Sometimes, you just stumble over something and think ‘my thoughts exactly’. Now I admit this happens rarely to me, as I am a chronic dissenter, but Doug McMahon’s statement ‘Why’ he is developing a Constitution for the Metaverse (while admitting to not using
Second Life actively, fancy that) strikes me as the straight continuation of my own thoughts in ‘Wild, wild west 2.0’.
The question of why I would seek to draft a constitution for the metaverse, and why I think it might need one, is an obvious one. I genuinely believe that any online world in which users seek some kind of autonomy from the real world cannot function satisfactorily without one. To this you might reply that
Second Life, the leading metaverse, seems to be doing just fine. But I would question whether the benevolent dictator model for metaverses is really sustainable. All the power in Second Lifeis concentrated in the hands of Linden Lab s, they are the archetypal judge, jury and executioner with the added twist that they are also the law makers and the executive in the world. I am by no means accusing Linden Lab sof anything underhand in this, I recognise the efficacy of this for their business model and that without it the world may not exist, but I am questioning whether this is a system under which one would or should chose to live.
The fundamental goal of a constitution is to distribute power in such a way that it allows for a fully functioning society whilst protecting the individual from the state. The goal is the rule of law – power under law, not under men. To those who resist the introduction of law into the metaverse I say this: first, it need not look like the law of the real world, indeed it should not look like the law of the real world; second, law is already pervasive in the metaverse, in the form of the ToS document, copyright and contract law, law suits brought in the real world concerning metaverse events. The only way to restrict the impact of laws not suited to the metaverse is for the metaverse to have its own.
I think we might have to watch this one…