The Metaverse: between old challenges and new ethical dilemmas
29 December 2021
Andrea Emilio Rizzoli, Director of the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence USI-SUPSI, and Alessandro Facchini, Senior lecturer and researcher, were interviewed by Corriere del Ticino on the Metaverse and its related ethical challenges.

Barely born but already at the centre of heated debates, the Metaverse is intended as the evolution of the Internet towards a new paradigm in which the boundary between real and virtual life is blurred.

«The metaverse is a tool» says Professor Andrea Rizzoli, Director of the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence USI-SUPSI. «A tool comparable to the telephone, the Internet or social networks. What happens in it is not so different from what happens when people discuss in a bar or on Facebook».

More specifically, it is a 3D immersive world in which to socialise and forge interpersonal relationships, but also a possible new breeding ground for well-known problems, such as the rapid and almost unlimited spread of disinformation, hatred and malicious content.
«The fact that the metaverse offers immersive virtual interactions, in a positive light, should push us towards more human relationships This is because we are no longer in front of a screen with scrolling letters, but virtual representations of other people. This could trigger a mechanism of self-moderation», continues the Professor.

However, there are many aspects that keep the debate on the Metaverse going. From the artificial intelligence used to regulate the contents, to the degree of identity or anonymity of the avatars, to the use of helmets and glasses that guarantee a unique immersive experience but, at the same time, expose users to the risk of improper handling of their biometric data.

«But there's more. Technology is getting to brain data, and thus to the closest thing to a person's “mental states”» explains Alessandro Facchini, Senior lecturer-researcher at the Dalle Molle Institute. «We are talking about a relatively near future because Big Tech is developing the brain-computer interface. And we are talking about data that is not yet well regulated. In this sense, the challenge will be to preserve not only freedom of speech but perhaps also freedom of thought».

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