No vision for the metaverse

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No vision for the metaverse

Lee Sang-hee
The author is a former minister of science and technology.

 The metaverse is poised to emerge as a new norm. Presidential candidates like to use the term. But no one talks about our national strategy to develop metaverse technology, predict social changes in the future, and draw up plans to deal with them effectively.

The word metaverse first appeared in “Snow Crash,” a science fiction novel in 1992 by the American writer Neal Stephenson. Metaverse, coined by a prefix “meta” (beyond) and “universe,” is a digital world combining a virtual world and a real world. Second Life, introduced by start-up Linden Lab in 2003, is a metaverse service.

The metaverse intermingles cutting-edge technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), 5G networks and next-generation web techniques. Based on such technologies, the metaverse can be used in computer games, health and medical services, offices, art, defense, space development, education and construction. Given the Copernican discovery of a new — and boundless — frontier, we need to open the metaverse market aggressively.

How will the metaverse revolutionize our future society? Working from home on a constant basis will help remove all the painful commuting hours and online delivery and purchases will sharply reduce the number of restaurants, not to mention curtailing traffic accidents. It will also bring about huge changes in our lives, including the expansion of remote medical services and streamlining of legislation, judicial processes and public administration. In military terms, the metaverse will enable commanders to draw up effective operation plans as they can assess appropriateness of an operation in advance by deploying troops in the virtual space. Considering the significance of the historic transition, we must ride the gigantic wave assertively.

The problem is the difficulty in establishing authentic human relations online. But such obstacles can be overcome by community activities or fandom culture. We need to start discussions on the issue to prepare for any confusion expected before our society evolves to the metaverse at full speed, because the shift will affect a state or government once the metaverse space fully occupies our daily lives.

A metaverse government must change work patterns of civil servants to “smart work” and at the same time upgrade the quality of their service to the public. The top priority of the metaverse government is security. As most of the data the government handles require a high level of security, a perfect security technology must be developed, including cybersecurity that can block hacking, physical security of government offices and heightened work ethic for government employees. A dramatic transformation of the social environment and economic bases naturally leads to a shift in systems for running the government and state. In this respect, it could be better for the Korean government to first declare the construction of a metaverse state given the technological leverages it has.

A leader must present an insight to see the future and develop the economy. That is only possible when the leader establishes infrastructures for the development of social, economic and educational sectors based on the future-oriented and far-reaching metaverse technology. Societal debates and preparations are essential before we fully enter the wonderland of the metaverse.

If the next administration leads national reform based on the metaverse, it can open a new era, when it creates 3 million jobs, including 2 million digital jobs for the young people, and 3,000 trillion won ($2,500 billion) in GDP for the digital industry on top of $300 billion in digital exports by 2026. Presidential candidates must bear in mind that metaverse reform for the state is not just a fad but an epochal destiny. As the battlefield against viruses expands further and fast aging gets faster, human contact will decrease sharply. To address such conundrums, the next administration must start preparations to set up committees on metaverse, including those on public administration, coordination and international relations. If presidential candidates can come up with metaverse visions, it will help attract attention from the young generation, too. 
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
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