Fernando Broncano - Professor of Philosophy of Science: «The State, which makes us citizens, is losing its technological sovereignty»

A woman works at the headquarters of the South Korean company SK Telecom. / EFE

The professor, one of the authors of the report 'The metaverse and the soul', believes that the desire to attract attention is a danger to society

Antonio Paniagua

The metaverse, the great pending internet revolution, is going to bring about a change that seems unpredictable, not only in the technological order, but also in the economic and political order. Fernando Broncano, professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science at the Carlos III University of Madrid, is one of the authors of the study 'The metaverse and the soul: a journey to the next tourism challenge', a work carried out by Segittur and Turium and which was presented yesterday at the headquarters of Vocento. For Broncano, it is worrying that the great powers abdicate their technological sovereignty and negotiate with large corporations assuming the position of servants.

-What arouses the metaverse, hope or fear?

-I have mixed feelings, but I'm not a 'disastrologer'. Whenever technological expectations are glimpsed, both fear and anxiety appear as well as the possibilities of development.

-With the metaverse, will reality and fiction be indistinguishable?

-Some people can already fall into that problem. There are people who isolate themselves and get hooked on platforms and screens. This problem is going to increase and precautions will have to be taken. However, neither now nor in the coming decades do we have the technology to confuse the two.

-Which sectors can be seen more favoured?

-Tourism, which is based less and less on the sun and beach model, is increasingly geared towards enjoying experiences. If before we appealed to the imagination to visualize some ruins, soon, through augmented reality, we will be able to see what Naples was like or observe reconstructed Pompeii, which will create innovative structures. Virtual museum areas will also experience a boost. Not only will it be possible to see the museum at home through a screen, but in the museum centers themselves there will be virtual reality devices.

-Will there be a strengthening of the power of the large monopolistic platforms?

-That's the main question. It all depends on how web 3.0 develops. If I had to bet I would say that in the next ten years there will be an extension of what we already have, I do not see that we are going to a decentralized environment. It is also true that the metaverse is very much based on blockchain-type technologies, which allow very strong encryption, which enables independence from general providers.

«Tourism that is oriented towards the enjoyment of experiences will be one of the most favored sectors»

-Has the time come for society to control the heart of technology?

-The State, which is the one that protects us and makes us citizens, is losing its technological sovereignty, when this issue should be a strategic axis. Google knows more about each one of us than the State itself. Not even China or the US can negotiate on an equal footing with the technology companies. Rather, the states seem to be servants of the great lords of the companies. The states have to put the batteries to develop their own technologies.

Hooked on fictions

-Social networks have fostered populist ways of doing politics. What do you think will happen in the future?

-Both the media and the networks focus attention on the most extreme people, so that the one who shouts the most appears with more light. YouTube and TikTok are moving towards virtual reality environments, with which their users are left hooked on fictions. In this sense, there is not so much political polarization, which persists with the current networks. What happens to the metaverse remains to be seen.

Will the effort to capture our attention at all costs break down the already weak social cohesion?

-It is a question that generates me enough fear. People, instead of going to Zara to buy, will enter the metaverse with their avatar and will have a display much larger than the one in the corner store. People are going to isolate themselves even more, the self-absorption will accelerate and stay at home will be accentuated, when what is needed is to create face-to-face centers.

"If before the value came from the hours worked, now it is extracted from attention and leisure time"

-And how can this scenario affect banking?

-The banks are the ones that are considering a lot the problems that come to them. If the system is decentralized, the financial entities will have to reorganize. In fact, the big platforms are already considering creating an alternative bank. The future of traditional banking will be subordinated to the technologies that are created. For a few years the metaverse is going to be the realm of developers.

-The omnipresence of the digital harms the mental health of users?

-If before the economic value came from the hours worked, now it is extracted from leisure time and attention. This is a scarce commodity: our brain cannot do several things at the same time, it is capable of adapting, but it wears out and suffers. That is why it is not uncommon for all these technologies to be aimed at prolonging the time of attention. In this sense, I foresee an increase in anxiety and excitement.

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