Quantum Mechanics and Metaverse(接受考拉财经采访)
Han Feng: As a visiting research fellow, I joined the Institute for Advanced Study at Tsinghua University not long ago. The Institute for Advanced Study was founded by Chen-Ning Yang(Nobel Laureate). It used to be Tsinghua University Center for Advanced Study. My current research focuses on quantum entanglement and spatio-temporal topology, so I stick to my own academic style. I’ve started to study the blockchain and metaverse, because both of them are based on quantum mechanics.
Speaking of the definition of metaverse, to be honest, it is impossible for us to nail down a definition that will be accepted by everyone. I can only talk about my personal feelings and cognition, as well as why metaverse becomes so popular now.
Since I began to explore blockchain in 2013, I’ve been explaining bitcoin with my cognition of quantum mechanics. I’ve written several books on blockchain(In Chinese), including my latest book Blockchain and the Wealth of Nations. But to tell you the truth, the response is not very good. Although I think it’s quite natural to study blockchain and bitcoin based on quantum mechanics, many people, including some of my friends who study bitcoin such as Wu Gang and Ju Xie, thought it’s farfetched to correlate blockchain and bitcoin with quantum mechanics.
However, when it comes to metaverse, this logic is much easier to accept. The logic chain used to explain blockchain with quantum mechanics is a bit long and not straightforward enough, but in the case of metaverse, the cognition of quantum mechanics cannot be more direct in interpreting metaverse.
Let me put it briefly. In the simplest terms, people may not be able to accurately and scientifically understand some of the most common concepts such as the parallel universe and Schrodinger’s cat, but there is no doubt that quantum mechanics brings us a brand-new cognition. Quantum mechanics is actually polymorphic superposition. In quantum mechanics, a variety of states can be superposed at the same time. The life and death of a cat is a typical example. In real life, the cat never be alive or dead in the same time, but in the quantum mechanics, there is a parallel world where states that originally seem to be incompatible can coexist, such phenomenon have been proved by science many times.
Figure 1 Butterfly dream of Chuang Tsu, painted by Fan Zheng
This seems to be contradictory to people’s common sense. Unless, the world is haunted, otherwise how can life and death exist at the same time? Nevertheless, when I started to study the metaverse, I suddenly thought of a story I heard in college. It is a beautiful and simple story about the butterfly dream of the philosopher Chuang Tzu. Chuang Tzu became a butterfly in his dream one night, which is of course an experience that most people will have. But the great part is that Chuang Tzu wrote a fable about this. He put forward a philosophical question-Chuang Tzu became a butterfly in his dream and the butterfly became Chuang Tzu at waking, which one is true? This is a well-known story. Freud was greatly inspired by this while developing his psychology.
This is a breakthrough. This is a typical cognition of the parallel world. The butterfly in Chuang Tzu’s dream is put in an equivalent position with Chuang Tzu, the dreamer. In the cognition of common people, the butterfly is purely illusory, and only Chuang Tzu actually exists. Chuang Tzu is so great that I think he can be regarded as the originator of metaverse. He dispelled the boundaries of cognition. Chuang Tzu considered himself ontologically equivalent to the butterfly. Naturally, there is a parallel world. If there is only one world, it is unnecessary to discuss this matter. The butterfly is definitely illusory. But if the parallel universe does exist, the butterfly is also a kind of being which is not more illusory than the real Chuang Tzu or the dreamer himself in the cognitive system of Chuang Tzu. They are ontologically equivalent, which is great wisdom. It’s awesome that Chuang Tzu developed such a high-level awareness of the world over 2,000 years ago.
Why is metaverse so popular now? The butterfly in Chuang Tzu’s dream might disappear when Chuang Tzu woke up. But now, the advanced VR and AR technologies are capable of saving what happen in your dreams and even your brain waves. Therefore, the butterfly can survive and continue to exist as a kind of being in the digital world. This is technologically feasible, and the blockchain solves the most fundamental problem. Can a world in my dream or a world in a parallel universe operate as an independent decentralized economy? Is it possible to make money and create wealth in this world? It was impossible in the past. But with blockchain and bitcoin, it is possible. Why? Digital things also have their ownership. With clear ownership, free economy, e.g. smart contract which is actually the invisible hand proposed by Adam Smith, can be carried out in accordance with the laws and regulations of the free market. Once determined by smart contracts, free economy can be run independently of the centralized organizations in real life, which forms a real parallel world. In other words, the butterfly in Chuang Tzu’s dream can become something with clear ownership, e.g. the non-fungible token (NFT), a tradable asset or an economy. The second-generation decentralized Internet that Elastos have been developing now is the underlying technical support of this Metaverse parallel world, and the ecology of Elastos will definitely develop in accordance with the logic of the Metaverse.
As a matter of fact, the bitcoin is equivalent to a capitalized and digitized butterfly to some extent. Besides, the wealth generated by bitcoin in the parallel world is overwhelming now, reaching trillions of dollars and continuing to grow. Both Li Lin and I believe that the wealth created by bitcoin will exceed that of gold sooner or later. The total wealth generated by gold is 8 trillion dollars, which is definitely not the upper limit of bitcoin. To put it another way, influenced by traditional cognition, people may consider the bitcoin illusory in such a parallel world and they even think that it does not really exist. With the combination of current technology and blockchain, it is no longer impossible. As mentioned by Chuang Tzu in his fable, it is ontologically equivalent to the people who exist in real life. In terms of economic operation, the bitcoin can run independently and create wealth consensus in the parallel world, and it has already happened. Therefore, the bitcoin has a promising future.
I’ve arrived at some conclusions. I think that the future development of human civilization, especially interstellar civilization, should be mainly based on the form of metaverse, because only the digitized butterfly can perform trading in the universe at the speed of light in the future, while human beings won’t be able to do that. I think that Musk’s attempt to help people immigrate to Mars is definitely a high-entropy and costly practice, which is certainly not something that can be achieved and imitated in the near future. However, the consciousness of human beings can reach Mars at the speed of light. I won’t go into details today. Hence, the metaverse, as the next stage and future of human civilization, should be based on the cognition of quantum mechanics. Philosophically, Chuang Tzu already told a perfect story about metaverse two thousand years ago. Thank you for your listening.