On Wednesday 23rd March, Brainpool hosted its newest “Future of AI” online debate. This event saw AI experts from various backgrounds discussing some of the most prominent benefits and concerns relating the future potential of Artificial Intelligence. In this session, we discussed the future prospect of Virtual Reality (VR) technology, and its role in the growing world of the ‘Meta-Verse’.
Debate topic 1 - What will the Metaverse look like in 50 years?
The first debate topic of the event saw the team discussing the future potential of the Metaverse, and speculating its future implications, such as how it will change our daily lives and interactions with each other. Here are some of the points the team explored:
· Will everyone use the Metaverse?
The Metaverse poses great potential to transform the way that we communicate. Similarly to the way we now use our mobile phones as a commonplace method of communication, there is a good chance that, as we become familiar with the Metaverse, it will play a key role in our everyday communication. The Metaverse could offer an equal playing field when it comes to interacting with each other, and mitigate many of the barriers that may come with communication within the real world. What’s more, it poses great opportunities for new and innovative methods of entertainment. Many opportunities to interact will likely shift to this new medium as it becomes more prevalent.
However, it is worth noting that not everyone in the modern age relies on their phones for communication. There is good reason to believe that some people simply may choose to avoid using the metaverse as a method of communication, instead opting to communicate via other methods (similarly to the way some people dislike communicating with phones nowadays). While the Metaverse may become an exclusive method of communication for some people or organisations, it is likely that some will opt to avoid it entirely.
· Will the Metaverse be addictive?
Humans are naturally hard-wired to seek pleasure. While the Metaverse can offer great forms of entertainment at ease, there is the concerning potential that this could divulge towards addiction. Already, there are examples of people becoming deeply engrossed in virtual lives, which can become increasingly harmful to peoples health and wellbeing in their everyday lives if not cautious. This concern is especially prevalent when money becomes involved, and there is no reason to believe that certain customisation for our meta-avatars won’t be locked behind paywalls. Furthermore, if the stimuli we receive from the metaverse is paramount to the real world, then we lose incentive to interact with the outside world, and can fall to addiction far easier.
Fortunately, the situation is not all doom and gloom, as there are methods that could be taken to ensure we can enjoy the benefits of the Metaverse while reducing these risks. Regulations can be established (with the right incentive in mind) to ensure that people’s wellbeing is considered within the use of the Metaverse, ensuring that profit incentives of organisations do not prevail at the detriment to users of the Metaverse. Examples could include monitoring and limiting the amount of time that people can use the Metaverse, ensuring that they receive regular breaks and do not spend unhealthy amounts of time interacting with the virtual world. Finally, it is important to remember the there is a substantial amount of entertainment that already exists outside of the metaverse; these wont simply disappear as soon as people have access to a VR set. While there is a risk of the Metaverse being addictive, it doesn’t have to be.
Debate topic 2 - Is the VR Experience Close to the Real Experience?
For the second debate topic, the team discussed the important differences between the VR and real world, some of the benefits of each, and important distinctions. Here are some of the key points that the team made:
· What benefits does the VR experience offer?
Sitting in the same location to work every day can be boring. With VR technology, people can experience a dynamic world of working that poses immense benefits. Users could set new and interesting locations and scenery to complete work. This has the potential to greatly improve employee wellbeing by removing the monotony of working at the same desk every day.
VR technology could also act as a method of better integrating people with certain inhibitions. As mentioned earlier, using the metaverse for certain interactions could help to remove some of the physical constraints that persist in the real world. Doing so could give everyone an equal playing field beyond the inequalities (be those self-inflicted, or a result of factors we simply cannot control). With the VR experience, we could begin to move beyond some of our physical limitations to achieve experiences previously thought impossible. Post-humanism is a promise that VR technology and the Metaverse open interesting potential for.
· What problems come with the VR experience?
While there are some great benefits to the VR experience, there are some underlying problems that simply cannot be ignored. Humans hold a sense of sanctity to the real world, to what is ‘authentic’. While the VR experience can approximate the real experience, it simply isn’t the ‘real’ thing, merely a synthesised copy. Those that value the real human experience could argue that the growing VR world is a ‘Matrix-style’ dystopian nightmare, with people opting to give up their authentic experience for a synthesised one.
Technology such as Virtual Reality could also be argued to be an underlying cause for people to become more unhappy with the real world. If we can be fed stimuli of a perfect world free of harms, then how is that going to impact the way we perceive the imperfect world around us? Furthermore, what will the effect on peoples’ body-image be if they can edit a virtual avatar to their hearts content to make ‘perfect’, something that they simply cannot do to the same capacity in the real world? Moving forward, we need to be aware what the impact the virtual world could have on our perception of the real world.
The future potential for VR technology and the Metaverse poses great potential for a future that is connected, equitable, and full of entertainment. However, there are certain considerations that must be considered moving forward, so that we may experience these benefits without a great deal of harms too.
Brainpool would like to say a huge thank you to those who attended and got involved with the ‘Future of AI’ debate! Be sure to keep an eye on our social media pages to stay up to date with other events we will be running in the future!
Written by Joseph Myler