Gao Chengshi: Improving the quality of digital transformation with industrial blockchain

Digital transformation is potentially the biggest dividend of the times facing our generation.

What is blockchain? Blockchain is an emergence brought about by the combination of several existing technologies.

Blockchain itself is not a technology; blockchain is a combination of technologies at the bottom. It is only in this sense that we can say that blockchain is a technology at the bottom if we define the way of technology combination as a technology as well. Arthur has said in The Nature of Technology that a combination of technologies is still a technology, and that technology can also be broken down into lower layers of technology.

The emergence of blockchain validates Holland’s statement that “emergent phenomena are centered on interactions that are much more complex than the simple accumulation of individual actions.” Emergence tells us that these properties cease to exist once the system as a whole is broken down into its component parts. If we reduce the blockchain to several different, lower-level technologies, then blockchain as a phenomenon ceases to exist.

Emergence is a transition from a lower to a higher level, an abrupt change in the performance and agency of a macro system based on the evolution of a micro subject, in which a new quality can emerge from an old one. Blockchain is just such an existence. It is through a unique combination of several existing technologies that blockchain complements, improves and transcends the functions of the Internet. Blockchain is reflected in the technical level as the emergence brought by the combination of technologies, and in the level of the combination with industry as the emergence of new production and life styles.

At the technical level, blockchain is not a subversion of the Internet, but an emergence based on the Internet. If the above is still a bit academic or abstract, what exactly does blockchain bring to the Internet to complement, improve and surpass it?

We can broadly review what the Internet, and the Internet of Things, cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence, and even 5G and edge computing, which are closely related to the Internet, have brought to us, as well as their combinations. From our perspective, the Internet and these closely related technological innovations have brought about a wide range of connectivity. The Internet has transformed the small world, originally constructed offline by the theory of six degrees of separation, into a much smaller world reconstructed by three degrees of separation. The Internet has brought people closer together, more connected, and more convenient to connect. But this connection brought by the Internet is not a reliable and trustworthy connection, just like a saying on the Internet a few years ago, you don’t know if the person you are talking to online is a person or a dog.

But blockchain is different. The Internet has improved the efficiency of communication and exchange, expanded the scope of communication and exchange, and reduced the cost of communication and exchange by realizing large-scale connection and real-time transmission of information. However, blockchain requires the relevant people to digitally sign these chain data and all other nodes in the whole network to verify the data and signature, which undoubtedly greatly reduces the communication and exchange efficiency and increases the communication and exchange cost, and the application in certain scenarios, such as alliance chain and private chain, also limits the communication and exchange scope.

But blockchain has changed the nature of connection. The connection brought by the above series of complex operations through blockchain system is reliable and trustworthy, which is the biggest change brought by blockchain to the traditional Internet. Blockchain makes it difficult for data tampering or forgery to exist on the blockchain system through the combination of multiple technologies and the consumption of a large amount of resources, which makes it possible for many operations that originally needed to be secured through offline institutional legal arrangements to be carried out on the chain in a blockchain manner. The explosion of blockchain applications in distributed finance in the past one or two years can already see and verify the trend in this regard.

Industrial blockchain is the emergence brought by the combination of blockchain and industry.

With the rapid development of computers, the Internet, the Internet of Things and various social software, we have soared from the era of analog simulation to the era of digital transformation. If in the early days, data collection and acquisition were still very inconvenient by various conditions, and data resources were still far from abundant, so we had to learn to predict the possible future development of affairs from a small amount of representative data using simulation systems, by now, we have basically entered the digital transformation stage. At least, in terms of the scope of the business covered by the data and the amount of data, we have basically achieved a digital twin, i.e., a roughly one-to-one mapping of the physical and digital worlds.

The most typical of these is the development of the consumer Internet. At present, the consumer Internet basically covers all aspects of human life. So, what is the consumer Internet? The consumer Internet is of course the application of the Internet in the consumer field. But if we only see this point, it is still too superficial.

As we said earlier, the Internet enables a large range of connections. By connecting a large range of product and service supply and consumer demand together, the consumer Internet then achieves intelligent matching based on big data and completes the transformation of human transaction behavior. Of course, it can be argued that the consumer Internet itself does not create value, but the consumer Internet has greatly reduced transaction costs and improved transaction efficiency. This itself is also a digital transformation and digital reconstruction, a reconstruction of traditional market transaction behavior based on large-scale connectivity and real-time data transmission.

If the development of consumer Internet is more from information to digitalization, the next development will be more a reflection of the role of digitalization. The next step is bound to enter the industrial Internet stage, that is, the Internet will not only change the transaction mode in the transaction link, but also enter the manufacturing link to realize the digital reconstruction of the production link and create value in a new way, and also create new value, and this will definitely explode the new extremely rich emergence phenomenon of combining different industries and blockchain. In turn, we can realize various data-driven reengineering of manufacturing and transaction models by connecting the transaction link and the manufacturing link as one. In this process, a wider range of possible emergent phenomena will emerge.

The industrial structure is the underlying structure of a society. The solidity of the connection within the industry directly determines the solidity of a society’s connection. Industries built on the foundation of the Internet and transformed by the traditional Internet can achieve a wide range of connections, but the connections are not reliable or trustworthy. Because of the importance of industry, it is essential to ensure reliable and trustworthy connections in the key links of industry, in the key industries, and in the key connections between industry and industry. And this will have to rely on blockchain. And in these connections, blockchain is indispensable!

Industrial blockchain includes two layers. One is the industrialization of blockchain business itself, similar to the Internet or information service industry; the other is the transformation of more industries with blockchain technology and logic. The industrialization of blockchain business itself is more the business of blockchain enterprises, but the transformation of more industries with blockchain technology and logic is the business of the whole society. If previously, with the rapid development of information technology and digitalization, any industry needed to be re-done once with the Internet, now, the key link of any industry, any key industry, any key connecting part of industry and industry, also needs to be re-linked with blockchain!

In the process of transforming industries with blockchain, more inputs may be needed in the early stage, and its output may not be so immediate. But just as through the general construction process, we can build a wall with cement, stone and other building materials, build a pigsty or a doghouse, build a few small bungalows, and even the old-fashioned several-story buildings like those in urban villages can be built up, but to really build a high-rise building tens of meters or hundreds of meters high, we need foundations and frame-type structures constructed by special materials such as steel reinforcement. In the complex information system and complex business system, blockchain is one of the foundations and frame-like structures constructed by special materials such as steel.

The digital transformation is probably the biggest dividend of our generation, and blockchain is the core component to construct this biggest dividend of the era, and industrial blockchain is the channel to transition from information Internet and consumer Internet to industrial Internet in the era of digital transformation. In the face of this huge dividend, I hope each of us can seize the opportunity, go deeper, go forward, and create the splendor that belongs to each of us in this era.

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