Apr 5, 2022 - Technology

Guard rails for the metaverse

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The time to start figuring out rules and norms for the metaverse, autonomous vehicles and other emerging platforms is now, not after the technologies are built and widely deployed, industry and policy leaders at the Axios What's Next Summit in Washington, D.C. Tuesday largely agreed.

The discussion was hosted by Axios chief tech correspondent Ina Fried and Axios business reporter and Closer newsletter co-author Hope King.

The big picture: The metaverse might evolve as a 3D version of today's internet shared by many companies, a new layer of augmented-reality-style information over our everyday lives, a blockchain-driven universe of digital property — or all of the above.

Why it matters: Each new wave of digital tech has brought unintended negative consequences along with benefits, but it's proven tough to get ahead of such problems when new technologies are still in flux.

What they're saying:

  • "My hope is that, even as we're pushing through privacy regulation now, the baseline rules will carry forward" to cover new technologies as they emerge, said Alexandra Givens, CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology. 
  • "The luxury we have is, a lot of this technology is many years out," Rob Sherman, Meta's deputy chief privacy officer, said.
  • Meta's vision of a metaverse is heavily oriented around bringing together people for work or play when they're not sharing the same physical space — "making interactions better when we can't be together," as Sherman put it.
  • If it frees up more of our time, that would be a blessing, said Sandy Schwartz, CEO of Cox Family Office, but "what I'm worried about is what it could do to our physical interactions."

At an earlier conference session, NBCUniversal news chairman Cesar Conde argued that bringing his newsrooms back to the office was vital because "there's power in proximity."

  • "Perhaps the metaverse could be so strong and so real that we have that benefit of proximity," Jackie Black, membership and future of work leader at the Consumer Technology Association, said.

Editor's note: Meta is a sponsor of the Axios What's Next Summit.

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