The Chinese metaverse is dystopia

An 8 trillion dollar market. The sky is the limit of freedom and slavery.

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The metaverse, this virtual world in which teenagers around the world enter with headphones and controllers, could eventually bring in $8 trillion.

This fascinates Mark Zuckerberg so much that he changed the name of Facebook (the parent company) to Meta and develops haptic gloves that interact and give tactile sensations. Haptic combinations that provide full-body feeling are under development.

Chinese Tencent announced on June 20 that it was also jumping into the metaverse. A new unit of about 300 Tencenters is accelerating software and hardware development for the metaverse.

Microsoft, Disney, ByteDance (the owner of TikTok) and Apple are also meta-developing.

Eight trillion dollars will capture Beijing’s attention. Much of it will come from China’s 1.4 billion consumers. The regime will try to use this market power to influence the content not only of the Chinese metaverse, but also of the global market.

But while Chinese companies will be neck and neck with the West in hardware and software, they will be at a severe disadvantage in developing meta content.

Beijing’s censorship rules and ban on cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), like “Bored Ape” photos (including a fanciful one at over $99 trillion), will make it impossible to thriving, decentralized community of metaverse content producers. Even tattoos are banned for soccer players in China, so don’t expect to buy a Uyghur “Bored Ape” with a mohawk.

A participant demonstrates the Owo Vest, which allows users to experience physical sensations during metaverse experiences such as virtual reality games, including wind, gunshots or punches, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Jan. 28, 2019. 5, 2022. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

Given the popular demand for novelty and the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) aversion to diversity, the metaverse is likely to split along national lines, at the very least between China and the rest.

And the Chinese metaverse could become dystopian.

If you try to say, for example, “Taiwan is an independent country” or “Falun Gong is a protected religion,” voice recognition technology combined with artificial intelligence (AI) might make your avatar say the opposite. No one, not even you, the user, would necessarily know that what your avatar said in the metaverse has anything to do with your true beliefs.

Compliance could be awfully total.

Haptic suits and goggles that provide pleasure or pain could be developed to reward or punish behavior based on CCP goals. The state could force citizens to wear them.

Hearing and sight could be fully mediated by metaverse earphones and glasses. Augmented reality (AR) combined with AI could allow the CCP to make you hear what it wants you to hear, even when you’re talking to your spouse in your bedroom.

Today is science fiction. But China is so “advanced” in technologies of social control that we should consider mitigating the risk of a meta-dystopia rather than hoping for the best.

Meta-China will almost certainly include a lot of “Xi Jinping Thought” and Marxism with Chinese characteristics.

As punishment for not memorizing the propaganda, you could be forced into hours of virtual sweeping and mopping, while listening to communist slogans on repeat. Miss a spot and your haptic suit gives you a zap.

Compare that to the metaphorical “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll,” complete with a liberal dose of violence, that already populates the metaverse of the West.

For example, watch the aforementioned video by TheProGamerJay, who has 2.7 million followers on YouTube. It’s near the top of Google’s results when searching for “haptic suit”.

In the western metaverse, the sky is the limit, and everything else is boring, putting mom, dad, and Xi at a disadvantage.

Take violence, for example. The most popular video games and meta games are full of gunfights and knife fights, with “ketchup” squirting liberally across the screen.

This is not the case in China. There, the blood must, by law, be colored green so as not to violate censorship rules against too much gore.

Beijing’s attitude towards the metaverse is indicative of its antagonism towards individuals and their idiosyncratic desires. TheProGamerJay, for example, wants to feel pain in his haptic vest. He does this by sticking sandpaper and nails inside.

Most of us don’t want pain in the metaverse. But we defend TheProGamerJay’s right to speak.

In this, at least, the Beijing regime is still at a disadvantage. They fail to understand that popularity requires acceptance of humanity in all its diversity.

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Epoch Times.

Anders Corr

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Anders Corr holds a BA/MA in Political Science from Yale University (2001) and a PhD in Government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea” (2018).

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