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9 ethical and legal questions concerning the metaverse

While I have little faith in Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of the metaversethere is no doubt that it has excellent marketing and business potential. The announced transition to Web 3.0, coupled with advances in artificial intelligence and ever-increasing computing power, promises unattainable experiences in the real world. The emergence of these virtual universes is accompanied by a whole series of ethical and legal questions.

This article identifies 9 ethical or legal questions that concern life in the metaverse and death and sex.

Are morally wrong experiments acceptable in the metaverse?

The first question I asked myself when I became interested in the metaverse was the type of experience that would be proposed. As I mentioned here, I think that the pornography industry will undergo a revolution. This revolution of sexual relations is already underway in some countries, like Japan (see report below). This virtual world opens up possibilities not available in the real world.

The metaverse opens the possibility to realize specific fantasies. Some could be morally reprehensible among these fantasies and raise new ethical and legal questions. Will there be a metaverse police force prosecuting delinquents in the virtual world? How should we react to deviant virtual behavior?

Will we be able to touch other avatars?

The metaverse dreamed by Mark Zuckerberg will be lived with a virtual reality helmet and a “haptic” suit. It will be a garment that will allow the reproduction of touch sensations on the body.

Even if this perspective is still far away, it will not fail to question what will happen if someone “touches” us in the metaverse. Could certain behaviors be considered inappropriate and qualified as digital aggression?

Will we be able to enter a virtual field without an authorization?

The metaverse is currently getting a lot of press by purchasing land in virtual worlds like The Sandbox. Snoop Dogg, who bought a virtual mansion, several companies have bought locations on “commercial arteries” of virtual worlds at a premium.

If the ownership of these digital assets as evidenced by the blockchain, what rules will apply to enter them? Will access rules be imposed that would open the door to digital infringements?

Will we be able to kill avatars in the metaverse?

Following on from the previous question, can we kill in the metaverse? The metaverse, as presented by Mark Zuckerberg, is not a game. It is a virtual universe where actual people will interact via their avatars.

Just like in real life, extreme situations could arise. People could argue, a situation that is becoming more and more common with the polarization of opinions. It remains to be seen whether the virtual will be so faithful to the reality that it will be possible to attack the digital integrity of the avatar by natural means.

The video above shows that other people are asking the same questions (and answering them in a parodic way for the moment).

Can we die in the metaverse?

No vital organs in the metaverse. So how will we die in the metaverse?
Death on social networks is already a well-known topic. Meta/Facebook has created a special status for the “walls” of dead people.

However, because of its dynamics, the metaverse presents specificities that question the solutions put in place by social networks. What to do with the avatar once the person it belonged has died? Will we create spaces where we “park” the avatars of deceased people? Or will the avatars continue to coexist after their death in the metaverse? In the latter case, the questions would be the same type as for deadbots.

Can avatars be hacked?

The metaverse will be a digital universe. So, there is no reason why it should escape the problems of hacking. This raises some interesting questions. Could an avatar be “taken hostage”? Could a ransom be demanded to return an avatar? The question is relevant as the avatars will be adorned in the NFT metaverse (shoes, bags, …), whose prices are already stratospheric.

One thing is sure… If avatars’ hacking is possible, it could be a way to make it die in the metaverse.

How to deal with the issue of inheritance in the metaverse?

The legacy of digital assets is not an issue specific to the metaverse. It is more global and will become increasingly important with NFTs. How will they be transmitted? Will they be included in the calculation of inheritance tax? Will taxes have to be paid in case of capital gains on NFTs? For example, this last question has already been decided in India, where a 30% tax is proposed on cryptocurrency capital gains.

Can we have several avatars in the metaverse?

Today, some people invent digital personalities by juggling different accounts on social networks. The concept of identity in the metaverse will undoubtedly be made very complex by the anthropomorphism of avatars, i.e., their human appearance.

Is it ethically acceptable to “DE multiply” oneself in the metaverse and, by doing so, to blur the tracks of one’s true identity?

Will the avatars have to have a human form?

Finally, we must also ask the question of the form. Will it be necessary to represent oneself in human form, or will all appearances be acceptable? In this case, what could be the perception of the other people met in the metaverse towards an avatar whose nature remains opaque?





Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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