The Process of Civilization: From Real Civilization to Virtual Civilization (Part 2)

elements of civilization

From the ancient civilization 5,000 years ago, to the classical civilization around the first year of AD, to the Enlightenment movement in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, to the several industrial revolutions since the 19th century, the medium of information dissemination Continuous breakthroughs and technological progress have always been the core driving force for the development of civilization.

The expansion of territory has brought us a wider living space and more resources, which requires us to develop a medium that can spread to a longer distance, that is, a transmission medium, from papyrus to printing to radio; And originating from belief, whether it is the inheritance of religious or scientific knowledge, it is more dependent on the medium that travels through time, that is, the recording medium, from word of mouth to stone carvings to clay tablets to books. The development of new technologies has expanded our space, improved the efficiency of managing a vast space, and also made information more complete to be understood by people at different times. The bias of space and time has completed the unification on the same medium in today’s era, the Internet, and the Metaverse has further eliminated the monopoly of knowledge and reconciled the drawbacks caused by different biases.

The previous article has sorted out the development and evolution of different civilizations from the perspective of media. As Inis said, civilization reflects not only the influence of one medium, but a medium that tends to decentralization is always affected by another. Offset by media that tends to centralize. Each medium is not an absolute transmission or recording medium. The actual method is more from the user’s preference. The clay tablet is retained for a long time, which is not conducive to transmission, but if forced by power, it can still be used as a space. Sex media, but inefficiency kept Sumer in a state of city-state division in the early stage; papyrus was highly disseminated and low-cost, but the Egyptian dynasty used it to further strengthen religious ideas and emphasize the status of theocracy. The stagnation of technology and military made ancient The dynasty was annihilated by the onslaught of the Assyrian and Persian empires.

From this we can draw two conclusions:

First, the development of any civilization requires a stable physical environment as the foundation to provide space for individual survival. The development history of all civilizations is the history of space expansion. Although there are still vast oceans and sky on the earth, limited by the physiological conditions of human beings and the current technological level, at present, the land is still the most important support for the continuation of civilization. But a cruel fact is that the physical space on the earth is limited. The Assyrian Empire was not satisfied with the narrow space in the two river basins and invaded Egypt to the east; Alexander the Great launched an eastward expedition, trying to make the culture of ancient Greece shine on more land ; The Chinese nation’s territory from the eighteen provinces of the Han region to today’s territory, and the land is not given as a charge. In the past, when space was only limited to real physical space, the value that land and resources could leverage was very limited. With the increase of population, the resources occupied by per capita are destined to decrease. Expanding space is an inevitable trend, and aggression is the most powerful means.

The Process of Civilization: From Real Civilization to Virtual Civilization (Part 2)

With a living space, we need effective management. From the perspective of energy, we need to consume resources to generate energy, and then use energy in various ways to meet various life needs and transmit energy. to every inch of the country. The conversion efficiency and transfer efficiency of resources have become the focus of technological development. We have mentioned in previous articles that civilization is a process of entropy reduction, resetting chaos into order, and converting disordered resources into orderly energy, from friction to fire, to controlled nuclear fusion, all It is a process of continuously improving energy transfer and efficiency and utilization efficiency. Schrödinger once expressed in “What is Life” that the existence of life is against the law of increasing entropy, and it lives on negative entropy. Civilization is the same.

By analogy, the same is true from an informational point of view. As human experience becomes richer and thinking becomes more and more abstract, it is necessary to record information. Knowledge based on words is the crystallization of human wisdom, and the nature of space expansion is also the expansion of consensus, which transmits information to rapid Accurately spreading to everyone in the territory is likewise the focus of the development of every civilization. Force can conquer territory, but consensus can harvest the people, and the people are the basic unit for building civilization. The spatial bias of the media is based on this. We need more convenient media to record more information and pass it on to more people.

Second, the development of civilization is not achieved overnight. It may require the unremitting efforts of generations or even dozens of generations to create it together. How to ensure that people can have the same ideas at different times is the foundation for the continuation and inheritance of civilization. The ancients gave three directions, theocracy is religious belief, kingship is imperial rule, and universal culture and values. Egypt and Rome chose religious belief as the link of inheritance. The worship of God Ra and God ran through the dynasty from beginning to end. The divine authority of the monarchy was the core idea of ​​ruling all the people, and the interpretation of the gods became the monopoly of power, knowledge and The interpretation of knowledge is only the privilege of a few people; Babylon chose monarchical rule, theocracy turned into kingship, and the worship of gods turned into loyalty to the monarch; Greece and China chose cultural inheritance, and Greece regarded rationalism as a standard and opened up With the process of philosophy and democracy, China has overthrown hundreds of schools and only respected Confucianism. Loyalty, filial piety, benevolence, righteousness and faith have become the criterion for generations. Countries and dynasties may be replaced, but culture will not end. The rational legacy of ancient Greece was revived in the Enlightenment. The Han nationality has been broken down many times but the culture is still preserved.

The complete and accurate transmission of information to future generations has become the key to the development of record-based media, allowing us to understand the thinking of the ancients through time. From stone buildings and clay tablets to parchment and books, record-type media can preserve all information as completely as possible through long-term preservation, but as Socrates criticized, this information is not interactive and cannot be obtained. The true thoughts of others can only be interpreted by oneself, which also gives religious organizations the possibility of monopolizing knowledge. Oral communication provides another direction. Although the information may not be complete in the process of communication, really accurate information can be obtained through communication between every two people.Preservation and interactivity have also been the focus of the development of record-based media.

The Process of Civilization: From Real Civilization to Virtual Civilization (Part 2)

Space and time have always been the most important issues that civilization needs to face, that is, development and inheritance, and the technology of the new era has effectively reconciled the media’s bias in space and time.

The arrival of the information age

More than 400 years of research into electromagnetism have successfully brought us into the information age, from 1600, when William Gilbert first wrote On the Magnet on electricity and magnetism. This long history of digital information development has not only infinitely broadened our living boundaries, but also witnessed the romantic inheritance of civilization. The development of Internet technology has reconciled the contradiction between space and time, unifying recording media and transmission media, and even bringing human civilization to a farther place.

The Internet makes each individual a node in a virtual network. The distance between people is infinitely reduced, and information is no longer unreachable. Everyone will become famous for fifteen minutes in the future. Now the future has come, The expansion space attribute of the medium has reached its extreme. All information is stored in the server, and everyone can get the information they want at any time. We no longer have to worry about the loss of information over time. Since the birth of the Internet for decades, all information has become a few ZB words. While instant messaging realizes oral communication in the new era, interactivity has been solved, and ideal communication with questions and answers can be achieved without face-to-face.

Of course, as mentioned above, the Internet has played to the spatial bias too completely, and the characteristics of centralization are also vividly displayed. The main problem is that the solution to the time bias has not been followed up. It is no longer difficult to obtain information in the information age, but screening cannot be done by individuals, and it is often difficult for us to choose. From the portal website of Web 1.0 to the UGC website of Web 2.0, the distribution of information is essentially centralized by a small number of parts. Controlled by institutions, when the screening of information has become a mode of knowledge monopoly in the new era, the information that ordinary people can obtain is still out of their control. The inheritance of culture is no longer difficult, and the choice of inheritance is the problem we face. The induction and ambiguity of information have caused us to suffer greatly. The decentralized Web 3.0 and the metaverse may provide us with a further expansion space. and a solution to the time problem.

Looking back on the past civilizations, while we feel the greatness of human beings, we also see that the technology of the new era may lead human beings to infinite fields that we could never imagine. to qualitative change. Whether it is the earth or the foreseeable future of interstellar exploration of the solar system, energy and space are still limited, but the development of computer technology has first broken through the boundaries of the physical world, ignited the spark of the virtual world, and network content has become A part of our life, and then in the past ten years, it has rapidly covered every corner of the real world with a prairie fire, our personal information and most social behaviors have been converted into digital information, and most of the real world has been completed Digitizing. But the digital real world is not the end. While measuring the real world with digital information, we are also creating an infinite and immortal virtual world. The spatial bias does not need to be described, while the time bias depends on the interaction and decentralization of the digital native image. distribution method is resolved.

Regarding the definition and description of the virtual world, various people have fully described and imagined it. The Internet Research Institute of Oxford University has given such a description: the virtual world is a continuous virtual environment in which people can interact with other people or things as in the real world, and this virtual environment is generated by computers , which allows people to interact with the “people” in the virtual environment, but also allows people to interact with the virtual environment itself.

Such a description will put more emphasis on sensory experience. If it is just an experience, then this dream-like world is far from the category of civilization. This feeling of “interacting with others or the environment”, then words, books, games, etc. Can the experience brought by it also be called a virtual world? Strictly speaking, we don’t think so. Therefore, before discussing the possibility of virtual worlds developing into civilizations, we need to distinguish between “virtual environments” and “virtual worlds”. In fact, they represent two different concepts and fields. Although they are related to a certain extent, they are often used interchangeably, but in essence, the objects described by the two are still somewhat different.

A virtual environment is a relatively static concept. In most cases, we use “virtual environment” to describe the properties of a space, such as the environment imagined by our brain after seeing things, the Internet environment constructed by digital technology, and the image environment created by visual technology. These fictional environments that do not exist in reality can be called virtual environments. While everything is absolutely dynamic, virtual environments refer to structures that are relatively static, without interactivity, and cannot be changed by subjective will.

The virtual world is a relatively dynamic concept. In fact, the virtual world will have social attributes, in which people can interact with the system, interact with others, and even interact with virtual images. This dynamic interaction and even creation is the core of the virtual world. At the spatial level, any place in the virtual world can be touched, which is a replica of the real world and beyond the real world; at the time level, any online user in the virtual world can communicate without delay, the ancient Greek oral communication Achieved ascension in the virtual world.

Based on this distinction and description, the virtual world actually includes the concept of virtual environment. The virtual environment is the background of the virtual world, and the virtual environment that can be changed by the user’s subjective will can be regarded as the virtual world. The sandbox game we often say can change and affect the virtual world, and even create new things in the virtual world is the core feature of the “sandbox mechanism”. Players can use their own original virtual items to participate in the interaction in the virtual world. . In fact, sandbox games are only a part of the virtual world, or a subset of the virtual world. Logically, there is no problem with the view that “the open world is a virtual world.” The open world is only a subset of the virtual world, and when users can share the same identity in all subsets, these own aggregates also constitute the largest virtual world, which is what we call the metaverse.

Civilization in the virtual world

In the real world, people use their own technology to consume real objective substances for production. With the development of digital technology, the real world has gradually been digitized, and the original information of the virtual world has been accumulated. The continuous breakthroughs in the field of vision technology and artificial intelligence technology have created the original information of the virtual world and further increased the volume of digital information. The boundary between the virtual world and the real world is gradually opened up, and the two worlds penetrate and influence each other. From economy to politics, both ends of the real world and virtual world are impacted and squeezed by different paths. Individuals, organizations, companies and societies have created new connection methods in the real and virtual worlds, and new connection methods generate new data. It accelerates the blurring of boundaries and further promotes the development of virtual worlds. From the perspective of completeness, there was only the real world at first, and the advent of computers gave birth to the development of the virtual world. As people use digital methods to transfer text, images and other information from the real world into the virtual world, the digital real world also appears; content, and gradually formed a native virtual world.

The web pages we use and browse are people’s sorting and combination of real-world information. Various applications we use will contain account information, and this account information will also contain a lot of information about us in the real world, the live broadcasts we watch, It is also that people send information in the real world to the virtual world in the form of pictures, expressions, etc. The e-commerce platform we use digitizes commodity information in the real world. At the same time, an important difference between the mobile Internet and the Internet is that the mobile Internet has greatly improved the efficiency of inputting information into the virtual world, and the information in the virtual world has also been greatly enriched. If every terminal node in the Internet is regarded as an information portal, then in the era of mobile Internet, people can transmit their own information to the virtual world every moment. Since the era of radio, whether it is the development of the telephone or the Internet, the wide application of electricity has brought the ultimate solution to the space problem of civilization. There is no essential difference between the speed of radio and the speed of 5G from the perspective of civilization. Therefore, we Next, we will mainly discuss the development of virtual world from the issue of time.

  • The real world of numbers

Information production in the real world refers to the fact that we obtain raw or processed information from objects in the real world. When we see the forest, hear the wind, etc., we obtain the original information based on reality in the process of interacting with the objects in the real world, and the processed real information is generated between people through various media. The subjective communication represents the information. After the emergence of modern information technology, the way we obtain information and the terminal for disseminating information have also changed. We can obtain information from the real world, and we can also obtain information from the virtual world. There are two ways for information to exist in the virtual world. The first is that we actively input information into the virtual world, and the second is that the information is generated by the self in the virtual world. In fact, these two methods of information generation are as “existence” in the virtual world. It provides a source of information for the virtual world, and we will also discuss the nature of “existence” in subsequent articles.

In the development of digital technology, what people first created was the digital real world. At that time, people did not have a clear concept of the virtual world, and the primary template for building a virtual world was our real world. Technical means transfer the information that we find meaningful in the real world to the virtual world in a digital form, and people then obtain this information through various media.

The Process of Civilization: From Real Civilization to Virtual Civilization (Part 2)

From a technical point of view, the beginning of the information age and the greatest invention comes from the way of information communication and transformation between the real world and the virtual world dominated by von Neumann, that is, binary coding, and it is also the interface between the two worlds. Rules and methods of translation of information. Real-world information, by consuming energy, is converted into 0s and 1s so that basic information can be quickly processed by a computer. This binary rule establishes the way of information transmission between the two worlds, so all kinds of information in the real world can be input into the computer in the form of code and presented.

In the real world, the volume and variety of information needs to be transmitted to the virtual world in different ways. In the virtual world, information needs to be re-adjusted into different forms that people can accept. From the perspective of physiology, the main types of information we receive in the real world come from our five senses: vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. Among them, visual information occupies the vast majority, while auditory information occupies With the remaining main parts, visual and auditory information is the most intuitive and effective way that we can actually perceive the virtual world if we do not consider the internal information processing logic of the brain. Therefore, when we create a way of information exchange between the real world and the virtual world, in order to better understand the virtual world, we will put the presentation of the audition information at the very beginning. For audio-visual effects, we will also vigorously develop the underlying hardware facilities, so that real-world information can be input into the virtual world more quickly and efficiently.

First, we need to extract the real-world information, and then let the computer encode the digital information into the virtual world through corresponding rules, and then decode the information in these virtual worlds into perceptible audio-visual information through front-end engineering. The translation of text is very easy, and for the audio-visual information that we can actually perceive, the decoding process is actually the practical application of computer vision and image technology. Although the image contains more information, it occupies more space. From the perspective of understanding, images deepen a small part of information, allowing us to more accurately understand the meaning of information, while text provides a wider range of information.

From a media perspective, both audiovisual and textual information can represent people’s expressions of the real and virtual worlds. Due to the limitations of technology, in the early virtual world, code and text were more forms of presentation. Later, with the development of image technology, we could gradually restore real-world information in the virtual world. It is the image information that brings us more accurate information, so that the information of any era can be accurately understood by the audience. We can still feel the joys, sorrows and joys of people at that time when we look back at the movies a hundred years ago. This is the image. The power of technology. This new method also allows the virtual world as a medium to solve the problem of time bias, and there is no need to worry about the accurate preservation and inheritance of knowledge.

  • native virtual world

Do not try to understand it, feel it.

After the previous discussion, we know that the virtual world can be divided into two parts, one is the digital mapping of the real world, so I won’t go into details. The other is a virtual world based on virtual native content. In this world, everything that exists may exist beyond reality. Imagination is the limit of creation. They were born in the virtual world and have always existed in the virtual world. In the discussion of the nature of information, we know that information always depends on the medium to exist, but it has nothing to do with the object of communication, and the digital information native to the virtual world is born in the virtual world, there is no transmission restriction, and all information can be transmitted by all nodes. Received, therefore, this native information is fully digital and can also be obtained in its entirety in digital form.

The Process of Civilization: From Real Civilization to Virtual Civilization (Part 2)

After discussing the information sources of the virtual world as a whole, we will also find that in the “original virtual world”, there are also two different sources of information: one is the input from the real world: people use their own imagination to Subjective consciousness is displayed in the virtual world through digital means; the other is the self-production derived from the virtual world: the information generated by the objects in the virtual world;

Therefore, if a clearer definition is needed to describe the native virtual world, it may be something like this: all information in this virtual world is virtual native, which either does not exist in the real world or is generated by other virtual information created. For the original virtual world, the first kind of virtual is still digital, but it may be the digitization of imaginary or fictional non-real things, such as fantasy creatures, such as people who have died, and the second virtual refers to more Information generated spontaneously in the virtual world.

For example, when designers use various digital tools to create, the various avatars and worlds constructed in the virtual world are fictitious. Most video games actually belong to the original virtual world. Consumption is done in the virtual world, and almost every video game world is different from the real world. Compared with more general and common life scenarios, games are often the application of technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data due to the massive and structured data. The combination of games and other technologies has also opened up new possibilities. It is more accurate to define the development of games as a combination of different industries as virtualized development.

At the same time, under the background of virtualization development, people realize the huge volume and development prospects of virtual content, and have corresponding technical support in different virtual content generation fields. Since vision is the most important proportion of people’s acquisition of information, with the first development of technology in the field of image and vision, we can generate image information in the virtual world with unimaginable efficiency in the past, and let us directly observe and experience it. .

The Process of Civilization: From Real Civilization to Virtual Civilization (Part 2)

Scientific theories are free inventions of the human mind, and the word is not found in the fundamental methods of theoretical physics. From the perspective of information, since matter and information are certain in the real world, our cognition of the real world depends on whether we can find a correct and reasonable path to access different information combinations.

For scientific theory, the discovery of the combination relationship between information is an invention, and the content of the invention is: the cognitive path of different information combinations. That is, as human beings, we invent scientific theories and acquire cognitive pathways for the combination of information that allow us to discover the information itself. For example, a “logical system” is an invention, and using reasoning to find out logical relationships is a discovery, and the object of discovery is real-world information.

According to this analysis method, binary coding is an invention at first. For the same real-world object, in addition to the daily description method, we can use another logical system to describe it. That is, we invent logical ways to understand real-world information combinations based on binary encoding. From this perspective, we are still discovering information in the real world.

On the other hand, when interpreting existing real information, binary coding also brings other information. If 1101010101 represents an apple, in fact we translate the word “apple” into binary code, using a priori logic There is a consensus on real-world information, but it is not easy to answer what information 1101010101 itself represents. In the real world, it represents the information of the object “apple”, but because the code itself has a specific point in the virtual world, this code points to the material and information in the virtual world, but we accidentally Having discovered this virtual world, that is to say, the virtual world may exist in itself, and what we have done is just discovery.

At the same time, a very interesting point is that new substances and information cannot be created in the real world, because we do not know what the underlying rules are; but in the virtual world, the underlying rules are created by us, so logically, we can create the underlying rules in the virtual world. to create whatever material and information we want. The way to do it is also straightforward, we just need to increase the number of 1s and 0s, and it will naturally add a very large number of combinations of information. Since the repeated counting of numbers can generate new virtual substances and information, if we can teach computers to learn to create substances and information, then the virtual world is a highly creative infinite world.

The Process of Civilization: From Real Civilization to Virtual Civilization (Part 2)

‍Human curiosity drives us to continuously explore the world and the universe, and we often make some conjectures about the current world. With the help of binary rules, we create or discover virtual worlds, and then further add information to the virtual world, which in turn helps us accelerate our exploration of the real world.

In addition, for the virtual world in the real universe we currently live in, after analyzing the deduction in the same way, we will get the Metaverse model we discussed earlier. In the future, we will have a lot of virtual worlds and generate a lot of information to feed back the real world. After different virtual worlds are connected, they will become the metaverse again.

Of course, this is just a conjecture and has not been strictly scientifically verified; this does not affect the interest of the world, nor will it stop our curiosity and continuous exploration. We all believe that we are born completely free, even covering individual actions, and that at any time he can start another way of life; but in the day after we find ourselves not free, but subject to rules and thing.

In the real world, we may not know whether absolute freedom exists or is just a metaphysical way of thinking. But in the virtual world, from the perspective of “agents”, when they can autonomously create information and substances in the virtual world, they do have the ability to make subjective decisions, but do they have free will?

In our opinion, the subjective initiative of “agents” in the virtual world is actually limited by the underlying rules of the virtual world. When it comes to ourselves, is our free will also limited by the underlying rules of the real world?

The Process of Civilization: From Real Civilization to Virtual Civilization (Part 2)

If we reason according to our inductive and deductive methods, at least the “agents” in the virtual world need to be able to create the next level of nested virtual worlds in order to have a certain basis. Technically, it may be possible. But if this is the case, does it in turn imply that the real world we currently live in is actually a simulated virtual world?

A very important point is that the human brain is cognitively deficient. The logical system we recognize not only helps us understand the current world step by step, but also limits us to other ways of understanding the world, and we cannot understand it. Why does logic exist? Perhaps, in the process of exploring the virtual world, we can not only know what “free will” is, but also know where we came from and where we are going.

Going back to the case at the beginning, the evolution of civilization is not always positive. The Mayan civilization has not yet entered the Bronze Age, and the Inca civilization has not even entered the era of writing. They used to be extremely bright, but they may not have lit up some technologies. Gradually forgetting the glory of the past under closed conditions, expanding the breadth of information dissemination, and prolonging the time of information retention are the sources of power to ensure the continuous development of our civilization. After a long period of stagnation, even from a biological point of view, it still retains outstanding intelligence, but civilization will become water without a source, trees without roots, and the Tasmanian effect may still appear in another form today. Whether it is the sea of ​​stars or the virtual world, it is an attempt by human beings to break through the existing boundaries. If we do not advance, we will retreat. If we only stick to the limited space of Blue Star, the infinite inward volume will eventually lead us to perish.

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