Meta (Dead)Verse: Virtual Landgrab, Digital Opiates for the Exploited, for profit, Masses.

In Hebrew, Meta, means DEAD.

Facebook’s announcement that it is changing its name to Meta has caused quite the stir in Israel where the word sounds like the Hebrew word for “dead”.

Virtual landgrab and digital opiate for the masses – monetizing the metaverse

So this is the DEAD verse. I get that!

When we consider how how easily the masses are duped? Selling DEADverse should be a cake walk. Profitable for business. Destructive for humanity.

Started here: Biometric Virtual land grab digital opiate for the masses- Is there really “virtual land”? Think about that?

“We believe the metaverse will touch nearly every person on Earth over the next decade and will be worth trillions. It will reshape the way people make their livelihood and it will be a powerful tool for social mobility” … really?

Metaverse opportunities abound for digital identity firms if they are willing to go even further upstream in its creation – and cannabis cultivation……

The metaverse at the Meta rather than the Open Meta DAO end of the spectrum would not just allow people to share cannabis growing tips on a fake island, but would provide the metaverse owners with vast new swathes of user data, according to reporting by Vice.

Metaverse to ‘monetize all human behavior’ and become the ‘ultimate surveillance tool’

The metaverse at the Meta rather than the Open Meta DAO end of the spectrum would not just allow people to share cannabis growing tips on a fake island, but would provide the metaverse owners with vast new swathes of user data, according to reporting by Vice.

The metaverse gives us “a more complete vision of what Facebook’s intentions are” says Janus Rose in conversation on Vice’s Cyber podcast, discussing her recent article on how biometric sensors in VR headsets could complete Meta’s harvesting of user data in the 3D realm.

“When a billionaire (Bill Gates as another example) says something, we’ve started to accept it as true or as fate or inevitable,” says fellow podcast guest and panopticon expert Chris Gilliard. He describes tech such as VR headsets as part of “luxury surveillance” – items such as the Apple Watch and typically associated with the wealthy, that perform variety of functions, and collect biometrics but are not thought of as surveillance equipment.

The guests discuss the idea of the metaverse being an opiate for the masses and whether the world’s owner class are happy to keep people occupied and out of politics while in the metaverse.

Usually, I’ve no use for VICE. But, occasionally they present material that is worthwhile.This is one of those instances

Zuckerberg’s Meta Endgame Is Monetizing All Human Behavior

Exploiting data to manipulate human behavior has always been Facebook’s business model. The metaverse will be no different.

When Facebook bought Oculus and its much-hyped Rift headset for $2 billion way back in 2014, it wasn’t clear exactly what the social media company had in mind for the resurgent frontier of virtual reality. But to anyone familiar with the company’s countless scandals and insatiable appetite for personal data, it wasn’t hard to guess.

The announcement of Meta, the company’s VR and AR-forward rebrand, is the culmination of a vision that should have been obvious from the start. In 2021, Facebook’s colonization of social data has eclipsed the internet as we know it, and its ambitions now demand the creation of a new reality where intimate data about our social and physical behaviors can be captured and exploited for profit.

During a tech demo in 2016, CEO Mark Zuckerberg described VR as “the next major computing platform”—a space where all our social interactions will play out with new levels of physical presence thanks to headsets and motion-controllers. As I wrote at the time, this could only mean one thing: Zuckerberg wants to build virtual environments where all human behavior can be recorded, predicted, and monetized.

At the time, the company told me it had “no current plans” to use physical motion data like head and eye movements as a means of predicting behavior and serving ads. Since then, it has made logging into Facebook a mandatory requirement for users of its Oculus headset—a requirement it was recently pressured to remove. And earlier this year, the company announced its inevitable entry into VR-based advertising, inspiring enough backlash to cause one Oculus developer to abandon its plans for VR ads altogether.

While the bait-and-switch is a familiar and unsurprising move for The Company Formerly Known As Facebook, the announcement of Meta proves that there is no stopping Zuckerberg’s plans to mine every human interaction in the world for data that can then be monetized. The brand shift notably comes at a time when the company is under intense scrutiny for its role in spreading disinformation and violence around the world, reinvigorated by revelations from whistleblower Frances Haugin. (This whistleblower narrative is iffy)

With Meta, it’s safe to assume the predictive algorithms at work will be functionally the same as its predecessor. Data is collected about human behavior, which is then used to build profiles on users and automatically prioritize content they are more likely to interact with. Facebook itself proved the effectiveness of this manipulation with an “emotional contagion” experiment it secretly conducted on users in 2012, which showed that changing a user’s feed to show positive or negative content altered the types of content they were likely to post.

This type of algorithmic manipulation forms the core business model of Facebook and countless other apps and social platforms. As one anonymous Silicon Valley data scientist put it in a 2015 paper by Harvard emeritus Shoshanna Zuboff, the goal of algorithmic social platforms like Facebook is “to change people’s actual behavior at scale […] identify good and bad behaviors, and develop ways to reward the good and punish the bad.”

Researchers have found that this algorithmic “nudging” is possible in embodied virtual spaces too, where the collection of intimate data about physical body movements provides new ways to influence human behavior on a large scale. Companies like RealEyes and Affectiva have marketed AI that they say can predict human emotions by analyzing body language and facial expressions—a claim that is fiercely contested by AI experts but being widely deployed anyway. In one notable study, researchers determined that AI-controlled digital avatars can be used in virtual spaces to push people into accepting certain political views.

In other words, Meta represents a massive investment into the very kind of algorithmic manipulation for which Facebook has been repeatedly maligned.

Meanwhile, the company has been on a charm offensive to sell its new vision. Zuckerberg spent the bulk of his presentation of Meta showing off a VR-centered social platform where our avatars live a utopian, Sims-like existence filling their virtual houses with digital items purchased from an online marketplace. In the grand tradition of Zuckerbergian cringe, the newly rebranded company spent the rest of the day sending thirsty replies to popular brands on Twitter.

But despite the changed name, Meta remains as Facebook-y as ever. Zuckerberg’s company pioneered the art of collecting data and using it to algorithmically capture our attention for profit regardless of the social cost. If the metaverse really is a thing and not just another bizarre Silicon Valley pipe dream, Meta seems intent on making this new reality just as shitty as the old one.

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