"If you want to read a blog to get a sense of what is going on in Hong Kong these days or a blog that would tell you what life was like living in colonial Hong Kong, this blog, WALTER'S BLOG, fits the bill." Hong Kong Blog Review
"Well, if you think kids spend too much time online now, wait until Mr Z gets his vision up and running."
As Mr Z announced his latest innovation, why didn't he have the courage to call it the "The Matrix"? After all, his "Metaverse" has the necessary dystopian elements with an omnipotent Mr Z sitting atop the virtual mountain. A verdict not helped by Mr Z's avatar displaying more warmth and humanity than the real thing.
I'm asking, are we to allow this flaccid nerd further direct access to our brains because that is what he wants?
I don't suppose Mr Z is evil, but he's driven to prove he's the most intelligent person in the room, and that is a worry. I've defended him in the past, but these days I'm less keen. He controls a global empire that has indisputably done harm — along with much good — and yet he ignores the downside.
Recent revelations by whistleblowers cause me to question whether he should remain the final arbiter of many aspects of life in the West. I'm sure he didn't seek that role, yet that is where he is, given the reach and success of Facebook.
I said the West because Facebook is banned in China and elsewhere. Meanwhile, other countries, such as India, are imposing tighter controls in response to concerns that the platform is feeding extremist behaviour.
Mr Z's Metaverse envisages a 3-D virtual space where you can share an immersive experience. Guess where this is going. Yes, sex is again proving a driver of innovation.
Porn propelled the expansion of the VHS video market, while sex websites did the same for the early internet. Libido was also at the genesis of Facebook; a nerd rejected by a girl because of his poor interpersonal skills gets revenge through a website rating women.
From one million users in 2004 to 608 million six years later, you've got to give Mr Z his due. Facebook has more members than people existed 100 years ago. That's some achievement.
Of course, the marketing teams will trumpet the positives of the Metaverse, and these are real. The potential of such a system is immense; medical care, teaching, entertainment and shopping are all in there. And while a low-resolution version of the Metaverse exists, these proposals take the process a significant step further. What could go wrong?
Well, if you think kids spend too much time online now, wait until Mr Z gets his vision up and running. He is offering them the opportunity to drop out of reality, to spend their time in an immersive fake world without consequences or responsibilities. That is a tempting prospect in a world of trouble.
The technology will use motion detectors that mimic human activity with hand, eye and body movements. We already have that with 3-D headsets. What we don't have is Electroencephalogram (EEG) technology to pick up brain patterns. That's the scary part of Mr Z's proposals.
This technology is playing with the fabric of who you are as a person. It intrudes into the intensely private parts of the brain. That alone is disturbing. Acting in a feedback loop, the Metaverse presents the possibility of a progressive and relentless deterioration of our capacity to control our brains.
The Metaverse also has the potential to put cybercrime on steroids. With fake avatars a possibility, crimes and cyberbullying would prove relatively easy as the line of reality further blurs. In short, Mr Z could control how you experience the world.
We know that Facebook has a history of unscrupulous behaviour, including manipulating emotions, filtering news, and curtailing aspects of free speech.
Then, again, others believe the Metaverse is a long way off. Instead, they see Mr Z's announcement as nothing more than an attempt to distract the media and the public from the allegations made by whistleblower Frances Haugen.
The former employee leaked documents revealing that Facebook appears to have a cavalier attitude towards the company's negative impacts. At Congressional hearings, she said that Mr Z is not a bad person; yet, he is unsuited to the role of CEO. In her view, he's long been aware of the dangers of Facebook and yet doesn't act.
It doesn't help Mr Z that aiding and abetting him is Nick Clegg. Remember him? He's the former U.K. Deputy Prime Minister politician who promised U.K. students no rise in fees. Yet, once he had their votes in the bag, he increased fees as part of a coalition deal. In short, he has few scruples.
Cleggy is now Mr Z's spin doctor with a busy portfolio. He's spent the last few years defending Facebook against allegations it allowed interference in elections, gave a platform to extremists and live-streamed a massacre. Plus, until recently, Facebook came riddled with anti-vaxxing nonsense.
There is a school of thought that Facebook would be considered a rogue state if a country. And yet, Facebook operates with impunity. No legislature, no law enforcement agency has managed to rein in its excesses.
In 1909, the U.S. government acted against Standard Oil under antitrust laws to curtail the companies dominance. Today, is any politician brave enough to deal with Facebook to reduce the stranglehold on social media and how we see the world?
Mr Z has 10,000 staff working on the Metaverse, with billions invested in the project. So we need to watch him like a hawk because, if nothing else, the opportunities for criminality are endless.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.