Dr. Louis B. Rosenberg is a computer scientist and expert on artificial intelligence and augmented reality. According to him, Facebook’s new venture known as the Metaverse could come with serious consequences that go much deeper than social media.
Since the rise of social media, so too has the information surrounding the dangers of its use. While social media is thought to bring people together, the reality is that people are more divided than ever. Think about it: the algorithm on Facebook is specifically catered to filter out certain information, providing an echo chamber of information that promotes division.
And while you would think that an AI expert would be all for Facebook Meta, which is a new virtual reality version of the social media platform Facebook, he has a lot to say that may shock you.
In his own words, “At its core, augmented reality (AR) and the metaverse are media technologies that aim to present content in the most natural form possible-by seamlessly integrating simulated sights, sounds, and even feelings into our perception of the real world around us.”
He says that means that augmented reality holds the power to completely alter our perceptions of reality, going as far as to distort our perceptions of our daily lives. While walking down the road on your actual street may not seem so exciting, in augmented reality, the experience would be more colorful, more vibrant and a massive exaggeration of what is real.
With continued use, one could argue that the real world would fall short in comparison to augmented reality.
“Personally, I find this terrifying,” Rosenberg writes. “This is because augmented reality will fundamentally change all aspects of society, and not necessarily in a good way. I say this as someone who has been a champion of AR for a long time. In fact, my enthusiasm began 30 years ago, before the phrase “augmented reality” had even been coined. ”
Rosenberg helped to pioneer virtual reality, working with Stanford University and NASA on the Virtual Fixtures project. The research he and others did for this project was a “success” he says, “showing that we could boost human performance by over 100 percent when combining the real and the virtual into a single reality.”
He says he was convinced that this technology would one day be everywhere, and now, he is more convinced than ever, especially with last year’s announcement of Meta.
While on one hand, Rosenberg says he is excited, on the other he says, “I am very concerned about the negative consequences.”
He cites the fact that we already live in an augmented reality, at least in the modern world, where social media and technology, in general, manipulate the information we are given under the guise of “marketing.” “We now live mediated lives, all of us depending more and more on the corporations that provide and maintain the intervening layers,” he says.
He uses the analogy of walking through your neighborhood. “Imagine walking down the street of your hometown, casually glancing at people you pass on the sidewalk. It is much like today, except floating over the heads of every person you see are big glowing bubbles of information.”
“Maybe the intention is innocent, allowing people to share their hobbies and interests with everyone around them. Now imagine that third parties can inject their content, possibly as a paid filter layer that only certain people can see. And they use that layer to tag individuals with bold flashing words like “Alcoholic” or “Immigrant” or “Atheist” or “Racist” or even less charged words like “Democrat” or “Republican.”
And most of us don’t even realize how others see us. And these overlays, he asserts, are “designed to amplify political division, ostracize certain groups, even drive hatred and mistrust.”
Currently, we already live in a world where we are surrounded by “botnets and troll farms.” And while the dangers are clear, we are at the very least, able to turn off our phones. With Meta, because “faster than any of us can imagine, we will become thoroughly dependent on the virtual layers of information projected all around us. It will no longer feel more optional than internet access feels today.”
While he does agree that AR has the power to enrich our lives, he believes it will only make us more dependent on the aspects of technology that he labels as insidious.