Cover: The Metaverse and Homeland Security

The Metaverse and Homeland Security

Opportunities and Risks of Persistent Virtual Environments

Published May 22, 2023

by Timothy Marler, Zara Fatima Abdurahaman, Benjamin Boudreaux, Timothy R. Gulden

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The metaverse is an emerging concept and capability supported by multiple underlying emerging technologies, but its meaning and key characteristics can be unclear and will likely change over time. Thus, its relevance to some organizations, such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), can be unclear. This lack of clarity can lead to unmitigated threats and missed opportunities. It can also inhibit healthy public discourse and effective technology management generally. To help address these issues, this Perspective provides an initial review of the metaverse concept and how it might be relevant to DHS. As a critical first step with the analysis of any emerging technology, the authors review current definitions and identify key practical characteristics. Often, regardless of a precise definition, it is the fundamental capabilities that are central to discussion and management. Then, given a foundational understanding of what a metaverse entails, the authors summarize primary goals and relevant needs for DHS. Ultimately, in order to be relevant, technologies must align with actual needs for various organizations or users. By cross-walking exemplary DHS needs that stem from a variety of mission sets with pervasive characteristics of metaverses, the authors demonstrate that metaverses are, in fact, relevant to DHS. Finally, the authors identify specific threats and opportunities that DHS could proactively manage. Although this work focuses the discussion of threats and opportunities on DHS, it has broad implications. This work provides a foundation on which further discussions and research can build, minimizing disparities and discoordination in development and policy.

Funding for this research was provided by gifts from RAND supporters and income from the operation of the RAND Homeland Security and Defense Center (HSRD). The research was conducted by the Management, Technology, & Capabilities Program within HSRD.

This commentary is part of the RAND expert insight series. RAND Expert Insights present perspectives on timely policy issues. All RAND Expert Insights undergo peer review to ensure high standards for quality and objectivity.

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