"All the biometric and physiological data emitted by his body in the metaverse can be recorded and used"

Ran innovation will have so quickly fascinated the economic world. Less than a year after Mark Zuckerberg formalized his intention to"opening a new chapter of the Internet" with the metaversewe are witnessing the rush towards this new virtual world.

Its main competitors – Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Tencent… – have all announced massive investments to develop their own metaverse. And, it must be admitted, there are countless companies that have acquired a plot of land there without really knowing what to do with it.

Obviously, the metaverse is enthusiastic. What could be more normal for an innovation that brings together fiction and reality? Indeed, for more than twenty-five years, and the release of the book The Virtual Samuraiby Neal Stephenson (1996), the world of culture has never ceased to produce stories around a parallel digital world.

615 billion euros by 2030

However, the metaverse cannot be approached solely through fascination. This virtual world recasts human-machine interaction in unprecedented proportions. At point “transform almost everything in human life”according to the formula of the American anthropologist Tom Boellstorff.

At the heart of Web 3, it immerses the user in a situation where all the biometric and physiological data emitted by their body can be recorded and used by the technology. As Micaela Mantegna, professor of artificial intelligence (AI) ethics at Harvard, reminded us, “the metaverse is the point of convergence of the Internet, social networks and video games. It therefore concentrates the ethical issues that already existed with social networks, Internet governance and AI”.

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Given these challenges, the potential of the market (estimated at 615 billion euros by 2030) and the fact that we have had all the trouble in the world to put an end to the "Digital Far West", the hour n t is no longer in the census of brands having acquired the largest virtual plot of land. She is in control. That of Web 3 and, by extension, of the metaverse.

If the first two ages of the Web were mainly those of the large platforms, the third will be that of the citizen. Who would understand that, at a time when our societies are crossed by ethical debates and sustainability issues, Web 3 is exempt from it? This must be framed by guiding principles, in tune with our times. Namely the responsibility of AI, the protection of personal data and decarbonization.

Constrained sharing or restricted access

Alongside the blockchain, artificial intelligence is one of the pillars of Web 3. As such, its use must be defined by a governance framework that establishes the standards of responsible AI. That is to say unbiased and transparent for all. To keep its decentralizing promise, Web 3 cannot therefore be a "lawless" space where each actor would design his own artificial intelligence charter and where " the three laws of robotics » by Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), eighty years old, would remain the benchmark.

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In the aftermath of the Second World War, President Harry Truman (1884-1972) implemented the “Fair Deal”, an economic and social reform aimed at combining union demands and employers' anger thanks to a framework and fundamental standards. Seventy years later, a “deal” of this nature is necessary around the question of data.

Of course, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) exists. But let's face it, it tends to expose Internet users to a dilemma: forced sharing of their data or restricted access to content. Web 3 must propose a new paradigm in which Internet users would only share data, for use, according to the content chosen.

A sustainable space

Search engines must be put to work for Web 3 to be a sustainable space. These could be subject to a regulatory framework in which only sites with a technical architecture that limits data transfer, optimizes pages and reduces the use of code blocks are referenced.

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To not act today, at least at the European level, is to take the risk of the reproduction of the same, that is to say a centralized Web under the aegis of a few platforms. To strike the iron while it is still hot, according to the consecrated expression, is therefore not to act prematurely. It means giving ourselves the means not to find ourselves in dead ends comparable to those of antitrust and Federal Trade Commission [le régulateur américain du commerce chargé de la protection du consommateur et donc de ses données personnelles].

In 2022, technology must be put at the service of society. It must both submit to its values ​​and be a response to its challenges. With Web 3 and the metaverse, we have the opportunity to do so before it slips away. Let's grab it.

Norbert Faure is Managing Director Western Europe and South America of BCG Platinion, the “technology” division of the strategy consulting firm The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

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