One of the main concerns of the military and those interested in military technology in both the real and virtual worlds, is Metaverse Wars, as many are wondering about the nature, form, tools, and effectiveness of such wars. Certainly, real wars stand to benefit from the metaverse world, but the question raised here is what is the nature of such benefits? And what is the possibility of the metaverse actually becoming a real battlefield for fighting armies? As technological developments achieved since the 1990s show that everything is possible and that the future may yet hold many surprises.
But before we delve into discussing these important questions, it is necessary to know: what is the Metaverse and how does it work?
What is Metaverse?
Contrary to common belief, the Metaverse is not a new concept or innovation, as the concept appeared years ago in many books such as “The Lord of the Rings” and “Neuromancer”.
Its first features were formed by computer games such as “Dungeons and Dragons” and “Habitat”, which became popular in the 1980s, and later with the emergence and spread of the internet in our daily lives, the concept evolved and became clearer, particularly with the invention of artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, which made interaction between physical objects and the virtual world possible.
In 2003, the so-called second life appeared, granting people a parallel life in the virtual world, where the inhabitants create permanent digital identities that enable them to enter this world, live in it and experience all its details, including marriage, study, hosting parties, and even buying things using a digital currency called The “Linden” that has a real-time exchange rate with the dollar, all of which inside a virtual world.
The emergence of the second life and its rapid development after that were clear indications that technology will not stop at this limit.
This virtual reality was the bases for what came after, and soon major international companies were competing in this field and producing a more powerful and attractive virtual world called Metaverse.
The rapid and amazing fusion of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR) technology and 3D environments enabled the intersection of the metaverse with almost every other field, from arts to goods and services to engineering, medicine, financial exchanges and military fields.
Metaverse declares war for control of virtual worlds
Which Metaverse will take precedence over the rest? Who will bet on it more in the future?
Tech giants like Meta, Apple and Google are working hard to create their own metaverse worlds, however, new players are emerging as well.
In addition to the project Facebook is working on, several other companies have already started competing projects, using different approaches and resources, such as Microsoft’s Minecraft, Halo’s Flight Simulator, Sony’s Epic and many others who are active in this field.
However, Meta’s project, which is considered an evolutionary step for social networks and the entire internet, remains the most ambitious project to embody the perceived idea of Metaverse.
According to Mark Zuckerberg’s vision, Metaverse will replicate the real world in a multi-dimensional virtual reality, including places to meet up with family or friends, and shops to shop for your avatar or yourself.
In addition, the Metaverse will also include social and cultural activities and events, spaces for games and auditory and visual entertainment, as well as digital schools and universities, and even companies and virtual workplaces.
To achieve the goal of 1 billion users in 2030, Meta invested $10 billion in Facebook Reality Labs by 2021 and possibly more in the following years.
The Metaverse & The military field
Since the emergence of aviation, military experts and field commanders (including professional pilots), have been using simulators to create combat scenarios and experiment with war plans, but with the creation of the metaverse, simulations gained another dimension, as Metaverse battle simulations resemble the real ones so much, that even military pilots find almost no difference between the two.
One thing is for certain, real wars always have a material and human cost, which may be enormous at times, and that cost increases as the war goes on, so do Metaverse wars have the same cost?
On the contrary, wars in the metaverse do not involve any human or material harm, given that the use of physical weapons is impossible, and the battles are virtual, But is it similar to a game where opponents fight before ending with a winner and a loser, who quickly return with the press of a button to play again?
The answer is “No”, the Metaverse puts the conflicting military forces in front of real challenges and actual confrontations in which each side demonstrates its strength, using the latest technological methods to inflict psychological defeat on the other side by showcasing its war technology and military inventions.
The virtual world in Metaverse will also be closer to the real physical world, as the conflicting military forces will be able to obtain weapons that were invented in the Metaverse in exchange for a sum of virtual money that can of course be exchanged for real currency, which means there is a possibility for damage to the financial markets originating in the metaverse as well as the real ones, i.e. any country’s losses in the virtual financial market will coincide with equal material and financial losses in the real market.
This prompts militaries to prepare for real wars and Metaverse future wars the outcome of which will quickly reflect on the real world.
In the era of the militarized metaverse, powerful tools simulating reality will be used, such as using social media to attack the enemy’s technological war machine by delivering strong blows to his software and cyber networks, as well as rallying crowds, and inciting the masses to participate in building a strong system that produces the desired effect.
Furthermore, we cannot discuss metaverse wars without mentioning the defensive strategy or the so-called metaverse defence, therefore, the defence ministries of the major global powers are seriously considering relying on Metaverse in the preparation of defence plans and development of defensive training scenarios for soldiers in the event of wars, which starts with dealing with different weapons and in different situations and ends with a study of the different places where battles can occur.
In general, the Metaverse defence represents a proactive mechanism for assessing and improving effectiveness on the battlefield, as well as a forum for communication and exchanging realistic ideas in real-time between the various military sectors and allies.
Before Metaverse, militaries relied on simulation networks, called SIMNETs, for training, which were considered the most important wide network of simulators for group training and mission replication.
Over the past two decades, various standards – most notably distributed interactive simulation and high-level engineering- have facilitated the integration of various training simulations, allowing military personnel to experience “fog and friction” combat in a unique synthetic space.
While this type of training is undoubtedly useful, the integration of different types of synthetic training has long been imperfect, as many of these applications are designed as homogeneous rather than interlocking units.
However, despite current interoperability challenges, a large portion of the synthetic training community still longs for a more realistic, interactive future that brings us closer to “Ender’s Game”, where fighters can train seamlessly in an interactive virtual world that mirrors real combat, which is exactly what the military is looking for in the metaverse, therefore it is not unreasonable to say that we can expect militaries to jump on this interactive semi-realistic space in which all elements of training merge.
Metaverse Defence will try to integrate other platforms such as Google, YouTube, Amazon, and even commercial platforms to create a large interactive platform that enables the full and rapid use of information, employing it to serve defence plans and strategies.
In addition, the defence doctrine within Metaverse will include protecting users from all kinds of individual and collective targeting of military privacy, by creating a network of rapid, organized and protected interactions with friendly armies which can deter any penetration of the cyber system.
Offering solutions to seemingly intractable military problems
Although Defence Metaverse can facilitate the preparation for virtual warfare, it is not the only way to prepare soldiers for this form of combat, as it is important to point out that Metaverse wars do not involve any casualties, however, this doesn’t mean that no harm could come from such wars, as they could upset the global balance through economic damages because the losses are exclusively financial.
Some say that defeated nations will lose money, meaning a superpower can lose its status overnight, depending on the ability of its cyber soldiers, which will be the first consequence of metaverse wars.
On the other hand, wars within the metaverse raise a serious question: Who is the soldier in this space? what is he like? More importantly, what tasks does he perform? will a country be forced to train all military personnel to fight within this world or would it be better to recruit the right players with experience in Play-to-Earn games?
We may not be able to accurately define the parameters of the metaverse soldier, as he may be characterized by a mixture of qualifications and the ability to carry out many tasks that are both technological and military in nature.
However, we must not forget that economic losses can always cause human losses. Albeit indirectly, the loss of many financial and economic assets in the Metaverse inevitably leads to the destruction of the country and thus the destruction of its people, not to mention the plundering of resources by cyber attackers, which is one of the most important challenges that this Metaverse soldier must face, at least in the short term perspective of the metaverse.
Furthermore, Metaverse promises a very advanced educational space, effectively contributing to the preparation of the qualified soldier with a high level of qualifications and readiness, by providing him with various and interconnected high-quality virtual educational opportunities tailored to his capabilities, wherever and whenever needed, he can also benefit from some Mixed Reality developments in education, whether civil or military.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic appeared, educational institutions have sought to improve opportunities for distributed learning through simulations and war games, through the use of augmented reality technologies that allow soldiers to better visualize a multi-domain combat space, by integrating experimental tools and techniques, as well as data and dedicated records in one environment, and today they are working hard to move to another type of education in the metaverse, which goes beyond simulation and tries to reach the learner’s integration in a more interactive space that is very close to reality.
Today’s big companies are working to integrate virtual activities with little human effort, through metaverse and education, thus ensuring that lessons learned from training or education can be used during tests, experiments and vice versa.
As more individuals gain access to information, communication and the exchange of ideas will become easier, which will inevitably be reflected in the social and psychological aspects that form the basis of wars today, and thus raise morale as well as the desire of the soldier to reach and conquer the biggest challenges and resist pressures, therefore focusing on battlefield effectiveness as the basis of the military battle is not enough, because the fundamental aspect of this war is the construction of social networking aimed at providing new and perhaps deeper possibilities for human interaction.
Previous software such as “Fortnite” tried to achieve social communication, as players can meet, communicate or make friends, however, Metaverse seeks to create deeper and broader relationships that allow military personnel to improve and consolidate their social relations.
Military service is not only a job, it is a lifestyle which dictates the nature and form of a soldier’s social life, therefore, just as military bases provide opportunities for communication and socialization as well as a variety of social activities for individuals and families.
Whether we are talking about health or recreational programs, health care or financial advice, the metaverse must contribute to deepening these relationships further and consolidating their construction.
This aspect cannot be disregarded, as many studies on the social and psychological aspects of military service and how they reflect on battlefield performance, revealed the existence of a profound direct link between the two, given that military personnel are usually required to change locations every 2-4 years, which puts pressure on service members, as well as their families, as spouses often have to find new job opportunities and children have to be enrolled and acclimated to unfamiliar school districts.
Therefore, the Metaverse promises to provide solutions to many of the social and psychological problems facing soldiers in their place of service, as this process can be simplified to allow the military institutions to provide servicemen with the resources and information needed to quickly direct them to civilian and military professional organizations to facilitate a smooth transition that reduces the factor of family turmoil and maintains ties with previous institutions, whether educational for children or professional related to spouses, which would provide stability and eliminate the need to cut professional relationships and old friendships.
« By: Dr Faisal Farhi (professor and university researcher)