Job Losses, Cyberattacks and the “Balkanization of the Metaverse”

“We don’t want a balkanization of the metaverse”. That was the message from Nick Clegg, president of global affairs at Meta, who is among a number of senior tech executives at Davos this year.

His message at a panel discussion to discuss Meta’s priorities – in keeping with the World Economic Forum’s title for this year’s annual meeting: “Cooperation in a Fragmented World” – is fitting. He called on big tech companies and governments to work together to ensure interoperability between the different versions of the metaverse that remains under development.

“We are at the foothills of the Metaverse,” is how Mr. Clegg described the nascent Metaverse, which could ultimately create a hybrid world with a multitude of uses, including education and healthcare. Meta’s product manager, Chris Cox, said “we are now fully post-Covid and looking at what 2023 has in store.”

Technology, in what it presents in terms of opportunities and challenges, is in the spotlight this year at the World Economic Forum. From the implications of the rapid development of AI to changes in working models and industrial leaps, technological changes were integrated into most of the sessions and discussions in Davos.

However, the Forum issued a warning on Wednesday, publishing a report explaining that geopolitical instability increases the risk of a “catastrophic cyberattack within the next two years”.

According to the report, 93% of cybersecurity experts and 86% of business leaders believe the threat is due to geopolitical turmoil around the world. US-China tensions, Russian isolation and threats from Iran and North Korea were among the risks discussed in Davos this week.

Global Affairs Meta President Nick Clegg says that

“De-risking rather than decoupling” is how the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, sees relations with China progressing. And while his statement, as part of his opening remarks on Thursday, was about the general relationship, it applies to the technological side of the relationship.

Mr. Clegg noted that while Western apps such as Facebook and Twitter were not available in China, Chinese technology was available worldwide. This is an advantage that China currently enjoys, but it is still unclear how it will develop over time.

Another tech-related theme was the financial impact of the current economic downturn on tech giants. Companies such as Meta, Amazon, Twitter and more recently Microsoft have announced thousands of layoffs.

However, most tech executives viewed these developments as part of an adjustment after massive hiring during the pandemic. Mr Clegg explained: ‘What is happening now is a course correction. Mr Cox said Meta “maximizes relevance” in an age of continued turbulence in the digital realm not too dissimilar to the physical realm.

Updated: January 18, 2023, 4:58 p.m.

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