Cai Hengjin: The Metaverse is the world of consciousness

Don’t miss the blockchain, don’t watch the Metaverse

Cai Hengjin: The Metaverse is the world of consciousness

Cai Hengjin: Professor of School of Computer Science, Wuhan University

The artificial intelligence industry is often classified as a technology industry, mainly engaged in science and engineering talents such as physics and chemistry, and has nothing to do with the pure speculative science of consciousness.

But we’re talking about the world of consciousness now because it’s just in time. In the new context, the mood of human beings when faced with artificial intelligence is just like when Cronus faced Zeus in ancient Greek mythology.

To avoid the tragedy of “child murdering the father”, we have to start from the characteristic of human beings – consciousness to find the answer. In order to find the advantages that humans continue to exert transcendence, we need to think about deeper questions:

Re-examine the relationship between consciousness and intelligence, the interaction between consciousness and the physical world, the relationship between consciousness and quantum properties, and whether machines or AI can generate consciousness when they have sufficient complexity.

Many scholars tend to use quantum properties to explain the problem of consciousness. Reduction model” (Orchestrated Objective Reduction Model, Orch-OR model for short).

According to their theory, there are a large number of entangled electrons in brain cells. Both the electrons in the universe and the electrons in the brain originate from the “big bang” and may be entangled together. Once entangled, information transmission can not be affected by time. and space constraints and implicit transmission.

Theories of quantum consciousness such as the Orch-OR model are highly controversial, and theories such as Buddhism explained by quantum are even less tenable. The rapid development of technology is forcing us to explore the origin of consciousness.

We have already mentioned that the jump between the quantum world and the classical physics world, as well as the jump between the classical physics world and the world of consciousness, the most notable of which is locality.

The classical physical world has locality and emphasizes causality, so it has stronger consistency, but neither the quantum world nor the conscious world has locality.

There is an unbridgeable gap and rupture between the quantum world and the classical physical world. A typical example is the second law of thermodynamics. In the quantum world, time is reversible, but in the world of classical physics, the second law of thermodynamics makes it clear that time is irreversible (and truly irreversible).

How to make up and bridge the gap? Ludwig Boltzmann once proposed the formula of entropy, trying to build a bridge between micro and macro from the perspective of probability, but this is questioned by many people, and the ergodic theory does not have enough explanatory power.

Physicists have been studying this problem for over a hundred years and have yet to solve it. Experiments or thought experiments such as the quantum measurement problem and Schrödinger’s cat all reflect the rupture between the microscopic and the macroscopic.

In the “Schrödinger’s cat” thought experiment, whether the poison is released or not and whether the cat survives belong to the macroscopic classical physical world. Their state at a specific moment is determined, and the uncertainty is whether the radioactivity of the poison in the quantum world occurs. Therefore, this idea There is no paradox in the experiment.

The quantum world and the consciousness world have transcendental space-time characteristics and non-locality different from the classical physical world, which is easy to think of whether there is a closer connection between the two, so some people think that consciousness must be explained by quantum effects.

Penrose argues that a unified theory of quantum mechanics combined with Einstein’s theory of relativity may provide the basis for a theory of consciousness. In our view, quantum plays a role in the problem of consciousness, but not a key role.

In other words, we cannot simply use quantum effects to explain the problem of consciousness. The quantum world can neither completely determine the conscious world nor depend on the conscious world.

First, the switching of ideas in the human brain and the discharge of the brain are on the order of milliseconds, while the quantum effect is on the order of nanometers, with a difference of 6 orders of magnitude, so the correlation between the two is probably not as big as imagined. .

Second, if quantum mechanics is used to explain the problem of free will or consciousness, it is actually a default rule that the stronger the quantum effect, the stronger the consciousness.

According to this law, the quantum effect at the micro level is stronger than that at the macro level, and the manifestation of consciousness at the micro level should be more obvious than that at the macro level. But in fact, consciousness has a strong manifestation only at the macro level (such as humans and animals), so there is a paradox between the assumption of this law and the actual phenomenon.

The formation of consciousness requires strong independence, that is, strong self-awareness, which is in opposition to the entangled state of quantum indistinguishable from each other. We prefer to use cognitive traps to explain the origin and construction of the conscious world.

The tactile brain hypothesis gives the origin of consciousness, and its main contents are:

The sensitive touch acquired in the process of human evolution enables the cognitive subject to clearly divide and encapsulate the world into a binary model of “self” and “outside”. Humans use this (original consciousness) as a starting point to start the conceptualization of the world. The cognitive process gradually forms an understandable belief and value system, and further establishes the cognitive existence of the “self”.

The tactile brain hypothesis can be regarded as the zeroth law of cognitive trapping, which defines the origin of the “self”, and thus opens up the world of human consciousness or trapped world. After millions of years of evolution, human beings have formed the unified self-consciousness and overall consciousness of the universe that we have today.

The Metaverse represents many technologies, many modes, and many imaginations. More and more companies are pouring into the torrent of the Metaverse, and a new era of development led by the Metaverse has arrived.

In this boom, the Metaverse is the general trend of technological development, whether it is as fanatical and radical as South Korea and Facebook, or as steady and calm as Tencent and Microsoft.

So, why do domestic and foreign technology companies always believe in and actively deploy the Metaverse industry?What is the essence of the Metaverse?

The Metaverse is a new thing, and every new thing has a source. So we naturally introduce the question: what is the source of the Metaverse?

The answer is obvious. We call it the “Metaverse” because a universe existed before it, the universe of the physical world we are now in.

We can say that the Metaverse is the product created by human beings based on their understanding of the current universe, trying to simulate and even surpass the current universe. But is this enough?

Let us think a little deeper, the above sentence has a very key premise is how we humans understand the current universe.It is not difficult to find that the problem lies in the word “understanding”.

Understanding seems to be an instinct, but upon closer inspection, this instinct is actually a gift of life, an ability that only life can have. This talent comes from life and the consciousness that life has.

With awareness of the Metaverse, its realization requires the support of other theories.

The Metaverse Conforms to the Law of Development of the Conscious World

On April 10, 2021, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Science magazine released “New 125 Scientific Questions” – “125 Scientific Questions: Exploration and Discovery”. The issues released this time cover the fields of mathematics, chemistry, medicine and health, life sciences, astronomy, physics, information science and artificial intelligence.

Among them, the seventh question in the field of artificial intelligence is: “Can quantum artificial intelligence imitate the human brain?” The eleventh question in the field of neuroscience is: “Is it possible to predict the future?”

These two questions can be understood as exploring whether consciousness or future development is deterministic. One of the keys to whether quantum artificial intelligence can imitate the human brain is whether it can solve the problem of perspective differences between quantum technology and human consciousness.

Having a machine mimic a human brain means that perspectives have to be shifted. Life does not follow the physical world or probability, but an active choice, and it often follows a path of low probability. It is impossible to see the subjectivity of life from the perspective of omnipotence.

We are obviously not gods, but to make the machines we design look like our imaginary gods is to some extent tantamount to begging for fish.

The world of consciousness gradually formed from self-awareness includes emotions, ethics, morals, aesthetics and other content. These fragments of consciousness are real to the subject and will affect the way the subject interacts with the physical world.

The subject will even transform the physical world accordingly, and these fragments of consciousness cannot be completely restored physically. However, it is difficult for quantum computers to have strong spontaneous subjectivity, which is also an important reason why quantum artificial intelligence cannot imitate the human brain.

To put it another way, extensive and long-term simulations only make sense if consciousness or the future is sufficiently deterministic and computable. Musk believes that consciousness is computable, on the grounds that humans are likely to live in a huge analog matrix, as depicted in the movie “The Matrix”:

The world is nested in layers, and this layer in which we live is likely to be derived from a higher-level, omniscient view of intelligent simulation.

If we want to understand the Metaverse in depth, we need to compare the Metaverse with the physical world (including the classical physical world and the quantum world) and the world of consciousness.

The world of consciousness here contains the content of the world of art that Plato talked about, and the physical world is the world defined by the equations of physics, so let’s not argue about its authenticity or reality for the time being.

The Metaverse corresponds to the world of consciousness. It is the abstraction and trapping of the world of consciousness. We think it will be more ideal, simpler, and more essential, but it is actually one end of our world of consciousness.

This end is very important, it will in turn affect our conscious world, it will also affect our interaction with the physical world, and determine how we understand the physical world and change the physical world.

In the future, the Metaverse should be a world that originated from human society and can be derived from human society, but should reflect the ultimate nature of human society.

It should not only be a simple electronic product of human society, but also a place for realizing the ideal of human society. It is precisely because of following the basic laws of the development of the world of consciousness that the Metaverse can continue to develop.

Consensus value is the basic value system

Consensus is the concentrated expression of the common opinion of the majority of people in a society, and this opinion often reflects everyone’s views on a matter. The purpose of the consensus mechanism is to solve the problem of trust.

Trust itself is easy to lose, and the calculation of the machine is precise. We can find a balance between randomness and precision, and let precise machines be responsible for the tedious but efficient work in the Metaverse, such as calculation and distribution, and incorporate a volatile element such as human nature into the design of the Metaverse.

On the one hand, the encrypted transmission of the Metaverse and the immutability of data are conducive to ensuring the security of the intelligent system; on the other hand, the token in the Metaverse is suitable as a carrier of interaction to achieve high efficiency.

We need to divide the consensus stakeholders, first reach consensus and cooperate with each other in a small range, and then gradually form a larger-scale consensus and cooperation, rather than forcing the level of consensus of the whole network in one step.

The point of the Metaverse is not decentralization, but the “proof” of numbers, that is, the immutability of past records.Nowadays, data tampering and forgery are getting easier and easier, and authenticity will become the focus of the future world.

Although the Metaverse cannot completely eliminate fraud (theoretically, the data written may be fake data), but we can guide people’s behavior through the public chain – the cost of user fraud is higher than that of honest records It is much higher and the risk is greater. Once fraud is found, all future behaviors of this user will be questioned.

On the whole, the reason why public chain technologies (such as Bitcoin) are more valuable than consortium chains (such as Hyperledger) and private chains is that it is absolutely impossible for public chain records to be tampered with.

There is not much controversy about “certificate”, but there is a big disagreement on whether digital certificates are really needed, because many people think that digital certificates should not be used at all.

We believe that digital certificates have irreplaceable significance to the future of mankind and are an inevitable product of the Metaverse. The meaning of digital certificates is not just “tokens”, and different digital certificates have their own unique meanings, cycles and fluctuation characteristics.

For example, the national currency can be regarded as the consensus carrier at the national level, the stock price represents the value consensus formed on the company, and the digital certificate can be the consensus carrier on the value formed on a smaller scale.

3. Consciousness determines individual differences in the Metaverse

In the Metaverse, the hearing and vision of different individuals may converge, so where are the most important differences between individuals? That is our perception.

That is, our cognition of the entire scene and the entire universe, as well as our ability to manipulate and control it.Cognition will gradually become the most important feature in the Metaverse that distinguishes different individuals, as the differences between other individual features will become smaller.

In the Metaverse, the real competition between individuals is our cognition, our cognition and control of the real world.The commonly discussed tokens, NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are precisely the tools we recognize.

We realize automatic grouping and stratification through cognition, and finally form different DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations). In theory, we could upload all the data into the Metaverse, but in reality, the things that have long-term value are limited, and what we ultimately need to remember are the very important ones.

So our consciousness can be uploaded into the Metaverse, but only partially, not fully, because we don’t live in an analog matrix. Our relationship with the Metaverse is that we can have our own clones in the Metaverse, extending ourselves.

The Metaverse can be an ideal world, but it is essentially a subworld. We can also have a meaningful life in the virtual world. Just as Zhuangzi dreamed of butterflies:

Zhuangzi is the first, no matter how beautiful the dream world with butterflies is, what remains is the beauty perceived by the identity of Zhuangzi, and this order cannot be reversed.

The Metaverse is an extension of human consciousness that enriches our lives in the physical world, but cannot completely transcend and replace the physical world. The relationship between the two is a bit like the relationship between emotion and reason.

The most important thing in the extension of people is the extension of consciousness and the extension of the spiritual world. Why does the spiritual world come into being? From an evolutionary point of view, once life is born, it begins to disengage, that is, to get rid of the shackles of the current physical conditions and begin to separate from the physical world.

At the stage of developing into the Metaverse, in fact, human beings will be further removed from the realm, because here we have to experience things that we could not experience before. more direct and intense.

But in which direction should we strengthen? This may be the result of the various nodes in the Metaverse moving forward together. The role of the individual starts from the data ontology established by each individual.

On the data ontology, these accumulated intelligent activities and conscious activities are gradually highlighted as the second and third layers of stealth content and their influence, and guide individuals to develop forward.

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