UAE: Repeating internet's past mistakes will leave metaverse 'out of our control', says expert

It is important to educate ourselves and make sure the metaverse is 'open and transparent, and not owned by few,' Dr. Mark van Rijmenam asserts


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Published: Mon 5 Dec 2022, 4:51 PM

Last updated: Mon 5 Dec 2022, 5:19 PM

The digital transformation to metaverse, the next generation of the Internet, is a golden opportunity for humanity to create an open and transparent digital space not controlled by a few, an expert told the Emirates News Agency (WAM).

"But there is a very much a chance that we make the same mistakes as we did with the current form of the internet [Web 2.0], and during the transition from the first generation of the world wide web [Web 1.0] to the Web 2.0," Dr. Mark van Rijmenam, a leading future tech strategist, said, referring to leaving the control of digital space to big giants, without a level playing field.

Analogue species to digital species

"Metaverse will host 100 times more data that we create today.  It is such a massive transition as we move from analogue species to digital species, from Homo sapiens to Homo digitalis," said the Dutch expert who was a speaker at the recently held Global Media Congress in Abu Dhabi.

"Therefore, it is very important we educate ourselves about creating an open metaverse, which is open and transparent and not owned and controlled by quite a few," he asserted. Rijmenam has written three best-selling books on big data, blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and metaverse – the next generation of the internet providing a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users. The metaverse will offer a simulated digital environment using augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and blockchain, along with concepts from social media, to create spaces for rich user interaction imitating the real world.

Big tech's unreliable data handling

He said he does not trust big tech that make huge investments in metaverse because some of them do not have a good history of dealing with customer data in a correct way that is trustworthy, reliable, private, and secure. Hence, he sincerely hopes such big tech do not succeed in metaverse.

Rijmenam is the author of the book titled 'Step into the Metaverse: How the Immersive Internet Will Unlock a Trillion-Dollar Social Economy,' that details what the open metaverse is and how organisations and consumers can benefit from the immersive internet.

He envisages an open metaverse "where we own our own data, own our own digital assets, and own our own identity. Because data is crucial, if we do not want to end up in a dystopian future where the metaverse is owned by one central entity or one person."


Lazy humanity likely to repeat mistakes

Now obviously, he pointed out, "We need technology for that, and the upcoming third generation of the World Wide Web [Web 3.0] technology enables the infrastructure layer of an open internet. However, no matter how much I want that to happen, there's a very big challenge," the tech expert warned.

"It may not happen because people are lazy, and we always want to go to easy way and easy routes. So, there is a very much a chance that we make the same mistakes as we did with Web 2.0 and during the transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0," he explained.

On Web 1.0 you controlled your own data, Rijmenam noted. It was very difficult to set up a server, to organise anything, to build a website, and to go online etc. "Then there were tech start-ups who tried to make those efforts easier, and they became the big tech that we know today."

New startups become bigger tech

The expert predicted that it is possible that the same thing may happen in the metaverse because it is very difficult to do anything in the metaverse now. "Building a 3D [three-dimensional] immersive experience with a virtual reality or augmented reality, whatsoever, is difficult. So, some companies say,'let's do this for you and make it easy,' and they become the next big tech, which will be bigger big tech that will have more influence."

Therefore, Rijmenam suggested that "for us as a society, it is very important we educate ourselves that we don't end up in that situation again, we don't make the same mistake, and that we don't sleepwalk into a future where it's very easy to go online and do anything, and we don't control our own data!"

He believes that this is the one opportunity during the transition from Web 2.0 to a 3D internet. "We can really grab our own control. Because if we don't do it now, then when we are in a world controlled by bigger tech. Then it will be too late then, and we won't be able to change it anymore," the expert warned further.

Education and awareness

He has founded a research institute for this education and awareness to make "people digitally literate and that they think about what this all means to them. Because it's such a massive transition," Rijmenam who addressed the Global Media Congress (GMC), which was organised by ADNEC Group in partnership with WAM, from 15th to 17th November.

The first edition of the GMC was held in Abu Dhabi under the patronage of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Presidential Court. Under the theme "Shaping the Future of the Media Industry", it saw the participation from more than 1,200 media sector pioneers, specialists, and influencers from six continents in the globe, with more than 30 debates and workshops featuring over 162 globally renowned speakers.

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