Diving deeper into the Web: what are the risks?

The internet as we know it, with browsers and social media platforms, is changing into another digital ecosystem, known among tech enthusiasts as Web 3.0. Digital companies are already investing in new technologies that will offer people the opportunity to dive into the so-called metaverse – a deep augmented virtual reality; a mixture of social media and a massive online video game.

“This is seen as a challenge from the perspective of health. Spending more time online connected to the metaverse with gadgets may reduce levels of physical activity and give advertisers many more ways to promote unhealthy products such as junk food, tobacco or alcohol,” explained Dr Kremlin Wickramasinghe, Acting Head of the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCD Office).

At these early stages when stakeholders are still developing this space, public health experts and policy-makers should clearly define and integrate health promotion strategies into digital ecosystems.

Recently WHO organized a series of events and published a factsheet titled “Tackling Noncommunicable Diseases with Digital Solutions” that provides some examples of digital health approaches used by WHO’s NCD Office.

Creating a healthier metaverse

Digital advertising is a worldwide business worth billions of US dollars. Social media have become a major opportunity to promote unhealthy products online because in many countries of the Region this territory is a legal grey zone with no strict rules for advertising.

In addition, digital formats can effectively disguise advertisements of tobacco products, unhealthy foods or alcoholic beverages as user-generated posts, memes, news articles or entertainment formats.

“For greater effect, governments and policy-makers need to consolidate their voices around the requests for the main online platforms that have a massive impact on people’s online lives. The platforms can behave differently across all different health topics, to create a healthier ecosystem in the WHO European Region and far beyond”, said Tobin Ireland, Special Industry Advisor to WHO/Europe during the Digital4NCD conference held in Moscow in December.

Healthy metaverse: how can we promote h…

Finally, with new virtual and mixed reality spaces comes the potential for new targets. Just as buildings, events and people can be harmed in the real world, so too can the same be attacked in the virtual world. Imagine swastikas on synagogues, disruptions of real-life activities like banking, shopping and work, and the spoiling of public events.

A 9/11 memorial service created and hosted in the virtual domain would be, for example, a tempting target for violent extremists who could reenact the falling of the twin towers. A metaverse wedding could be disrupted by attackers who disapprove of the religious or gendered pairing of the couple. These acts would take a psychological toll and result in real-world harm.

It may be easy to dismiss the threats of this blended virtual and physical world by claiming it isn’t real and is therefore inconsequential. But as Nike prepares to sell virtual shoes, it is critical to recognize the very real money that will be spent in the metaverse. With actual money come real jobs, and with real jobs comes the potential for losing very real livelihoods.

Destroying an augmented or virtual reality business means an individual suffers genuine financial loss. Like physical places, virtual spaces can be designed and crafted with care, subsequently carrying the significance people afford things in which they have invested time and creativity building. Further, as technology becomes smaller and more integrated in people’s daily lives, the ability to simply turn off the metaverse and ignore the harm could become more challenging.

New Targets in the Metaverse

Impact movement and purpose driven economy

The key to solve and prevent these problems is the model and the strategy. We have the resources, the knowledge, the skills, the tools, the science, the information, the infrastructures, the funding and the organizations we need to address all these problems and more. We have and we are enough to deal with these enormous challenges, but we need to change the approach to problem solving.

Every problem can be solved through innovation, science, technology, political reform, education and collaboration. But we need strategy. And motivation.

Profit is key.

Millions of organizations and individuals want to be a part of the solution but oftentimes don't know what they can do, how to do it, or they don't have the right incentives to do so. We have been taught that there are only two options. Or making money or giving money. Or for profit, or non for profit. Leaving a huge space of opportunity in between, of what we can do to create an impact in a way that is economically or professionally beneficial for those involved in the solution.

We see an “impact generation”, a generation of all ages that is extremely concerned about the environment, equality, human rights, education, health and justice and our common future, and that would like to contribute to make the world a better place. More and more people are starting to become change makers and advocates, and most organizations have realized that sustainable development giving back to society is not an option anymore.

This social action is part of a wider invisible but omnipresent trend, and evidence of the “improve the world” movement, the largest social movement in human history. It is the movement of movements that started with civil rights and peace, and now it expands unstoppably in every nation under the umbrella of the UNSDGs.

We gravitate towards a purpose driven economy. An impact economy, where impact is at the core of every organization's activity, because the precise reason you can make money, is by solving an actual problem that makes the world better.

But we all need to pay the bills. And making an impact can be a good business.

The UN promises that achieving the SDGs brings a 12 trillion dollar opportunity. Even the investment sector is turning rapidly to impact investment, especially after Larry Fink, CEO BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, announced that sustainability would be a top decision making factor in their investments, looking for opportunities to maximize value creation and reduce negative effects of their activity. Many have followed, maybe after realizing how important it is to generate a positive impact, or maybe just to make sure their reputation survives the social pressure for environmental protection and social justice. Either way, it is a positive trend.

It is not about deciding between making money, being evil and destroying the world, or being good and giving away money to charity. Not anymore. There is a growing space in between, where companies and individuals can develop, be profitable and grow in a sustainable way using their resources to improve the state of the world with their activity. A space that's taking the lessons from CSR with the new approaches of the fourth sector and for-benefit enterprises to find the most effective strategies to help firms, large and small, understand how advancing impact does not need to mean sacrificing growth and sustainability.

The gig economy, the sharing economy, the smart cities, and the circular economy concepts are proof that we are gravitating to a new era of business, one that leverages the power of the technology, the collaboration between individuals, the resource optimization and the sustainability at the core. We are about to create an impact economy, where the core business of companies is to solve problems and improve things and make a profit for it. And the opportunity is massive.

Impact movement and purpose driven econ…