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  • Writer's pictureMichaela Jamelska

If we don't have our say about human rights in Metaverse now, we could end up in a ‘metaworse’ world

michaela jamelska
Michaela Jamelska

Current human rights declarations and treaties were initially drafted and ratified to address real-world issues and circumstances. However, they have proven to be inadequate in the online environment. Regardless of how much AI large companies integrate into their systems, it is crucial to remember that the end-users or consumers are humans. Therefore, human rights should be at the forefront of technological development. While human rights concepts are often criticized as idealistic, they not only establish limits to extremism but also promote a more tolerant, empathetic, and inclusive society.

Recently, I came across an opinion stating that existing in a virtual world is merely an illusion of identity, and our freedom is constrained by the decisions of corporations. In simpler terms, this perspective suggests that our entire existence can be canceled or controlled by others, which contradicts the core principles of human rights. While this opinion holds some truth, it is essential to recognize that risks exist in the real world as well. In fact, we can be "canceled" in a sense if someone decides to harm us physically on the street. While this comparison may be extreme, it emphasizes the notion that we cannot make assumptions about the limits of our freedoms in the virtual world. Undoubtedly, our freedom in the online realm is influenced by commercial interests, but it is important to acknowledge that our freedom in the real world also has limitations imposed by political and commercial factors. We do not have absolute freedom in the physical world, and the same will apply to the virtual world.

It is crucial not to idealize the current reality and use it as a means to submerge the virtual world. Instead, we must address the significant challenge society faces in ensuring that our rights are respected in the digital realm. Determining which laws apply to digital spaces, navigating data privacy concerns, and addressing other human rights-related issues will undoubtedly be complex. As long as corporations are responsible for providing the Metaverse, commercial interests will influence our virtual lives.

Although it may be challenging to draft human rights guidelines and frameworks while the Metaverse is still in its early stages, it is necessary. Creating a Metaverse is not solely about programming; it requires careful consideration of the human rights implications. The initiation of the AI Bill of Rights by the White House is a positive step towards clarifying the rights and freedoms of individuals using data-driven biometric technologies. However, these rights will remain idealistic concepts unless they are effectively integrated into corporate and public action. In comparison, the investment in AI alone exceeded $75 billion last year, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. This substantial investment accelerates development exponentially. Unfortunately, there is no approximate figure available for the annual investment in human rights development. While every investment that contributes to improving human rights can be considered an indirect investment, the direct investment in human rights development is likely not as substantial as in AI. For example, the UN Human Rights Department's official website reveals that it receives only a small portion of the UN's regular budget, a mere 3.7%. Consequently, the department heavily relies on voluntary contributions for the rest of its operations.

The time to address human rights in the virtual world is now, and it is equally crucial for large corporations to not only provide answers regarding how their technology will prioritize human rights but also allocate budgets specifically for human rights. It is time to put the money where our fundamental rights should be, starting from this moment.

Sources: United Nations, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

Author: Michaela Jamelska


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