Saint Mary’s Students & Faculty Discuss “Metaverse” Ethics

Posted On: 2022-02-11

Source: Hendrickson Institute for Ethical Leadership (Dr. Chris Bobier, Dr. Matthew Gerlach, and Br. Robert Smith)

Ever wonder about how virtual reality is changing us as individuals and communities? If you have watched the news recently, you may have come across stories about the “metaverse”: a woman alleging to have been sexually assaulted within minutes of logging on; the dangers the metaverse poses for kids; or how the metaverse will likely redefine education, work, shopping, and other human activities, for good or ill. 

Wednesday, February 9th, 7:00-8:00 p.m., Saint Mary’s students and faculty enjoyed a dynamic discussion about “The Metaverse and Ethics in Data” at Salvi Lecture Hall in Saint Mary’s Hall on our Winona campus. Dr. Joseph Tadie and Professor Michael Ratajczyk led the student-faculty discussion which was moderated by Dr. Chris Bobier, Associate Director of the Hendrickson Institute.

In this highly interactive discussion, students and faculty discussed a wide range of theoretical and practical questions, including:

  • What is the boundary between what is virtual and what is real? 
  • Am I morally responsible for my actions in the metaverse like I am when I’m not hooked up? 
  • What data do metaverse companies gather, and how do they use it for purposes other than what users may intend? 
  • What ethical responsibility do businesses have for known negative impacts of their “metaverse”? 
  • Could metaverse experiences be used positively, for instance, to promote virtuous character development?

This event was co-sponsored by the Data Analytics Club and Hendrickson Institute for Ethical Leadership. Caleb Gundberg, Saint Mary’s student and co-president of the club, valued the experience: “In a world of immersive technology that is ever-changing and businesses are often motivated mostly by profit, Dr. Tadie and Professor Ratajcyzk did a great job helping our community dissect the sources of the metaverse and the character of the organizations driving it.”

If you have ideas for future student-faculty events related to ethics and leadership, please let us know at hendricksoninstitute@smumn.edu.