The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

While most Americans aren’t utilizing the Metaverse, our adversaries are.

Forget TikTok—China is leapfrogging America in the arms race to command the Metaverse, an evolving frontier where our personal data is the treasure, and national security hangs in the balance. Remember when we thought our defenses were foolproof? This new arena raises questions that not only expose our military vulnerabilities but also demand urgent scrutiny from a public blissfully ignorant of the stakes.

We’ve all seen hubris backfire before: the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic, the Maginot Line, and even the supposed invincibility of the Death Star in Star Wars. Time and again, overconfidence in national defense mechanisms has proven a recipe for disaster, exposing glaring inadequacies at the worst possible moments.

Born from Facebook’s billion-dollar aspirations, the Metaverse—often hailed as the next great leap in human interaction—is a sprawling virtual landscape, from digitized cityscapes to NFT-art galleries to virtual real estate. While AI once reigned supreme in the media as the solution to all earthly woes, it’s now sharing the limelight with this burgeoning universe. But let’s be clear: neither is a panacea for global challenges.

The Metaverse is increasingly a militarized space, far from the public eye and the scrutiny of an under-informed media. It’s becoming the ultimate sandbox for asymmetric warfare, integrating 3D imaging, augmented reality (AR), and AI to create an advanced toolkit for military planning. Forget needing an entire floor at the Pentagon for operations; the Metaverse offers the same functionality on a simple laptop.

In a previous exposé, I delved into the “Crimaverse”—the Metaverse’s seedy underbelly, a playground for ransomware attacks, financial scams, and other nefarious activities. But the rabbit hole goes deeper.

Enter the so-called experts from the United Nations, more enamored with the technology’s bells and whistles than concerned with its militarization. Their lack of critical analysis is not just naïve; it’s downright dangerous. When those wielding lofty titles exhibit such an alarming lack of pragmatic insight, you have to wonder: Who’s guarding the guardians?

Our military strategy needs an overhaul. We require a defined framework for electronic warfare, encompassing the myriad nuances of cyber conflict. Only then can we begin to grasp the Metaverse’s real-world potential for harm. This involves far more than theoretical battles; we’re talking about the capacity to manage and disrupt critical infrastructure from power grids to traffic lights.

Perhaps most alarmingly, the Metaverse offers terrorist organizations a rehearsal space for real-world mayhem, a way to fine-tune the mechanics of an attack on major cities. It’s not just state actors we need to worry about; the threat landscape is far broader and far more frightening.

As China, Russia, and even our allies explore the Metaverse’s myriad applications—from training simulations to strategic planning—we can’t afford to sit on the sidelines. This isn’t just another technological advancement; it’s a clarion call for those concerned with national security and the evolving frontiers of conflict.

For a more in-depth discussion on the weaponization of the Metaverse for asymmetric warfare, you can read my full article “Weaponizing Metaverse for Asymmetric Warfare” by clicking here.

This isn’t just a wake-up call. It’s a five-alarm fire, and the time to act is now.

James Carlini is a strategist for mission critical networks, technology, and intelligent infrastructure. Since 1986, he has been president of Carlini and Associates. Besides being an author, keynote speaker, and strategic consultant on large mission critical networks including the planning and design for the Chicago 911 center, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange trading floor networks, and the international network for GLOBEX, he has served as an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University.