With the metaverse, will the social networks that we know about change in essence?
Laurence Devillers: The user will be able to live very strong emotional experiences, which will upset his codes. I take the recent example of this Korean mother who was able to see her deceased daughter again via virtual reality. Since our digital data lasts after us, it is possible to imagine the multiplication of experiences of this kind.
The interaction changes in nature. Until now, to post a message, the user has resorted to written and possibly oral expression. And already, biases are appearing: on Twitter, people interact seven times more with negative content. With virtual reality, the interaction becomes sensory, felt in the flesh. How to be calm, calm and rational in an environment which constantly plays on your emotions, is modeled in relation to your interactions, where all the images are manipulated?
In this universe, what would a case like that of Cambridge Analytica, the company that made it possible to target Facebook users based on their political opinions, look like during the 2016 US presidential campaign?
L. D : The network will know how you react intimately: it is no longer a question of personal data, but of behavioral data. It’s your body that reacts. The risks of emotional manipulation are well perceived today, especially video game addictions. What if the user is forced into an enclosed space? In the name of pleasure and emotional experience, all abuse will be allowed.
The revelations of whistleblower Frances Haugen show how badly the Facebook company has been in managing the collateral risks of its social networks. How can we be sure that it will not do worse with this new technology?
L. D : Many Silicon Valley alumni say the technologies they’ve created have overtaken them. They criticize the lack of research into their implications. What will it be with the metaverse? Today, it is too early to put it in place. We must first create a normative framework and give people the keys to adapt: for this, Facebook must be transparent. In this system where you will evolve as an avatar, you will have to be able to know who you are interacting with: are they real people or are they artefacts? Users must understand what is at stake in their interactions, know how the system changes and adapts to them.
Without safeguards, the network will only be run by people who are only looking for one thing: to capture attention in order to sell advertisements. We must change the essence of this technology or stop it. If we are to live together on this platform, it is essential to set rules upstream. This is why people need to wake up and participate in the reflection.