The connotation, development and risk response of the Metaverse

Since 2021, the concept of Metaverse, which is active in the capital market, has become a hot spot of social concern. In addition to my country’s large Internet companies entering the field, the international social media company Facebook (Facebook) directly changed its name to Meta (Meta), making Metaverse more and more attention. As an innovative Internet product, Metaverse not only triggers a new wave of investment and competition in the relevant market, but also involves a wide range of social production, cultural life and even social management in the future. Sovereignty issues have implications and should be paid attention to.

1. The Basic Connotation of the Metaverse

It is generally believed that the term “Metaverse” originated from a network technology and human-computer interaction technology described by American science fiction writer Neal Stephenson in his novel “Snow Crash” in 1992. a cyberspace parallel to the real world.

From the basic definition, there is no unified concept about the technical characteristics or organizational structure of the Metaverse in related fields, and most of the existing expressions are mainly functional descriptions. Judging from the name, the Chinese expression of Metaverse is very delicate. “Yuan” represents the beginning, origin, and infinite imaginary space; “universe” implies the all-encompassing final state of the relevant system in the future. This extremely attractive and reverie expression combined with the original concept of the Metaverse can greatly attract the attention of the public, and even bring some misleading effects (such as exaggeration, blind investment and even fraud). Starting from this, more and more literary and artistic works have imagined and supplemented this concept. In the imagination of literature and art, people can live in this cyberspace for a long time and immersively, surpassing the material and rule restrictions of the real world, and obtaining great freedom and satisfaction.

In recent years, with the continuous maturity of data information processing technology, data information storage technology, network access and human-computer interaction technology, the imagined “virtual parallel world” has gradually become a realistic possibility, and has become the key direction of technological development and industrial investment. . To grasp the basic connotation of the Metaverse, the following three aspects deserve attention.

First, although the Metaverse has great development space, the current publicity effect and capital heat of related products are far greater than the actual technology and market influence. At present, the products under the Metaverse brand are no different from a large-scale online game, and there is still a long distance from the true Metaverse. Under reasonable expectations, the investment or business investment of large domestic and foreign Internet companies will only add more social functions on the basis of games, which is far from the all-encompassing universe. It can be judged that, in a short period of time, the Metaverse is mainly concerned with product competitiveness and market acceptance in the fields of games and social networking – whether this highly imaginative new product can really develop into a subversive new life There are still many uncertainties.

Second, from the perspective of the basic structure, the Metaverse will at least be divided into two types of structures: “centralized” and “decentralized”. In reality, the Metaverse products with a decentralized architecture are mainly derivatives of blockchain digital currencies such as “Ethereum”, which only have the function of capital speculation.The Metaverse with development potential is focused on a “centralized” structure, and this centralized nature is natural and will not cause fundamental changes. This determines that in the future ideal state of the Metaverse, there will inevitably be an “administrator” with the highest authority and authority. This centralized architecture will inevitably lead to a series of problems. Most importantly, who is qualified to become the “Metaverse center” that will cover the vast majority of the social population, occupy most of people’s digital life time, and even undertake important production activities in the future? Is it an enterprise that develops and operates the Metaverse, is the capital force behind the enterprise, is an intelligent program with seemingly neutral attributes, or a deliberative body that reflects the will of all the digital members of the Metaverse, or is a regulatory authority or even a certain level of government in the real world. , it is not yet possible to draw a conclusion. Although the current Metaverse mainly exists in the field of entertainment and has not become a mainstream entertainment method, the ideal state of the future Metaverse will generate completely different economic and social values, and changes in this value appreciation or value distribution method still need to be carried out. Continuous observation.

Third, the Metaverse will also greatly blur the line between online and offline society as a whole. It can be foreseen that with the wide application of technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality and the gradual construction of the “Internet of Everything” society, the social public or networking will become more and more natural and frequent, and even gradually form a “24-hour online”. “status. This immersive online life will truly make the Metaverse an integral part of human society, and will largely eliminate the “completely offline” production and living environment. Therefore, “parallel world” or “virtual world” is only a relatively primary concept of literary and artistic creation, but will be gradually revised with the development and application of related technologies: “Metaverse” and the real world are not parallel or alternative relationships in fantasy, it is The comprehensive digital and networked transformation reflected in the real society has gradually transformed the whole society into a new environment where every individual natural person, infrastructure, various equipment and organizations are online anytime, anywhere.

2. The development trend of the Metaverse

The Metaverse is both ideal and real. The ideal Metaverse may enable the human spirit to obtain great freedom and satisfaction (get rid of the constraints of material and physical rules), bring about great space for creation and innovation, and even produce a “digital life” parallel to real life, but this Vision cannot be separated from the support of the material world. Judging the development trend and potential impact of the Metaverse should also be based on the actual material world.

First, in terms of material basis, Metaverse-related industries will be more dependent on modern information technology, and will be affected by realistic supply chain stability and market policies. In particular, my country’s Metaverse-related industries will face interference from various market and non-market factors in the design and production of hardware equipment, the dissemination and storage of data and information, and the construction and integration of application ecosystems. This is because, under the real domestic and foreign conditions, the Metaverse of the “Great Harmony of the World” is just an illusion. As the material basis of the Metaverse, whether it is extraterritorial sanctions or cessation of supply in chip design and manufacturing, incompatibility in technical standards or external market boycott in application ecology, or even unfair market environment under the pretext of “national security”, It will become a major obstacle to the development of related industries.

Second, in terms of application prospects, the Metaverse will inevitably go beyond the scope of online games, online social interaction or private life, and have more and more intersections with social production and even social management, forming a digital transformation at the level of the whole society. The continuation of the new crown pneumonia epidemic has made “online” a common choice for major countries and regions in the world to take into account social distance and social production needs. Especially driven by the efficiency advantages brought about by digitalization, “online office” has become an important part of social and public network activities. With the support of more convenient, efficient and comfortable information technology, the convenience, frequency and online time of people’s access to the Internet will be greatly improved, while the offline life time will be compressed. The ideal Metaverse of the future will not only provide a more stimulating and free virtual experience, but also provide more convenient conditions for social production and social management and squeeze the offline proportion of these activities. When Metaverse-related applications extend from private life such as entertainment and social interaction to the realm of social production and routines, it will bring new problems of distribution of benefits.

Third, in terms of social influence, the Metaverse is very likely to become the fermentation and venting ground of social perceptions and emotions in the future, and feed back to the real society. An important technical feature of the Metaverse is an immersive user experience. While the technology is still in development, a fully immersive user experience is not a fantasy. At that time, the public would use a large number of Metaverse tools to express their emotions and interests, and seek the satisfaction of personal spiritual needs in the Metaverse space. In the foreseeable future, the relationship between the Metaverse and the real world will not be the “parallel world” imagined by Neil Stephenson, but will be highly integrated with each other, and people’s feelings, emotions and interests in the Metaverse will inevitably be will return to reality. The frequency, intensity, and fields involved in this “network communication-reality feedback” will far exceed the current information dissemination modes such as file sharing, information release, or group communication.

Fourth, under a more forward-looking observation, competition between different Metaverses will inevitably occur in the future. This kind of competition may arise not only between different Metaverse operators in the same market, but also between “China Metaverse” and “Metaverses from other countries/regions outside the territory”, and in extreme cases, it may even manifest as “Metaverse” The competition between “controllers” and social autonomy or public power.The way and content of competition also has the potential to transcend the market or economic level and become the competition of production and lifestyle, ideological competition, and even the cultural competition and security competition of nation-states.

3. Potential Risks and Countermeasures of the Metaverse

The Metaverse is not only a hot spot of current technology research and development and market investment, but also a picture of the whole society’s production and lifestyle changes from a long-term perspective. Correspondingly, the Metaverse itself, as a product of new technologies, as well as the technological development, industrial agglomeration and social application behind it, will inevitably be accompanied by various risks that need to be dealt with.

(1) Security risks in real applications

From a realistic point of view, the technological attributes and application methods of the Metaverse must be highly digital and networked. This means that the data and information gathered by the Metaverse will also far exceed other current network products or services. As the “oil” of the information age, the importance of data information is self-evident, and relevant market competition and even international competition will naturally extend to the entire chain of the Metaverse industry. Specifically, the security risks of the Metaverse reality application are presented in four aspects.

First, personal information risk. On November 1, 2021, my country officially implemented the Personal Information Protection Law, reflecting the latest response of the personal information protection system to new technologies such as big data and artificial intelligence. In the Metaverse, which is highly centralized, internally interconnected, and externally closed, and is expected to cover most social individuals and social activities in the future, the utility of the current system remains to be seen. The extensive and comprehensive device interconnection and digital recording and communication of personal behavior in the Metaverse will have an impact on the current logic of personal information protection and use based on contract law rules such as “informed-consent” and “notice-deletion”. That is to say, the contradiction between the “efficiency needs” represented by the wider and more efficient use of data and information and the “security needs” represented by the protection of personal information will become more prominent.

Second, the risk of complete industrial chain. Different from the current online games or social media, the true operation and development of the Metaverse in the future is highly dependent on stable and sustainable supply of information technology software and hardware products and an open application ecosystem. At present, the integrity of the global information technology industry chain is under threat from many aspects. The digital application ecosystem is far less open than originally expected, and there is no obvious improvement trend. Under such a reality, in the early stage of development of my country’s Metaverse-related industries, it is necessary to take precautions against potential risks such as hardware supply interruption or software boycott.

Third, new network and data security risks. Metaverse has broad application prospects. It is connected to a variety of hardware devices and faces huge data processing and exchange requirements, which poses new challenges for related network security. Especially in the centralized structure of the Metaverse, the security protection of the “center” is more important. In this regard, a stricter identity management and permission control mechanism should be designed for the Metaverse. This is because considering that the operating Metaverse must be a powerful organization, its system “shell” should be strong enough, but in order to improve the operating efficiency, the security verification inside the system will be relatively loose. It can be seen from the new network attack mode that has become increasingly prominent in recent years, the way of defrauding legal identity and exercising this identity authority to spread malicious code is particularly harmful to large-scale information systems. Therefore, in the face of actual and potential cyber threats, management should be strengthened at least from the perspective of identity and rights management. In addition, the highly centralized structure of the Metaverse also determines that once a security accident occurs in the “center”, it will bring about a systemic and global crisis, which also puts forward higher requirements for the relevant network isolation and backup capabilities. New technologies will inevitably face new security challenges, and have also spawned new security concepts and measures such as zero-trust networks and artificial intelligence firewalls. Overall, the new cyber risks facing the Metaverse do require more resources.

Fourth, there are broad competitive risks. From the perspective of excessive competition, whether relevant operators use illegal means to increase user stickiness, hinder users’ “cross-universe” migration, excessively collect and use user information, or slander and hinder other operators, which is inconsistent with conventional There is no essential difference between the legitimate competition risk. However, the potential monopoly risk of the Metaverse has certain particularities: if a certain “Metaverse” contains enough content in the future, it will in fact form a hybrid operation that crosses the limits of the relevant market scope and forms a large-scale mixed operation. Superorganizations with dominant market power and social power. It is the undisputed center within its own Metaverse product, and outside the Metaverse, it will also gain a dominant position far exceeding that of ordinary operators and even close to social managers. Under this circumstance, the controller of Metaverse will almost break through all the core norms related to regulating the concentration of business operators and preventing the abuse of market dominance, such as the current (and under review and revision) Anti-Monopoly Law, which will have a major impact on anti-monopoly law enforcement.

(2) New challenges from a long-term perspective

In addition to practical issues such as technological development, industrial improvement, and competition, the Metaverse’s wide-ranging application landscape also suggests potential risks in the future. To a certain extent, this long-term challenge transcends the actual technical or industrial constraints and is more macroscopic. Such macro challenges will determine the ecology of Metaverse products or services in my country and around the world, and it is also worthy of attention.

First, the future Metaverse will face challenges of cross-regional communication and cooperation. There is communication, cooperation and competition between Metaverses or similar network entities between different countries and regions. The Metaverse is not a “parallel space” separated from the material foundation or basic rules of the real world, but a new real world after technological upgrading, which is also constrained by the actual national sovereignty, national behavioral rules and international communication rules. Similar to the current network connectivity between different countries and regions, the information exchange, cooperation and competition between different Metaverses will not disappear in the future. Moreover, the scale, sensitivity, potential impact and even security threats of data exchange at that time will far exceed the current level of Internet or cross-regional network applications. How to communicate between the cross-regional Metaverses, how to deal with the flow of people and data, and how to deal with the distribution of economic and social interests will be important issues facing our country and other administrative subjects in the world.

Second, the technological power and capital power of the Metaverse will challenge the basic social system and prevent the disorderly expansion of capital. The Metaverse originated from technological development, capital investment and market operation. After the stage of free development, it will definitely transcend the economic category, become a social phenomenon, and even become a basic part of society in the future. The controllers of the future Metaverse, whether as representatives of huge economic interests or other dominant forces, should not be separated from the management of the national will and the basic social order. In this regard, the design of the internal rules of the relevant market, the internal restrictions and external regulations of Metaverse’s own operations, should also be given great attention. At present, the influence of large Internet companies has long gone beyond the scope of the market, has caused vigilance in all major economies in the world, and is mainly restrained under the anti-monopoly framework.However, it is doubtful whether the current anti-monopoly system can deal with the rapidly developing and changing Metaverse-related issues, and prematurely intervening or overly aggressive anti-monopoly enforcement will cause unnecessary and unreasonable harm to investment and innovation. The manner, timing, scale and effect evaluation of relevant governance activities also require forward-looking attention and research.

(3) my country’s coping strategies

At present, the publicity effect and capital enthusiasm of Metaverse-related products are far greater than the actual technology and market influence, and there are still too many uncertainties in the future development. Facing the potential challenges of the Metaverse, our country should deal with both practical risks and long-term challenges.

In dealing with real risks, China should plan related infrastructure and digital ecological industries from the perspective of complete industrial chain and security. It is necessary to analyze and predict the technical route of the Metaverse, select credible and reliable technical facilities in basic technical fields such as 5G communication, virtual/augmented reality, and implanted networking equipment, and build a software ecosystem with independent standards and independent intellectual property rights . my country should plan the boundaries of the Metaverse from the perspective of market competition and prevent the improper expansion of capital. Anti-monopoly law enforcement agencies and theoretical researchers should pay attention to relevant issues in advance, make theoretical and institutional preparations, prevent relevant risks from the basic level of capital, technology and data information concentration, improve the development efficiency of the entire industry, and prevent a single giant. my country should formulate the basic rules of the Metaverse field from the perspective of data and information security. The cutting-edge institutional design will help to standardize the development of my country’s related industries and enhance my country’s weight in the international discourse system in related fields. At the same time, my country should also pay attention to the systemic and global risks brought by security incidents under the centralized architecture, which also puts forward higher requirements for the security risk identification and response capabilities of related systems.

In dealing with long-term challenges, China should prevent the impact of the Metaverse on China’s network sovereignty in advance. It is foreseeable that there will be more than one Metaverse product or platform in the future world, and the potential threats contained in the scale, sensitivity, potential impact and even security of data exchange between them will far exceed the current stage of the Internet or cross-regional networks. application level. At present, countries such as Barbados have tried to open embassies and exercise national sovereignty in extraterritorial Metaverse products. International exchanges and competition in the virtual network environment are bound to face new environments and challenges. In this virtual environment that is beyond the real international political environment to a certain extent, it is foreseeable that the provocation and harassment of Chinese institutions and personnel by various illegal organizations and personnel will become more rampant. Therefore, under the basic stance of recognizing and safeguarding my country’s cyber sovereignty, accelerating the construction of a stable and reliable industrial chain, a secure and open Metaverse, and maintaining normal exchanges and competition between the “Chinese Metaverse” and the “extraterritorial Metaverse” is the key for our country in the It is an important way to safeguard its own sovereignty and security interests on a global scale, and to combat “Taiwan independence” or other illegal organizations and personnel activities.

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