This article is written by Richer See on Substack, republished in TLD with the author’s permission.
Recently, I have discussed the different developments of artificial meat and meal replacement between China and the US industry with VC friends. We talked about the subtle differences in products caused by the different concepts of “replacement”, which drive by the different underlying cultures of the US and China.
Under the influence of the epidemic, many friends in Silicon Valley have been working from home for more than a year. The so-called “replacement”, “substitution” and “scene conversion” concepts have occurred around us time and time again, and they have also given birth to the rapid development of companies such as Zoom and Clubhouse.
Today this article will follow those thoughts and talk about “Metaverse”, which is a “replacement” for our real world. I think it is one of the most important innovation directions of the Internet in the future.
Metaverse on Wiki: “The Metaverse is a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space, including the sum of all virtual worlds, augmented reality, and the Internet.”
Simply put, it is a “real” virtual world supported by high technology like VR and sensors, the virtual world we conceived in movies like “The Matrix”, “Inception”, and “Avatar”. This innovation originated in the West, apart from technology maturity, I think it is also an inevitable result of cultural development.
The East is a perishing mind, the West is a replacing mind
My opinion is that the East, represented by China and Japan, has an open-minded concept that is closer to nature. They believe in the harmony of nature and people is important in the process of accepting changes. I call it a “perishing mind”. They are more willing to accept the perishing.
In response to change, the West hopes to use some materials or sensory signals to replace the senses brought about by the original facts, which is a kind of “replacing mind.” If something vanished, West gonna find some similar item to replace it.
In short, it is the dying aesthetics of the East and the substitutionism of the West. The difference between East and West’s response to changes and the underlying thinking in the future has greatly affected the attitude of artistic expression and life. The examples can be made from the differences in Medicine, Religions, and many other things between them.
Let’s take a look at the stories and movies from East to West. In East culture, Perishing is very normal. In Cixin Liu’s book “Wandering Earth”, he creates a protagonist who lives in the Earth wandering era, in which Earth departs from a dying Sun. In that story, when his father left with lover, his mother did not shed any tears. The people on earth would not understand “love” in the future and could live with whoever they are ok with. In Chinese science fiction, even a matter as important as “love” can perish in the future.
Moreover, Japan has developed a word called “Wabi-Sabi”. Basically, it is like living in a rough house without any decoration. Turning around, when we look at Western, people who can’t have a fine decoration use wallpapers.
This metaphor can be seen in many Hollywood movies. For example, in Blade Runner, the protagonists, who almost messed everything up in his life, worked hard to buy an expensive AI girlfriend. This girlfriend can only exist in his home by 3D projection. This AI girlfriend loved him so much. Before she was about to be erased in the end, she found a call girl to serve her boyfriend. This AI cast her avatar on the call girl’s face during the whole process. I was both shocked and very incomprehensible when I watched this part. I couldn’t figure out why the director wanted this AI to do such a thing.
After I read “Wandering Earth” and connected the two pages together, I suddenly understood that the difference is not between the two countries’ science fiction people, but between the two countries’ bottom thinking. When a desire cannot be satisfied, the traditional Eastern culture tells us to accept the extinction. Western culture will do everything possible to substitute for satisfying the corresponding senses.
This situation also directly led to a fact that the birth of the Internet and Metaverse is in the West. I believe the biggest replacing mind is actually the Internet. Many people define the Internet as the projection of the current carbon-based world on the silicon-based world. In current terms, the Internet is the largest Metaverse in the beginning, although it may only be a very basic one that can only offer 0/1 information interaction.
Disruptive innovation of Gaming, the forerunner of Metaverse
In a category as large as the Internet, there is an industry that may be the first to allow more people to move to a virtual world, it is the gaming industry. If we only look at single-player games like RPG in the past, most of them are similar to movies and animations. They are based on the stories and characters which are pre-designed. Examples can be brought by popular games like “Resident Evil”, “Final Fantasy” and “Diablo”. It requires a layer of self-recognition and imagination before players can project themselves to the protagonist in a virtual world.
Players are not satisfied anymore. They request to have different endings in RPG games. In “Witcher 3″, 36 different ends are generated by the dialogue trees. The online games, sandbox games, and open worlds allow players to play a role with a higher degree of freedom and more like themselves in the virtual world. (Like Zelda, GTA, Spore, & Minecraft)
Today, with the popularity of Roblox and Animal Crossing, the maturity of technologies such as VR(Oculus) and brain machines (the industry that Elon Musk & Tianqiao Chen in China are working hard) seems to have sworn that gamers no longer need to follow the screenwriter. In the life of the metaverse, we can create our own world with self-build time and currency system. It can be asserted that the concept and technology of Metaverse will bring qualitative changes in the game industry. In a word, traditional games and Metaverse are totally different. They are like movies and the real world.
Clubhouse led a fire recently. It has triggered a lot of discussions in the industry. Everyone is struggling to understand this project and its huge acceleration from the perspective of product, content, and epidemic situation. So if you still don’t understand it, we can turn the scope a little bit bigger. Let’s look at the success of Zoom. Why has Zoom defeated so many remote conferencing software? My answer is that Zoom is the most successful online company that perfectly replicates the offline meeting scene. To put it bluntly, it is a Metaverse of a conference. And Clubhouse is the same, if you look at it from the perspective of the scene, it is like a building in the university or a Forum Romanum. In short, it is a Metaverse of an offline auditory scene.
Metaverse and the “onlineization” that we said in the past are two different things. The “Onlineization” brought about by the so-called “Internet +” wave can at best be regarded as the onlineization of a small part of the information flow, and most of the activities still need to be done offline. For example, even if an e-commerce company is online, what you bought is still an actual item, and you need to unpack it. Under the support of technology like VR and further ones, Metaverse has gradually begun to occupy not only visual and auditory senses but even more. When all human senses can be simulated by digital signals, the virtual steak-eating experience in The Matrix can be truly realized in Metaverse.
There is no duality in this Game
A CEO of my portfolios told me that there is no real duality on the Internet. I think his words are particularly accurate. Nowadays, our discussions in the venture capital industry easily fall into a debate-style duality without an end. The industry is trying too hard to get a Yes or No on Metaverse. But to be honest, there are no Yes or no. Big changes are always happening gradually.
Products also tried so hard to put tags on their users for their business purpose. It is helpful. But humans are complex, it is very hard to set up tags and needs leads to the metaverse. More and more changes are happening gradually and Metaverse is depriving our senses piece by piece. While we will have a long time to be in the parallel stage of the real world and the virtual world, everyone will vote with their feet in the end. People will have many identities and experience many lives. I think this is the ultimate pursuit of mankind.
Today, when the different ideas of East and West have been colliding for a long time, the new generation of young people are more interested in VR, the virtual world, and the Internet. Thus, I think there is no duality as well.
The East is not ignoring Metaverse. I remember that Tezuka drew his understanding of Elysium and Nirvana in the comic book “Buddha”. People turn into a halo which blends with everything when they die. This is the East Metaverse that forgets and becomes everything. This is exactly the same as Blizzard’s understanding of the advanced wisdom of the universe, the Protoss in StarCraft. The spirits of all Protoss are connected to a spiritual halo “Khala”. Protoss was attributed to Khala when they died. From here, the Buddha’s Nirvana and the StarCraft’s Khala all seem to be the ultimate form of Metaverse. Will this be our future?
*All the pictures in the article come from the Internet. All the thoughts in this article are based on public information. If anything causes inconvenience, please contact me.