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  • Writer's pictureMichaela Jamelska

Will I have human rights as an avatar?

michaela jamelska

In today's world, human rights encompass the ability of individuals to cultivate empathy and tolerance towards groups that are distant and different from us, respecting their identity, culture, opinions, and rights. The emerging metaverse has the potential to play a significant role in shaping empathy and promoting human rights in both the real and virtual worlds. New technologies can either desensitize people towards abuses of avatars or, on the contrary, enhance empathy by allowing us to experience situations from the perspective of others. While some users may develop a genuine emotional connection with their avatars, using different virtual scenarios to deepen their understanding of human differences and rights, others may view it merely as a game and misuse their power.

In the real world, human rights encompass a wide range of entitlements, including the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. These rights should be granted to everyone without discrimination. However, one could argue that there is a difference between being tortured in real life and experiencing it through the torture of one's avatar in virtual reality. This raises the question of responsibility for such actions in the virtual world. Currently, punishments for abuses in the virtual world are limited. However, if avatars are considered extensions of our own identity in the virtual realm, as they are intended to be, it implies that our avatars should be protected from the torture inflicted by other avatars. They should not be subjected to discrimination and should be allowed to express their opinions, among other rights. Similarly, abusers should be held accountable for their actions. Unfortunately, a comprehensive framework for granting us all rights and imposing punishments for such actions in the virtual world has yet to be fully developed.

Large corporations often face criticism for prioritizing engagement rates and user time spent on their platforms. However, it is important to recognize that these corporations are composed of human beings who also possess human rights. Hopefully, with the collective effort of both these corporations and the public, there will be a push to create a framework that safeguards our avatar-human rights. Ultimately, the metaverse is merely a tool, and it is the shared responsibility of all of us to build a future that centers around human rights.

Written by Michaela Jamelska


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