China has set its sights on influencing the burgeoning metaverse, a technological realm that promises vast virtual worlds, and its recent proposals exhibit striking parallels to the country’s much-debated social credit systems.
Drafted by China Mobile, the state-owned telecoms operator, the proposals spotlight establishing a “Digital Identity System” tailored for all metaverse users. The intention is that this ID should encapsulate both “natural characteristics” and “social characteristics.” Such characteristics would span an array of personal data points, from one’s occupation to “identifiable signs”. A particularly stark recommendation within the proposals is that this compiled information should be “permanently” stored. Furthermore, it should be accessible to law enforcement agencies, ensuring “the order and safety of the virtual world.” The proposals were first reviewed and reported by Politico.
“Spreading Rumours and Creating Chaos”
To paint a clearer picture, the proposals put forth an illustrative scenario. Enter “Tom”, a hypothetical metaverse user who disrupts the virtual peace. Tom “spreads rumors and makes chaos in the metaverse”. With the proposed digital identity system in place, authorities would have the capability to pinpoint and subsequently penalize Tom swiftly.
These discussions aren’t confined within China’s borders. In fact, they form a segment of broader dialogues between global tech specialists and officials affiliated with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). This body, an arm of the United Nations, shoulders the responsibility of formulating global regulations that dictate the trajectory of technological evolution.
Chinese public and private stakeholders have aimed to establish global benchmarks for emerging technologies at the ITU. Western officials have expressed concerns about this approach, noting China’s intent to advocate for a more government-regulated model of the internet and telecommunications.
China’s Metaverse Plans
In a recent discourse in June, Wu Zhong-ze, previously holding the title of Deputy Minister of China’s Ministry of Science and Technology, highlighted the pivotal role the metaverse could play across varied sectors. His remarks show the growing significance of the metaverse and, by extension, other Web3 technologies.
This recognition comes even as China enforces stringent regulations around cryptocurrencies and NFTs. However, the nation doesn’t ignore the potential Web3 technologies harbor, especially their capability to fuel its digital economy’s growth.
Integration of Metaverse in Key Sectors
Central to Wu Zhong-ze’s message is the importance of connecting the metaverse into crucial economic sectors: education, commerce, healthcare, and entertainment. He envisions a future where harnessing the metaverse could usher in transformative advantages, paving the way for unprecedented opportunities within these industries.
China is more than just content with passive exploration. As the metaverse landscape witnesses exponential growth, Wu Zhong-ze stressed the imperative nature of setting forth industry benchmarks. These standards are not mere guidelines; they’re envisioned as the bedrock ensuring the metaverse ecosystem’s growth, stability, and ethical progression. Through the distinction of clear parameters, China aims to carve out a metaverse arena that simultaneously nurtures innovation, promotes collaborative ventures, and mandates regulatory adherence.
China’s endeavors to sculpt the metaverse’s future are clear. With a dual focus on regulation and innovation, the nation seeks to be at the forefront of this digital frontier. However, by intertwining technological advancements with stringent monitoring, the nation treads a thin line between innovation and restrictions on its users. The global community watches intently, wary of the implications of such oversight in China’s metaverse blueprint.
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