Virtual Ethics and Morals From Social Contracts to Smart Contracts

Communities in The Metaverse: Virtual Ethics and Morals From Social Contracts to Smart Contracts
5 Minutes
Ali Hashemi
August 9, 2022

The “Metaverse” is currently one of the. most talked about topics online. Facebook has seen an accelerated number of mentions of metaverse since their rebranding to “Meta” and announcing the brand being a Metaverse company. The novelty of the phenomenon, “metaverse”, mixed with Facebook officially joining the game will definitely keep the conversation warm. However, we all know this is more than a trend, the concept of the Metaverse was introduced back in 2003 with second life, an online virtual world. This was the closest users were to the virtual worlds on the web, since then, Metaverse has matured over the years, and only now that we have the basic technology to make it a reality for everyone with the newly introduced medium of Web 3.0.

Web 3.0 is a leap forward to open, trust-less, and permissionless networks. It is open as the codes are built on open sources software that can be accessed by anyone, trust-less in that the network itself allows participants to interact publicly or privately without a trusted third party and permissionless as everyone can interact with each other without the authorization of a third party.

Now the important question is; In such an environment where no governing body controls the communities and the interactions between users, What, and importantly who will define what is good and what is bad?

This question is not far from comprehension, we have asked that question before the age of the internet when we were forming our opinions of morals of the world around us and in developing an understanding of ourselves through philosophy. Even during and after the age of enlightenment, philosophers introduced the concept of existentialism, one of the strong pillars of existentialist concept was Ethical Responsibility; Ethical responsibility is the ability to recognize, interpret and act upon multiple principles and values according to the standards within a given field and or context.  

In another word, we believe that in today's modern societies, responsibility is an ethical concept that refers to the fact that individuals and groups have morally based obligations and duties to others and to larger ethical and moral codes, standards, and traditions.

What distinguishes wrong and right in a real society is the social contract; we know there are some boundaries we cannot bypass just by virtue of being born or living in that particular society. For example, in a real society, we know that killing people is wrong.

In Web 3.0’s blockchain technologies, the rules, policies, and what cannot change on the network are defined by a multitude of codes called smart contracts. A smart contract is a computer program or a transaction protocol that is intended to automatically execute, control, or document legally relevant events and actions according to the terms of a contract or an agreement. They are not changeable and computers would execute the terms of the contract on every interaction in the Metaverse more efficiently than any human being. Developers of Communities in the Metaverse should pay close attention to including the social contracts into smart contracts and by using this technology define special parameters to control the right of every user to experience, interact and express freely on these platforms. Following our previous example, if we know that in real societies killing people is wrong (Social Contracts), developers and designers of the Metaverse universes should come up with smart contracts that would - by default - make it impossible for anyone to eliminate the other users.

The concept of “care” in ethics is another topic to analyze and implement in self-sustaining communities like the Metaverse. By defining smart contracts that make users care about each other and reward them with such moves we can encourage better interaction between users and a safer environment for everyone.

As Jacques Derrida in 1997 after deconstructing the concept of Justice itself mentioned: “Exercise of justice involves free will.” Metaverse is the only place that can maximize every individual’s free will without centralized control over it. so this new look of Free Will will also bring a new look to justice itself. we may need to redefine a just environment

All in all, Metaverses' self-sustaining community ethical framework should be based on individual responsibilities. As Aristotle (5th Century) famously said, “We become good by practicing good, not by following external rules”. Every individual member of the metaverse should have the right to be free, decide freely, and report any type of immoral act in order to keep the community safe.  

As an example, imagine you are talking in a clubhouse room you created with a few of your friends, a new user appears on the channel and you give this user permission to talk when the user starts, your realize their speech is abusive, racially unjust and is full of hatred. In this case, you have either the option of muting the user and ejecting him/her if the user continued this behavior or let them talk freely. In this example, you as the person who created this virtual room in Clubhouse would become the judge of good and bad behavior. Based on the social contracts you have in real life you know that muting this user would benefit everyone else, also if you choose to report the abusive user you would be helping the smart contracts and policies of these platforms to be enhanced for a safer environment for everyone.

At REISE we're exploring the Metaverse with our partners and taking into consideration the ethics and morals for digital best practices. Share with us what you would want to achieve with your community on the Metaverse and we'll help you navigate this space. Let's Collaborate!