Metaverse – Back to First Principles 

Metaverse – Back to First Principles 

The purpose of the Metaverse is to create an immersive space for interactions which were previously either only physical or only digital. This has the potential to disrupt how we work, interact, and socialize. Countries and industry players are joining in with the Metaverse “Gold Rush”, leading to South Korea recently publishing a strategy which includes principles that could underpin the development of the platform.

South Korea’s Metaverse strategy demonstrates the nation’s focus on developing and capitalizing on the economic opportunities which arise from new technologies. The strategy makes up part of the Digital New Deal 2.0 and is the latest of a series of policy announcements which date back to the formation of the Metaverse Alliance in May 2021. It comes at an opportune moment, since governments, corporations and individuals around the world are still discretely attempting to make sense of the Metaverse and its associated implications, as well as how to approach its implementation.

South Korea’s approach towards the Metaverse

While there are differing opinions about the precise definition of the Metaverse and the timing of its actualization, there is a general consensus about some of its elements; namely that it is an immersive experience platform transcending the physical and cyber domain, a extended reality technology enabled through a multitude of access devices.

With the goal of being the 5th largest Metaverse market by 2026, South Korea’s Metaverse strategy, premised on collaborative public-private partnerships, maps out four main steps. First, the platform ecosystem will be revitalized by leveraging upon Korean cultural content and developing core technologies and devices. Second, talent trained on the Metaverse will be guided and provided with greater practical business participation opportunities. Third, enterprises catering to the Metaverse will be nurtured and subsidized to achieve international competitiveness. Fourth, a safe and reliable Metaverse will be developed in a sustainable manner, taking ethnical principles and community values into consideration, without creating a digital divide.

This approach recognizes the building blocks necessary to construct a safe Metaverse, encapsulating its complexity while ensuring its relevance to key stakeholders.

First principles

The Metaverse presents a fundamental transformation in how we interact with each other, consume services and content in new converged settings. Some hot button issues such as platform dominance, data trust and safety, privacy and infrastructure adequacy will remain while taking on more nuances as a result of the Metaverse’s touted features. There will also be multi-faceted policy considerations regarding the legality and value of digital assets and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The Metaverse’s immersive nature may also raise possible concerns relating to parental controls over the extent of minors’ interactions in the Metaverse.

It is reassuring that governments and industries are recognizing the need for opening a dialogue to guide the development of the Metaverse while taking a bottom-up approach. All parties should work towards defining key fundamental principles upon which the Metaverse’s technology and services should adhere to. Akin to South Korea’s mention of community values and the Metaverse environment in the strategy, some proposed principles are as follows:

Openness – The Metaverse should be open and readily accessible to all. The cost of accessing the Metaverse and its services through varied devices should be determined through fair market competition with appropriate light-touch market intervention where necessary.

Inter-operability – There should be standardized requirements permitting Metaverse hardware and content to be accessed and developed across the board. This lays the foundation for an open and competitive Metaverse that is constantly innovating. Further, Metaverse systems should follow and use open standards to allow for community development of applications and content, and for such applications and content to be compatible across multiple Metaverses.

Citizen-centric – With its transcending dimension, the Metaverse connotes different meanings to different people, but the overarching aim should be to improve citizen’s lives by placing them at the centre of developing the Metaverse.

The above are merely illustrative examples of some possible principles. At this point in time, an honest and robust conversation between governments, corporations and individuals will help minimize concerns about any party’s intentions for the Metaverse. Once the key principles are defined and agreed by consensus, efforts towards making the Metaverse safe and tangible to the masses can proceed.

Our collective participation and dialogue is valuable in shaping the Metaverse into a platform that we are proud of. By being involved in how it is developed and guiding the policies that govern it, as a society we have the chance to capitalize off its potential economic opportunities. Besides South Korea, other countries such as Singapore and Indonesia are also paying close attention to the Metaverse. Given its potential impact on our lives over the coming years, we should all be actively engaging as a collective society in shaping the Metaverse. We owe it to ourselves to try and get it right the first time.

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