Vasco Pedro is the CEO of Unbabel.
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According to a recent Bloomberg Intelligence report, the metaverse is an $800 billion market. Still others argue about what the metaverse actually is, but with so much money and curiosity surrounding it, it has everyone talking.
Undoubtedly, AI will play a huge role in the metaverse, especially as we communicate with others. While we’ll be more connected than ever, AI untethered to any government, standard or ethical code can have diabolical implications. As former Google CEO Eric Schmidt asked recently, “Who gets to set the rules?”
Understanding the implications of AI
Because AI algorithms are built by people with biases, they can be created to follow the thought patterns and biases of their creators — which can then multiply. We’ve seen how AI can create gender bias, for example, or how AI can give larger credit card limits to men than women, or that certain ethnicities are more prone to unfair bias. To create a flourishing and more equitable metaverse, dark AI patterns that can create and perpetuate bias need to be addressed. But who gets to decide? And how can humans avoid bias?
The solution to mitigate this “unchecked AI” is to develop ethical standards across all organizations. From our view, dark AI patterns can be invasive. Most AI is developed without ethical oversight, and this must change in the metaverse.
We need to be sure that language AI is trained to be ethical as well.
Using AI to translate messages in the metaverse
As an avid language learner and founder of a company that uses AI and humans to connect people globally, I’m excited by the prospect of everyone becoming super polyglots — able to speak multiple languages — but I’m even more interested in understanding how that AI will work.
In the metaverse, many users will likely be communicating in their own languages, with potential AI-based language translators. Language technology powered by AI can perpetuate bias if we are not careful. We need to be sure that language AI is trained to be ethical as well.
Imagine Joe’s avatar wants to speak with Miguel’s avatar, but Joe and Miguel don’t speak the same language. How does AI translate their messages? Directly? Or do we translate for the person’s intent rather than literally, so that the person receiving the message can understand?
Blurring the lines between human and machine
How “human” we are in the metaverse will matter. Businesses can use language technology to quickly translate interactions into different tongues, which can help create online community, trust and inclusion.
However, if we are not careful with the words we choose, technology can also create bias or allow for uncivil behavior. How so? Have you ever heard a 3-year-old speak to Alexa? Personable is not the word for it. When people know that they are interacting with technology and not actual humans, they do not feel the need to be polite. Instead, customers are rude to chatbots, Amazon’s Alexa and automated phone lines. The list goes on. In an ideal world, the AI for language will capture the nuances and empathy needed to accurately represent a human, so that the metaverse becomes a place where human and technology flourish together.
Impersonal AI in the metaverse could also be negative. The right language can create real, emotional connection and understanding. With AI-powered language operations, the right message can help humanize a brand. The technology that can help brands communicate in many languages instantly will be pivotal. We believe customer trust is built by native language. But how can a borderless, virtual society have a native language? And how can that environment create trust?
As I mentioned before, the metaverse has huge potential for businesses to gain more exposure in a virtual world. People are already shelling out serious dough for virtual fashion, and this trend will only continue. Brands need to find ways to create online experiences that feel authentic or even better than in-person interaction. That is a high bar to surpass and smart language communication will be a part of that journey.
What the metaverse ultimately looks like is anyone’s guess. However, no one wants to be the brand remembered for how their AI disproportionately affected one group of people over the other or how their AI dehumanized their product. AI will get better and better at predicting patterns for good. However, left unchecked, AI could have serious implications for how we “live” in the metaverse. That’s why responsible or ethical AI ethics is necessary.
When AI powers language, chatbots or brands’ virtual realities, there are numerous opportunities to lose customer trust or feelings of humanity. It is up to AI researchers and experts to work together with brands to find solutions for responsible AI frameworks so that we can “live” in the metaverse peacefully.