Metaverse or Neo-Samkhya
The sleeper must awaken
Русскую версию можно прочитать здесь.
The ancient philosophers of Hindustan pointed to the five blocks that form our worldview (or “citta”). They called them “vritti” — a rather deep word that can be translated as “modifications of the mind” or (which I personally like much more) as “interpretation”. So, what do we interpret and how? And who, in fact, are these “we”?
We, or rather, I — is the point of view, in the literal sense of the word. It is the point that does not have any physical characteristics — the observer, whom the ancient philosophers called Purusha. Before the gaze of this observer stands the enormous mass of matter, which they called Prakriti , the source and totality of the whole world of visible objects (visible with both, external and internal gaze). It is this objective world (Prakriti) that is observed and interpreted by the universal subject (Purusha), and in the process of this interpretation it conditionally splits into five “vritti” groups: true knowledge, false knowledge, imagination, sleep and memory.
If we draw parallels between Sanskrit and the English languages and try to expound this concept in words more familiar to an English-speaking person, add a bit of lyrics, we could get something like this:
“We read five books of life at once: truth, illusion, fantasy, dream and memory. And the process of this reading forms the whole world around us”.
The deepening of this concept, a more complete disclosure of these five “vritti” and the features of their interaction are not the subject of this text. To dive into this wonderful world of insights of ancient philosophers, you need to understand the ancient manuscripts that have preserved only an echo of innermost knowledge. The name of this knowledge is Samkhya, the twin brother and unchanging companion of another lost knowledge — yoga [i]. Instead of retelling these manuscripts (which is an extremely stupid occupation, given the amazing, vivid, figurative, concise and concentrated exposition that these texts themselves possess), I would like to talk about what is happening now. Right before our eyes, a new, sixth “vritti” is being formed — a virtual space, a new digital world, which many, after Neil Stevenson, call the Metaverse.
[i] I do not send those who crave this knowledge to fitness or yoga centers, but to the corpus of texts called Prasthanatrayi, as well as (and more importantly, in my opinion) the tests of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra and Mokshadharma (part of Shanti Parva, the twelfth book of the Mahabharata).
Yes, we live in the era of the Metaverse! We are not waiting for her to appear, we are not dreaming of her, but we have already fully and completely entered upon her lands. And though many still do not realize this and do not see it, but this world is already here, I hear how it is knocking on the inside of the monitors of our computers, laptops and smart-phones: it’s neither truth, nor lie, and more than fantasy, and brighter than a dream, and deeper than a memory. Metavritti — the totality of all things, the union of all meanings.
If you don’t quite understand what I’m talking about, it’s worth explaining. The Metaverse is a generic name for the multi-player worlds of virtual reality. Watch the recently released movie “Ready Player One” and you’ll understand what is at stake. Just watch it not like science fiction, but rather as an advertisement that will capture the consciousness of your children, and you yourself very soon; as a reflection of what is already being cooked as a ”snow crash” within the community of crypto enthusiasts and web3 programmers. The name of this ”snow crash” is tokenization. Too many new words, ha? Let’s figure it out!
- World accounting
With the advent of the Bitcoin protocol and the further development of the industry in the form of the Ethereum virtual machine protocol, a new way of recording economic phenomena has appeared. A list of these phenomena opens up the basic element of the entire economy — a transaction [ii]. Cryptocurrencies are the protocols for assembling a single planetary accounting book of records of all transactions in the economy (well, for now — in the “crypto” economy, but this is only for now), in which there is no gap between the transaction itself and the record about it. What kind of a gap is this, you may ask? Everything is simple. In our ordinary, real economic life, we make deals — we exchange some things (or rights about things) for others with the help of a certain medium of exchange. We draw up these transactions in the form of contracts (another separate thing, paper or electronic), and then also put them into accounting registers (simply, write down the results in a separate book). And often it turns out that a transaction occurs with one parameter, other parameters fall into the contract, and the third parameters are taken into account in books. Why does it happen this way? There are at least two reasons: (1) sometimes people just make mistakes, and (2) sometimes people cheat other people (for example, when they don’t want to pay taxes). There’s the gap: facts — separately, records of the facts — separately. This gap disappears in cryptocurrencies, because the transaction made in crypto and the record of this transaction are one and the same thing!
[ii] For more detailed study of the topic, I am sending you to the video “How the Economic Machine Works”, created by Ray Dalio, founder of the huge American investment company Bridgewater Associates.
2. Smart contracts
Move on. We’ve examined the relationship between the transaction and the record of this transaction in the ledger (in this case, distributed, global ledger), but somehow casually mentioned the contracts. So, contract in our ordinary, real economic life is also a certain protocol, a description of the program, an algorithm of actions of two (or more) economic agents. By making a deal, we enter into a contract in which we prescribe who should do what, in what sequence, and what happens if someone doesn’t do something or doesn’t act as it is prescribed. Taking into account the fact that we write such agreements with letters and words (which, as it turned out after many years of working as a lawyer, are rather slippery guys), it is not always possible to describe everything in detail and certainty. This, in turn, leads to controversy. And I’m not talking about situations where people deliberately distort the parameters of future transactions in documents for personal benefits (for example, tax). So, in the world of cryptocurrency protocols (and we remember from the above that in this wonderful world, a deal and a record about it are one and the same thing), you can program the cash flow between economic agents in advance, and even in such a way that it will behave unambiguously, invariably and without distortions. In other words, we can write our agreements not in letters and words, but in a programming language (here: mathematical language), in which there are only two “letters” in the database — 0 and 1.
Ah, how does it remind me the ancient Samkhya texts, which speak about the interaction of two world principles — Purusha and Prakriti, the observer and the observed, the presence and the absence! But this is lyrics. We will return to it later.
Further more! So, we already understand that money is part of the protocol itself, that is: making a money transfer, we thereby make an entry into the world accounting books, because the entry in the world accounting book has become money. We also understand that all this bookkeeping is a large world computer that allows us to program the cash flow, that is, to plan which records will be entered into the book and in what sequence. These are smart contracts. But after all, contracts always have an object — something, about which all economic interaction is conceived, something for which we will eventually pay money (albeit cryptographic). At this point, tokenization appears — the process of recording information about a certain phenomenon or object of our reality (both digital and analog, organic, or whatever else it can be called) on electronic media (token). To understand what kind of medium it is, imagine some kind of information container, an electronic document, an envelope, if you like. Inside this container there is an electronic certificate stating that some particular account inside world accounting book (an account belonging to a person or to a smart contract) owns or may dispose some particular object. Such an object may be a square meter of land, a vehicle, an artwork, a share in a company, someone’s debt, or, finally, some digital asset in the form of a two-handed sword, giving you +5 attack in a computer game X. What is it, if not a unified analogue of a huge number of registers maintained by many participants in economic turnover (including states)? It is unified, and even more — at the program level it has not much difference from money in this very ledger (in fact, cryptocurrencies). A vivid analogy will be the envelope or container already mentioned above: in the case of tokens, something lies in this container, in the case of cryptocurrency, it is empty (since the container has value by itself).
So, what do we have after all this description? We have a universal world accounting protocol that ensures the circulation of electronic containers with information about any phenomena and objects of our life (or without such information). Transactions on the exchange of one container for another are also records in the world ledger, they can occur at the same time (removing the old problem of choosing between what will be the first: payment or delivery) or programmed in advance.
The cryptocurrency protocol has been sorted out a bit, so let’s return to the Metaverse theme. By itself, this concept has existed for a long time, more than two decades since the advent of the first multiplayer online games. The bottom line is simple — in a single virtual space there are several people (players) at the same time, who in real time can interact with each other according to a pre-planned scenario or without it. If there is a scenario — this is a game whose purpose is to achieve some result, if there is no scenario — this is the so-called social world, the meaning of which is simply in communication [iii]. Over time, the worlds have been developed and filled with virtual objects (weapons, clothes, artifacts, household items, etc.), which are of value in this particular world for its inhabitants. Based on the exchange of these items between the players, domestic economies began to form, still closed within the space of this game and the servers of the developer of these worlds. But with the advent of cryptocurrencies, the situation has changed: tokenization has captured virtual spaces! Now, in a cryptocurrency container you can “put” (or rather, create a connection at the metadata level) any virtual asset and take it outside the scope of the game to the global market of virtual (digital) assets. Well, now any person can buy a dozen square meters of land in virtual space, build a virtual store there and start selling virtual goods to any person on the planet who will appear at his place using just a browser (or a virtual reality helmet — for advanced users). And why only virtual goods? Any goods in general! If they are tokenized and an affordable and uninterrupted supply chain is provided.
It turns out that a huge world is rising before our eyes, which will not only absorb the entire “real” economy with all its goods, but also create another one that will surpass the first in volume. Why? Well, because fantasy has no limits, and dream is not burdened with chains of reality! Already now, virtual worlds are being filled with pieces of digital art, which does not know the limitations of galleries and exhibitions, which can be seen from all over the world and is accessible to all people for buying and selling.
Already now, several virtual worlds are being created and developed by the efforts of the global community of enthusiasts, amazing and vast in their potential: Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, Somnium Space, Sandbox. In all of them it is already possible (or will soon become possible) to buy land and build your own world on it; create your own avatars [iv] (our reflections in the Metaverse), sell and buy clothing and household items, display any tokenized assets (non-fungible tokens [v]) on your land and much more.
[iv] An interesting fact, but even here a parallel is clearly traced with the ancient teachings of Hindustan, in which the theme of avatars (Sanskrit: अवतार, avatāra) of deities is worked out and described in hundreds of texts.
And now, looking at all that was said, drawing analogies with our world, recalling ancient treatises on the worldview and perception, we can clearly see how the Metaverse absorbs all meanings, all tools and all phenomena, erases the boundaries between reality and sleep, exceeds limits of the physical world, spreading in all directions as an ocean of fantasy, grows with new amazing architecture, attracts creative minds from all over the world and builds itself into a new world society. What will this society be like? What will it be filled with? By whom and by what methods will it be managed? What are the laws of its evolution? It all depends on us — the pioneers of the Metaverse!
The real world is an artifact!