When technology merges with humans at scale, then it’s time to talk legal. Therefore, our member Weblaw AG, in cooperation with Härting Rechtsanwälte AG and supported by us, the Liquid Legal Institute e.V., summoned experts from various fields for the first Weblaw Metaverse Summit in Zurich, Zoom and virtual space last June.
Extending human presence
The metaverse has become a buzzword in the last few months, with many definitions, coined by different stakeholders and their interests. In essence, the metaverse is about the feeling of presence. The presence of the real world in digital space (“virtual reality”). And vice versa, the presence of the digital world in the analog or real space (“augmented reality”). Merely talking about the metaverse is missing the point – it’s about walking it! Therefore, Franz Kummer and Anita Lambrecht opened the Summit not just in Zurich, but also as avatars in the virtual space of Horizon Workrooms. Allowing the hybrid audience to dive into the topic straight away. With members of the Liquid Legal Institute at the forefront as avatars and hybrid speaker. Karla Schlaeper, Kai Jacob and Robert Dilworth reported about their personal virtual becoming, practical challenges with the goggles and scary first steps in the new environment – but also the impressive feeling of a new form of community across all physical and digital boundaries.
A (r)evolution ?
Even if the metaverse is still new to many, the concept of creating immersive experiences has a long human history. Gaming, the entertainment industry and arts are in the pole position of its technological realization and financial exploitation. Closely followed by commerce. Currently, modern hardware, technology, and especially artificial intelligence are reaching a sophisticated level of maturity. This momentum allows us to connect the dots, to accelerate progress and to scale. However, being still at an early stage, this momentum also gives us time to explore and understand the mechanisms behind the metaverse. Notably, enabling progressive lawyers to safeguard the future. It will also depend on our − the legal stakeholders’−active involvement to shape this disruptive revolution so that it ultimately means progress for many.
Meta’s 3 key pillars & how Google is concerned about our data
Controversial as they might be, Meta and Google are visionary companies that are quickly driving the development ahead. Meta has pledged to build the metaverse on the 3 key pillars of standardisation, interoperability as well as privacy & safety. Surprisingly, Meta is among the first members of the new Metaverse Standards Forum to work on such open standards and interoperability for the metaverse. During the Summit, the topic of privacy & safety was picked up by a data protection specialist of Google. Among many other topics, the main focus was on unbalanced Terms and Conditions, the importance of fairness, bona fide, control, self-determination, and fundamental rights consideration of legislature. All carried by the customer-centric motto: “Do not surprise the people!” Following this motto, Meta is showing us in detail the company’s vision, its considerations and even the status quo of the technology and hardware to be used.
Where legal certainty can be found
It is difficult to practice law when the legal world lacks the required experience to understand the mechanisms behind the metaverse, digital collectables such as NFTs or crypto assets. Is our existing law sufficient to face the future? Are we confusing access to law with simplification of law? Why are the most important building blocks of the digital world still in a legal limbo: our data?
Imagine the metaverse would know our rights wherever we are. And whoever we are. Setting user-centric terms and conditions. How would that be possible? By taking advantage of an unchartered digital space and the possibility of automated data exchange.“
The lack of clear legal regulation was the common thread running through the entire Summit. Making the metaverse feel like a digital Wild, Wild West. Except, when it comes to taxes. States might not be ready to protect our privacy and personal interests sufficiently, but tax law is a source of inspiration on the actual worth of digital assets−our data. Is that sufficient for immersive virtual reality?
Cash cow or generator of happiness?
The metaverse stands for sheer endless scalability based on a (more or less) free, inexhaustible resource. An environment that is purely artificial, following the laws of technical design. Designed to leave us wanting more, such as upgrades of our digital representations (“avatars”), our digital surroundings, only limited by our fantasy and financial possibilities. But will it make us happy?
The Summit closed with reflections on the impact of the metaverse on our human mind. The key takeaways being: We as social beings need human bonds and interaction to preserve happiness. Social media has become successful because it hits that string. Depending on finding the right balance between online and offline life. Experiencing human presence without the limits of local ties or biological constraints is the next evolutionary step. A deeply personal digital transformation of society.
Enabling human progress
The Summit showed that the potential is enormous in all respects. Deciding what will be right or wrong depends on the human values we share. Or do not share. The metaverse is built on our data. Mirroring our dreams and interests. Not much different to our laws, which have the purpose to regulate human interaction based on current societal beliefs. But how can we regulate an inherently international space like the metaverse? By applying our new digital mindset from our digital transformation of the last decade to the next decade, the immersive transformation by the metaverse. Bringing the legal system on par with technology with the help of a digital twin of law. Imagine the metaverse would know our rights wherever we are. And whoever we are. Setting user-centric terms and conditions. How would that be possible? By taking advantage of an unchartered digital space and the possibility of automated data exchange. Because in a digital world the program determines our reality.
Think digital: #Liquid Legal Institute e.V.