The Metaverse promises to be the most radical reinvention of human technology of this generation. It creates entirely new human-machine interfaces, sensory experiences, social dynamics and market structures. Its design will have a great impact on human behavior. Much depends on the choices that management, engineers, and designers are making today.
New technologies bring new risks, but for the Metaverse we have a unique opportunity to learn from the past and focus on how to address the dangers of known technologies.
How can you design your metaverse to avoid recent mistakes?
Here are the main dangers to consider when designing a metaverse that prioritizes the human experience:
– Prevent technology addiction
Smartphones and social media platforms are fueling screen addiction. Much of this addiction stems from design features, from infinite scrolling to push notifications, designed to maximize engagement.
It’s early days, but the common goal is to design a permanent environment that’s always on and where people spend a good deal of their time. Will the goal of an always-on metaverse spark a new wave of addiction, like the goal of maximizing engagement in the social media age? Responsible design decisions need to be made when building the metaverse .
・Consider the risk of polarization
Social media plays a key role in fueling political polarization and eroding social trust. Filter bubbles enable echo chambers. Algorithms, on the other hand, have found that an effective way to attract people is to give them moral anger against opposing political camps.
Without careful consideration, the metaverse can foster polarization. Imagine endlessly personalized experiences, not just different metaverse platforms for different political persuasion. Liberals and Conservatives walking the same Metaverse neighborhood may be presented with a variety of retailers, avatars, and experiences customized to their respective political persuasions.
If people spent most of their waking hours in the metaverse, they were more likely to become increasingly disconnected from reality, especially if these spaces were designed to fit people’s worldviews. If social media monetizes anger, the metaverse could evolve to monetize paralysis. It’s about building a space to escape the real world at a time when social challenges demand more attention.
– Combat misinformation
Eradicating misinformation is difficult because social networks generate an enormous amount of information, and deciding which information to remove often requires nuanced judgment. As such, content moderation remains a labor-intensive and imprecise exercise.
The metaverse can increase the volume and scale of the misinformation problem. Imagine multiple online worlds where information is conveyed in real time via voice, video, text overlays, facial expressions, gestures, and more.
While the information shared on social media platforms has been relatively static (for example, a post, image, or video is created once and can be examined at any time), the information generated in the metaverse is It becomes much more dynamic and fleeting (e.g. real-time conversations and interactions between individuals). Many design features promote anonymity, making it easy for adversaries to spread misinformation.
How can we build a metaverse that enables better behavior and health outcomes?
Fortunately, the metaverse not only presents behavioral challenges, but also opportunities to improve behavior and health. Here are some:
– Reduce unconscious bias
Unconscious bias is an insidious challenge. It can exist in ostensibly intelligent individuals, and is often caused by deep-seated stereotypes about others based on racial identity, gender, age, or weight. We can combat this by offering unprecedented capabilities that remove cues such as physical appearance, accent and pitch via avatars that allow us to change gender, race and voice.
-Improve long-term behavior
Some of the most stubborn and costly challenges we face relate to behaviors such as energy use, diet and exercise. Behavioral economists have found that the problem is not awareness or motivation for change, but rather some universal bias in human behavior.
On the contrary, we are very ambitious for immediate and tangible results. This is where the metaverse can be very effective. Imagine avatars that put people in their future selves based on their current health behaviors. Imagine an experience that shows you your neighborhood in the future, devastated by climate change. Making the future consequences of our actions concrete and immediate can be a motivator for change.
Prioritize mental health
Finally, the metaverse could be game-changing in dealing with mental health challenges. This affects one of her thirteen at some point in her life. The US Department of Veterans Affairs successfully pilots virtual reality to treat PTSD. By reliving traumatic experiences in a safe simulated environment, veterans can confront and tame symptoms. The metaverse may be useful in treating other afflictions as well, from anxiety to phobias.
Whether intentional or accidental, the design of human-facing technologies like the Metaverse influences human behavior. It promises to create new interfaces, sensory experiences, social networks and market dynamics. All of these can have significant implications. As brands and companies design and build Metaverse experiences, they need to avoid repeating past mistakes while enabling users to achieve better behavioral and health outcomes.
The views reflected in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the global EY organization or its member firms.