Can we create a moral metaverse? | The metaverse

Psychotherapist Nina Jane Patel had been on Facebook’s Horizon Venues for less than a minute when her avatar was mobbed by a group of males. The attackers proceeded to “virtually gang-rape” her character, snapping in-game pictures as mementos. Patel froze in shock before desperately trying to free her virtual self – whom she had styled to resemble her real-life blond hair, freckles and business casual attire.

“Don’t pretend you didn’t love it,” the human voices of the attackers jeered through her headset as she ran away, “go rub yourself off to the photo.”

The metaverse – the blurrily defined term for the next generation of immersive virtual reality technologies – is still in its infancy. But even with crude graphics and sometimes glitchy gameplay, an experience like this can trigger a deeply rooted panic response. “The fidelity is such that it felt very real,” Patel, who is also co-founder of children’s metaverse company Kabuni, tells the Observer. “Physiologically, I responded in that fight or flight or freeze mode.”


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