The Internet is bad enough, don’t mess with the meta universe

Since Roblox wrote "Metaverse" in its prospectus, Facebook announced that it would become a metaverse company. Metaverse has been pinned on the high hopes of the next generation of the Internet. A large number of technology companies are vying to hold high the banner of "Metaverse" for fear of themselves Defined as a "classical Internet company."

Although not many people can clearly explain what the metaverse is, the Internet should be no stranger to this kind of madness and excitement. It's just that we can't distinguish whether this is the suffocating dream of sharing economy and community group buying, or the ridicule that Jobs encountered when he pulled out the first generation of iPhone.

That being the case, let us put down the telescopes of science fiction movies and take a look at the recent hot events that seem to be irrelevant to the meta universe. I think there are hidden the most important things about the meta universe.

NFT, which is also popular but a bit incomprehensible, NBA star Curry spent $180,000 to buy an NFT avatar, and Wong Kar-wai also released his first NFT movie;

Tencent announced that it has given up its exclusive music copyright, but the grayed-out playlist in NetEase Cloud Music does not know when it will come back;

Minors ushered in the most severe measures to prevent addiction in history, and began to form a group to play a star and rent an account to buy an account. The account is yours, but the access to the game is not yours;

South Korea has become the first country in the world to pass legislation restricting Apple, Google and other technology giants in the app store. Apple still refuses to relist "Fortress Night" on the South Korean App Store.

All these news points to one thing- the ownership of digital content and services , although many people don't care at all. But if we are willing to believe in a meta-universe blueprint like "Ready Player One", this is a problem that cannot be ignored, even more important than AR, VR, and digital humans, which seem to be closely related to the meta-universe technologies.

▲ Picture from: "The Number One Player"

I don’t doubt that we can finally build a virtual universe that is comparable to the real world in terms of the five senses. Almost all the technologies involved have already taken shape, just as most of the technologies that support today’s Internet have appeared decades ago, and we have already passed. The stage from 0 to 1.

However, do we have a meta-universe by constructing a sufficiently realistic virtual world? In the last article , we used Liu Cixin's novel to describe the picture of the meta universe.

Soon, it will not be a computer but a brain that will be connected to the Internet. The next logical thing is that people’s memory, consciousness and all personality will be able to be uploaded to computers and the Internet. It is possible for human beings to live in a virtual world—the virtual world, if you think about it, where people can do everything and want There is nothing, just like God. There, one person can own the entire planet!

Such a meta-universe is not so much the next-generation Internet as it is a world parallel to reality, a brand-new social form.

Then, the metaverse has changed from a technical problem to a social problem .

Just enter the meta-universe, the Internet will only get worse and worse

Assuming that technology can already allow us to immediately enter the oasis world in "Ready Player One", and completely virtualize the body like Liu Cixin did in "China 2185", and become a new species, then we can really enjoy Elysee Paradise there forever Happy?

In such a cyber world, the lowest physiological basis for Maslow’s needs no longer exists. We can easily obtain material happiness, but the nature of the Internet has not changed. It is just bigger and more three-dimensional, and it is truly all-round. Cover our lives.

▲ Picture from: "Blade Runner 2049"

While we are gaining dopamine that has doubled, the negative effects of the Internet will also be amplified to the greatest extent .

Playlists grayed out, anti-addiction restrictions, big data acquaintances, and account closures. Although many people are uncomfortable with the problems encountered in the Internet, they will not have much impact on our lives because of real life and virtual worlds. There is a clear line.

But when the virtual world is our entire life, it is completely different. Imagine that the real estate agent can stipulate that you can only go out for three hours a day, and the retailer can confiscate your personal belongings at any time. Don't worry about the hotel's pinhole camera. Every inch of your skin will be uploaded to the server.

When Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would transform into a metaverse company, it caused a lot of concerns about data privacy. Verity McIntosh, a VR expert at the University of the West of England, said:

Part of the reason Facebook has invested so much in VR/AR is that when users interact on these platforms, the granularity of available data is an order of magnitude higher than screen-based media. This is not just about where I click and the content data I choose to share, but about where I choose to go, how I stand, where I pay the longest time, my body moves and the subtleties of responding to certain stimuli Way of data. This is a direct way to a person's subconscious mind. These data are a treasure of gold for capitalists.

In view of Facebook's exposure to privacy protection in the past, such concerns are not excessive. And this is just one of the problems brought about by the centralization of the Internet. As Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, said, the Internet has now deviated from his original intention of "free and open."

Internet service allows me to enjoy unprecedented convenience, provided that we give up the ownership of data . Even the music and e-books we paid to subscribe to, or even chat records and Moments, we don't really own them. Once the server is shut down or the Internet company adjusts the business, these may no longer exist.

According to the user agreement, the data created by users is actually the private property of Internet companies.

Recently, there is a movie called "Out of Control Player". The protagonist guy is an NPC character in the game. When his consciousness awakens affects the game release, the game owner wants to kill him in various ways like a god, even destroying the server. In the end, the guy survived only because the game owner let it go.

The ending of "Out of Control Player" and "Number One Player" is similar. In the end, Oasis World became a digital utopia because the game owner changed from a profitable businessman to a kind-hearted protagonist.

▲ Picture from: "Out of Control Players"

However, "the basic axiom of economics is that human beings are profit-seeking" ("Three-Body II"). The metaverse may become an online society that truly crosses geographical boundaries. When there is a God who can manipulate everything in this world, is the hope of mankind only Can you count on God's mercy?

In the past few years, there was an article about "The Internet is Done, Already." "It is about the various problems brought about by the centralization of the Internet. It was a bit sensational to see this title at the time, but when the Internet is going to develop in the direction of the metaverse, it may even be worse than the author expected.

A report shows that about 42% of websites are hosted by five companies, and 67% of cloud services are controlled by four companies, including Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. Our commonly used Internet services are basically concentrated in a few giants. We have regarded these companies as The water, electricity, and coal for the Internet are digital kingdoms in the meta universe.

If it is so difficult to connect WeChat Pay and Alipay now, can we really expect the next generation Internet brought by Metaverse to bring us a better experience?

To become a digital utopia, there is a premise that is more important than reality

Although there is endless hype about the meta-universe concept, fortunately, we may not migrate into the meta-universe earlier than humans immigrating to Mars. There is still an opportunity to develop the technology to build a realistic virtual world while fixing the problems faced by interconnection.

At present, most Internet platforms that label themselves "meta universe" may not even count as version 0.1. This is not just limited by hardware technology. Thinking about it carefully, the reason why we can’t really treat a virtual world as a real life is really Because it is not realistic enough ?

▲ Roblox, known as the first unit of the meta-universe concept.

The reason may be that we have to make a living in the real world, and our various social relationships are gathered offline, and most people's most important assets (such as houses and cars) are only circulated in reality. On the Internet, we can't even own a song or a book.

If the meta-universe is an online society parallel to the real world, then these things must correspond one-to-one in the virtual world. We need at least a set of "Internet ID cards" that can be used in all virtual worlds, and an economic system that can circulate in the real and virtual worlds.

WeChat can be used as people's "Internet ID card" to some extent. This ID connects most of China's social relations, but there are still many platforms that cannot be crossed.

At the same time, the meta universe will reshape the social structure. Many industries in the real world may disappear completely in the virtual world, and more new economic activities will be born. Science fiction writer Chen Chufan believes that Metaverse will bring a new value system and cannot continue to use the original currency.

In Chen Maofan's science fiction novel "AI2041", he envisioned a new currency unit that could be linked to the needs of the upper levels of the pyramid of needs such as love and belonging.

This may be too far away. To return to reality, at least let us have our own digital assets on the Internet. Now the hot NFT is doing this. Unfortunately, the current NFT, like Bitcoin, has gradually evolved into a speculative target. What people care about is how much a picture can sell for a high price.

However, the technology of NFT itself is of great significance to digital assets. NFT is a unit of data stored on the blockchain and has unique and irreplaceable characteristics. Each digital asset represented by NFT has unique value.

▲ Guess how much these avatars cost.

In short, NFT can prove that a certain digital content belongs to you, and allow your digital assets to be circulated, traded, and monetized just like the real world.

In addition to NFT, another key application for building a meta-universe economic system may be DeFi, (Decentralized Finance), also known as "Virtual Wall Street".

As the name suggests, DeFi is a financial system built for cryptocurrency to realize peer-to-peer transactions between users. However, third-party institutions such as banks using blockchain smart contract channels can realize peer-to-peer transactions between users. All processes are executed automatically due to the code.

However, DeFi also has risks. Some time ago, hackers used smart contract vulnerabilities to steal cryptocurrency worth 610 million U.S. dollars. However , it is precisely because of the immutability of blockchain that it is difficult for hackers to secretly transfer assets after stealing. DeFi can still be expected to build the infrastructure of the financial system in Metaverse.

Both NFT and DeFi use decentralized technology to determine our ownership of digital assets and promote the circulation and transactions of these assets. Platforms based on these technologies have also seen another difference from Roblox. The prototype of the meta universe.

For example, Axie Infinity, an NFT game whose single-day income once exceeded that of "Honor of Kings", the biggest difference between this game and traditional games is that it adopts a "Play-to-Earn" model. The pet Axie in the game, Virtual real estate, equipment and props will become players' real assets, which can be traded and withdrawn.

This game is particularly popular in the Philippines. According to reports, many players earn more than local income in Axie Infinity. Axie Infinity's trading volume reached 1 billion U.S. dollars in August, which also became the highest trading volume in Ethereum's history.

At the same time, the game also uses a decentralized governance model. Axie Infinity issues a governance token to players for voting to determine the distribution method in the community resource library, and even the future direction of the game.

A company called YGG (Yield Guild Games) is in the Philippines to provide players with initial assets to join Axie Infinity. According to their vision, this way is to create the largest virtual world economy in history.

▲Old people playing Axie Infinity. Picture from: PLAY-TO-EARN

One view is that Ethereum is a meta-universe without a cool front end , and blockchain is the same basic protocol as HTTP to the Internet.

The technical characteristics of the blockchain do have such potential, but there are also many potential risks. In the past, trustworthy third-party organizations were used as service intermediaries, such as large Internet companies. The blockchain can bypass middlemen in a decentralized manner, provided that the credibility of the blockchain itself is guaranteed and the code will not go wrong.

These problems cannot be solved quickly, and the value of blockchain has not been widely recognized, but it is indeed an important prerequisite for an oasis world. Assuming that the meta-universe is out of reach, at least it can make the Internet better. Think about us at the beginning Looking forward to why the meta universe is.

Web 3.0 and Metaverse, who is the future of the Internet

If you really regard Metaverse as the future direction of the Internet, rather than Huashang that raises stock prices and valuations. So instead of drawing pie unrealistically, it is better to really think about how to improve the Internet in front of you, otherwise, as mentioned above, the metaverse will only become an amplifier of the negative effects of the Internet.

The decentralized applications brought about by NFT and DeFi, the ownership of digital assets, the improvement of efficiency and the reduction of costs, these were summed up in another word before the popularity of the meta-universe-web 3.0.

Few people mention this term now. Web 3.0 hopes to bring the Internet back to its original free, open and decentralized way. It will record user data on different servers in a distributed manner, instead of centralized servers of individual technology companies. superior.

To this end, Tim Berners-Lee also founded Inrupt, a company dedicated to promoting the decentralization of the Internet, and launched a centralized network platform "Solid", but the commercialization of this platform is still slow.

▲ Tim Berners-Lee.

One of the bigger problems is the so-called decentralized web 3.0, users will not feel any difference when using the front-end. Decentralized data storage runs on the back end, and it is difficult for users who are used to trading data for convenience to have the motivation to change.

Because decentralized applications are not popular, developers often need to spend more experience developing various underlying technologies and tools, which will greatly extend the development time, and appear out of place in the Internet era, which is about rapid iteration.

From this perspective, the emergence of the meta universe may be an opportunity. An optimistic expectation is that Metaverse has not become another Internet concept that is overhyped, but is approaching our lives step by step, and people will become more aware of the significance of decentralization to the Internet.

After the meta-universe experienced some major algorithmic ethical issues, the people "trapped in the meta-universe" organized a decentralized force to rise, and the virtual human civilization opened a new page.

Otherwise, we still shouldn't have too many expectations for the meta-universe, let alone make it parallel to the real world, or even replace it.

When the Internet hesitated at a new crossroads, people opened a 29-year-old science fiction novel, pointed to a term called "Metaverse" and said: "This is the next generation of the Internet."

"Meta universe" is the most popular concept in the current science and technology circle. However, there are 1,000 "meta universes" in the eyes of a thousand people. No one can give an accurate definition. Most of them are a vague piece of science fiction works. contour.

"Meta universe" may be a digital utopia like in the ending of "Ready Player One", or it may be like Liu Cixin's depiction of tens of billions of virtual humans living on computers in the basement, and their bodies completely disappeared.

In the view of Kevin Kelly and other futurists, cyberization is the home of mankind, and the "meta universe" will give birth to a new form of virtual species, accelerating the transition from "carbon-based life" to "silicon-based life."

Is "Meta Universe" "The Next Big Thing" or is it a technology that is too early for mankind? We will discuss in depth through a series of topics, this is the second in the "Meta Universe" series.

Liu Cixin, China's first "metauniverse architect" | Metaverse series①

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