EU to Promote Euro-Centric Metaverse Regulation

On November 28th, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) adopted a draft own-initiative report for virtual worlds, with 31 votes in favor, two against, and eight abstaining. The report calls for the EU 27-member nations to lead the way in metaverse development and reduce tech dependency on other countries with metaverse strategies.

Rapporteur Pablo Arias Echeverria from Spain remarked that the EU can’t lag behind in the next digital revolution, and that the group cannot afford to repeat past mistakes. In his view, the EU needs to lay a foundation for Web4 rooted in “strong EU rules, guiding principles and values,” placing citizens at the heart of the region’s digital future.

Among the statements in the report were that the EU should work to create a level playing field for European businesses in the fourth iteration of the internet, along with creating digital worlds that promote and respect EU values, fundamental rights, and consumer protections. Creating a suitable policy framework and educating citizens about the responsible uses for this tech are important.

According to the press release, the MEPs recognize the opportunities and dangers of the metaverse. Opportunities include new ways to develop economies, work and educate, while dangers focus on the impact of the metaverse on childhood cognitive development, sensitive data processing, cyber violence, and more.

This is not the first time the EU has dipped its toes into the metaverse landscape. Earlier this year, an EU proposal stated that it wanted the metaverse to reflect EU values and fundamental rights, while promoting openness and interoperability. In particular, the words used were “trustworthy, fair, and inclusive.”

The EU lags behind the U.S. and some other countries significantly when it comes to tech, with one report saying that the EU is home to just three of the largest 50 tech companies in the world. This gap is also true of tech unicorns, the majority of which are in the U.S. or East Asia.

What is Web4?

The EU caused a stir earlier this year when it made mention of Web4, with some X users wondering how it had skipped over Web3 altogether. So, what is the fourth iteration of the internet that the European Union is planning for?

According to its own definition, Web4 is when virtual worlds — a term it prefers to the ‘metaverse’ — will be integrated with the physical world, creating a symbiosis between technology and our present reality. The technologies that will play a role include the blockchain, extended realities, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

In this environment, we would achieve full immersion, where the separation between virtual worlds and the physical are not distinguishable. It is also likely that we will reach this point by entering the “singularity,” or a moment in time when technological progress becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, with an alternate form of intelligence (AI) at play.

There are many different ideas on when humanity will reach this point but some experts believe it’s coming and coming fast. One AI expert said that the singularity will be reached by 2031, while many believe that a soft launch of the metaverse will occur around that year. Time will tell if these predictions come to fruition but there’s no doubt we are accelerating into a strange future, one in which no one knows what will happen.

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