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We Need to Talk About Ethics in Web3
The Game of Phones #2: The Case for Humanness
The world we live in is unpredictable.
You can wake up one morning, scroll through your socials and come across unprecedented occurrences.
For example, on the 15th of February this year, a Colombian court held a court proceeding in the metaverse, its first of a kind.
The 2-hour hearing for a traffic violation had its participants present as avatars in a virtually constructed courtroom. Magistrate Maria Quinones Triana presided over the court, or at least her avatar did (pictures below).
Depending on who you are, this scenario will evoke an array of emotions: excitement, nervousness, a deep-rooted but previously-unperturbed sense of apocalypticism.
In a previous episode, we explored the inclusivity of the older generation when designing technology. So how about questions on the ethics of our increasingly digital existence?
What does it all mean?
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Innovation is fun and daunting.
Perhaps when we think of ethics, an image of the scales of justice comes to mind (a blindfolded and impartial woman inclusive).
But ethics on the internet (generally in tech) is a broad term.
“Tech ethics involves considering how technology extends or curtails the power of individuals and how standard ethical questions are changed by these new powers, from the conception of an idea to a shipped product.”
It’s simply this: ensuring a morally right relationship exists between technology and its users.
But the very nature of breakthrough technologies is disruption.
While innovation is fun, it contrasts already-outlined ethical considerations, which are inherently safe and stable. And so, a natural push-and-pull dance ensues. What will give?
A significant concern raised by a policy expert at the virtual hearing was access to justice and equity: how readily accessible is this technology, and not just in terms of availability?
Another was the seeming loss of one of the little joys that tie in our shared human experience: stolen smiles and glances in the form of subtle visual cues and nuanced body language. Because how perceptible are these behind a metaverse avatar?
What if we could start all over?
At the recently concluded Paris Blockchain Week Summit 2023 (which was held between the 22nd and 23rd of March), the concept of ethics in technology was a significant talking point. And for good reason. The panellists unanimously acknowledged that in technology, innovation tends to come before ethical and safety standards are considered and implemented.
Take the rapid artificial intelligence (AI) wave, for instance: a high-profile group (Elon Musk inclusive) are pushing for a slowing down of “giant” AI advancements.
Can advanced technological pursuits, such as the metaverse, rely on the ethical protocols of their predecessors? Probably not; even the predecessors aren’t doing so great.
We’ve wrestled with moral and ethical codes for aeons, but this won’t stop the drive for advancement.
So what should we be doing differently?
Perhaps we need new approaches altogether. Because verbal harassment on web2 is one thing, but a simulated almost-real one in the metaverse triggers a whole new level of trauma.
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🟣 Pick of the week!
This post byon progressive decentralisation for media. A compelling perspective.