tech businesses approached the metaverse with different interests.

With a rebranding effort, the well-known social media company Facebook pivoted its brand to Meta, as a way to “bring together Facebook apps and technologies under one new company brand and focus on bringing the Metaverse to life by helping people connect, find communities and grow businesses” [3].


Microsoft similarly invested in the immersive environments business by acquiring the gaming company Activision Blizzard and by studying how to implement early-stage developments of avatars and digital environments in their popular Microsoft Teams platform with Mesh [4, 5].


NVIDIA with the Omniverse promoted an easily extensible open platform built for virtual collaboration and real-time physically accurate simulation for creators to connect major design tools, assets, and projects to collaborate and iterate in a shared virtual space [6,7].



In this period in history, which we can name the immersive technology renaissance, the metaverse, or its counterparts, cannot be defined only as a single digital, immersive environment owned by one company.


What is certain is that there will be different digital worlds, exactly as there are currently different social media platforms, online meeting services, productivity software, online e-commerce environments, and many more.

Other than agreeing on the fact that there will be several digital immersive environments that will be owned, run, or administered by various companies, and that those environments will allow their users to be immersed in a range of known and unknown experiences, it is probably too early to define the metaverse with a commonly agreed definition.

While it is challenging to define the metaverse with a single definition, there is no doubt that the ethical and integrity implications of its use and spread across the community have to be researched, investigated, and further unfolded to define best practices, principles a,nd guidelines to better create safe and inclusive digital, virtual and immersive environments.


To answer these ethical questions and to identify new challenging queries, the Metavetics Institute is the only global, community-driven independent global network of passionate scientists, thought leaders and industry experts committed to ensuring that metaverses and digital, virtual, and immersive environments are designed and developed by delivering integrity, privacy, safety, diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion.


Do you want to become a Metavethicist?



References:

[1] Stephenson, N. (1992). Snow crash. Publisher Bantam Books [2] Linden Labs. (2003). Retrieved March 13, 2023 from: https://www.lindenlab.com/about

[3] Facebook. (2021). Introducing Meta: A Social Technology Company. Retrieved March 13, 2023 from: https://about.fb.com/news/2021/10/ facebook-company-is-now-meta/

[4] Microsoft. (2022). Microsoft to acquire Activision Blizzard to bring the joy and community of gaming to everyone, across every device. Retrieved March 13, 2023 from: https://news.microsoft.com/2022/01/18/microsoft-to-acquire-activision-blizzard-to-bring-the-joy-and-com- munity-of-gaming-to-everyone-across-every-device/

[5] Microsoft. (2021). Mesh for Microsoft Teams. Retrieved March 13, 2023 from: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/mesh?SilentAu- th=1&wa=wsignin1.0

[6] NVIDIA. (2021). Develop with NVIDIA Omniverse. Retrieved March 15, 2023 from: https://www.nvidia.com/en-gb/omniverse/

[7] Shapiro, E. (2021). Artificial Intelligence Will Change World, Says Nvidia CEO. Time. Retrieved March 13, 2022 from: https://time. com/5955412/artificial-intelligence-nvidia-jensen-huang/



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