The metaverse? Yeah. - Impatient Health
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The metaverse? Yeah.

January 5, 2021

Paul Simms

I’m overwhelmed by the number of articles titled ‘What’ll be the role of healthcare in the metaverse?’ What will this new 3D, ‘embodied’ version of the internet do?

Immediately we are filled with grandiose ideas, AR versions of the physician’s office, the ability to learn, diagnose and treat together, and a happy place full of happy-clappy people.

Well, Facebook started out like that too, before it became, as Prof Jonathan Haidt puts it, a “gigantic tidal wave of depression, anxiety, self-harm and eventually suicide“. It’s got to the stage where many parents would now rather give their young children an illegal drug than an Instagram account. Haidt has been cataloging all the published research into the effects of social media since 2019 (see and concludes that “​​we are now raising our children in an environment that starves them of the experiences they need most while waterboarding them with experiences that are useless or harmful.” 

Facebook (Meta) just announced that 20% of its employees – more than 10,000 people – are working on the metaverse. These are predominantly male, high-IQ, low-EQ engineers who built the previous online world. No psychologists involved, no sociologists. The only incentive: grow fast, hack repeatedly, and make it cool. And now we’re going to go into the next, more immersive phase, also designed by low-EQ techies with a strong business incentive.

As Haidt explains, “I don’t see any reason to think this is going to work out well… it’s going to do far greater damage to our kids and our democracy than what’s already happening. Imagine a public square in which people are masked: you have no idea who is who, and there are no consequences for bad behavior.”

The truth is, most social media destinations start out as utopian dreams before causing harm. Indeed, all societies, online or offline, take time – centuries – before civilization and peace dominate.

So what do I hope healthcare’s role will be in the #metaverse? Not supporting, but SAVING US FROM IT

Digital health should be the antidote, not the slave, to Zuckerberg’s irrational wet dreams.

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