DUBAI: The world is now moving toward a new computing platform based on a profound and immersive sense of presence, regardless of geographic distance, Meta’s President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg told the World Government Summit on Tuesday.
“We are on a journey, a long journey and it is an expensive one…You are in effect not creating a new app or a new piece of hardware or a new experience, but you are in effect creating an entirely new computing platform,” Clegg told a large audience attending a session titled “AI augments governance: responsibility and accountability.”
The shift will see people go from holding phones in their hands to being immersed in experiences that are now only available in 2D, Clegg told the session’s moderator, Omar Sultan Al-Olama, the UAE’s minister of state for artificial intelligence, digital economy and remote work applications and the WGS’ managing director.
Giving Zoom meetings as an example, he said: “Imagine sitting around a virtual meeting room as an avatar or eventually as a hologram, and having a meeting — not staring at a screen but being in a virtual room together…Now that sounds futuristic! It’s actually something that can happen now.”
Clegg has been holding weekly Monday meetings with his team from around the world in the metaverse in something called work rooms, a product that Meta produces.
“Everybody looks suspiciously 20 years younger and several pounds lighter…That’s the avatar that people tend to choose. But the amazing thing (is that)…once you have the headset on and you’re talking to people, you feel you are breathing the same air in the same room because the audio technology is as if someone is sitting to your left or right or a few meters across a large meeting table.”
The Meta official said he has seen in the UK and Europe a significant shift in the perception of social media. While it was touted as a panacea when it erupted onto the scene almost a decade and a half ago, it now seems to be perceived as quite the opposite.
“You’d think it’s the source of our problems,” Clegg said.
“Of course, neither is really true…excessive optimism and excessive pessimism, neither of which (is a) sensible attitude towards technology. The truth is always somewhere in the middle.”
Having migrated from politics to the technology scene at Silicon Valley, he said: “It has been very interesting to try and play a bit of a role almost as a bridge and a translator between those two different worlds.
“I think you and your (UAE) administration have been a real leading example of wonderful combination of optimism and realism about tech…That is the right mix,” Clegg told Al-Olama, adding that while technology offers great opportunities, there are downsides that must be mitigated.
“If we can get away from that violent mood swing…of excessive utopianism and excessive pessimism, then we can extract the best from technological innovation...whilst avoiding those two extremes,” he added.
He referenced the virtual reality developers in the UAE who are working on medical applications for medical students, who “can learn how to develop their medical skills in an immerse experience.”