Author: @SixSix | @RealResearchDAO
In Greek mythology there is a god with two faces: Janus, who faces the past and the future. How to recognize the past is very important for how to move towards the future. But in between the past and the future, how to continue and simulate the past is a question that is worth thinking about, especially after the emergence of blockchain technology and the concept of NFT.
The Cognition of Human and Memory
In Christopher Nolan's film "Memento", in order to catch the murderer, the young inspector Leonard, who can only keep his memory for a few minutes, keeps on wearing new tattoos, taking pictures and notes, etc., to remind himself not to forget his mission after resetting each piece of memory.
After constantly searching for new clues, provoking the old memories, and eliminating the interference of false memories, Leonard got closer to the truth.
In the film, Leonard's intermittent amnesia caused him to do everything possible to record the information and experiences he had acquired in his current state before he was about to lose his memory. After the memory was reset, he could maximally respond to his memory and have enough information to make a correct understanding.
Every time the memory resets, for Leonard, it means an opportunity to recognize. This coincides with the inheritance of human history and memory.
Since human beings cannot directly pass on their own memory and cognition, but rely on education, literature, cultural relics, etc. to indirectly pass on to future generations, human beings have encountered the same problem as Leonard: how to effectively transmit memory information and how to effectively understand?
This is a risky move. How do we make the memory as deep as possible to ensure that the original intention to be expressed is recorded in the process of transmission? This is a question worth pondering, and the answer that this article seeks to explore.
But before that, we need to have a clear understanding of memory itself. As the accumulation of impressions that record a group's past prior knowledge, the memory system constantly transforms the incoming stream of stimuli into meaningful patterns that can be stored and met, and transcends time and a single individual. It then becomes the intuitive answer of the entire population about its own positioning, that is, where it came from and where it is going.
The concrete memory exists in the mind, but the abstract memory can be expressed by the words on rocks, the growth rings of trees, etc.
If it is simply inferred according to the law of conservation of mass, memory itself has no mass. But the carrier of memory and the process of receiving memory are also inseparable from matter, such as time interval, space, preservation, reactivation, reconstruction or distortion, etc. Therefore, memory can be regarded as a kind of mapping of material activities in the mind to a certain extent.
And this means that memory itself is affected by the development of material conditions. The different memory tools in different material stages will also bring great changes to the continuation and simulation of memory.
The Importance of Memory
Memory is important. The value of life in all living things is nothing more than the continuation of the existing memory of the group as much as possible, and the attempt to expand it.
Whether it is between species, groups, civilizations, or families, this kind of memory with different levels of information bits and different dimensions is continuing in living beings. We call this continuation process gene transmission.
In addition, a society built by the same species will spontaneously form certain social norms. For example, in a wolf pack, the prey captured is eaten by the able-bodied first and so on. The generation of this part of the behavior is intermittent and continuous. In fact, mother wolves don't teach their pups these rules, instead they are developed spontaneously in every pack. We call this continuation process the transmission of social constraints.
But in addition, human beings themselves have a unique way of memory transmission: a third way of memorization supported and constituted by technology.
For example, a cut flint has a form of size that exists in non-organic matter. The mechanic's gesture remembers a tissue transmissible by non-organic matter, enabling the possibility of transferring personal knowledge through a third medium for the first time in the history of life.
That's why quasi-memory cannot be separated from technology, making this memory possible to pass on from one generation to another. This direct intergenerational transmission of personal experiences is forbidden in the animal world, which is why there is neither animal culture nor animal spirit.
Memory is something that is difficult to define precisely, but it objectively affects everyone's definition and behavior of themselves. "People define themselves by their ancestors' religions, languages, ideas, values, customs and institutions". This makes it impossible for us to make Pareto optimal solutions on every decision like the supposed rational economy in economics.
This kind of influence is deeply rooted in human’s hearts, from micro to macro, which leads to different countries making diametrically opposite top-level decisions even under the same political and economic system and common interests.
The definition of one's own history will have a fundamental impact on the behavior and thinking logic of the current group.
This is why memory, especially the third memory, is important to us.
The enabling of the third memory requires three preconditions: a population needs to be aware of the existence of memory, it needs to have the technology to record memory, and it also needs to rethink about memory.
The continuation of memory requires the support of technology. Just like Leonard relies on tattoos and photos to keep himself from forgetting. But the continuation of memory also requires future generations to have a correct understanding of memory. In the film, Leonard misjudged the true meaning of the notes several times, so that he made many seemingly wrong decisions.
Simulation and Continuation
Thanks to the Internet for giving people an important platform to record their memories.
Individuals will forget, and groups will forget, but so far the Internet has almost never forgotten. Years later, when you, as a conscripted soldier, complain about Putin's mobilization and panic about going to the frontier, search engines and social media will still tirelessly remind you that Russia's "miraculous victory" in Ukraine six months ago was cheerful.
You'll reflect on your decision-making process, and be amazed at how precisely the Internet has preserved all the materials you've been shouting at.
This is the great thing about the Internet for memory transmissions.
But the birth of the Internet has brought new problems to the transmission of memory. Although the Internet will not delete memory itself, different propaganda settings will deny it.
From ancient times to the present, the groups that can express their views and be recorded in the books are often only a minority of the entire ethnic group.
In the current era of widely developed social media, if we take social media as a whole, and consider two stats, that only 10% of the world's people have a bachelor's degree or above, and the world's prevalence of mental disorders may exceed 17%, then the global social media may be the only least credible form of media in human history.
In the current environment, we are now in a situation where it is impossible to tell whether a controversial news subject is an individual news subject or has an propaganda-setting team behind.
Use an extreme case to describe the death of Shinzo Abe. When all the witnesses present were interviewed afterwards, they would describe and express themselves in favor of their own interests. Abe’s supporters think his death is tragic, while his opponents celebrate.
In fact, any memory that has been abstracted and expressed through the recreation will not be the memory itself anymore.
The operator who killed the target through the remote control plane thousands of miles away from the battlefield, would not have too much excitement and guilt for his murder. When his memory is told to future generations, it will not cause them to learn more about cruelty and blood shredded history of war.
Witnesses who have experienced this war scene will amplify the marketing of this event when passing on memory to future generations, and will also make the memory recipients think differently: to cherish life, or hatred.
In the past, individuals between two different civilizations often did not have large-scale conversation channels, so two individuals from different cultures could not objectively debate the definition of justice with each other.
But in most cases, it was easier for people back then to come to this consensus than people today. We can each have different positions, but we are all human beings at the end of the day.
However, with the deepening of the propaganda setting, the memory of the common starting point of human beings is also constantly divided. We will see that the definition of "one's own person" is constantly narrowed, quarreling and attacking each other on the Internet and eventually even evolving into extremism.
This is the problem with the Internet in terms of memory continuation and simulation. So can the emergence of new technologies solve it?
Blockchain and NFTs
Now, it's NFT's turn. By making NFT to record what you see and hear, and with the emergence of blockchain technology, it becomes an iron-like memory carrier that can never be tampered with.
The history and current time are saved as NFTs on the blockchain, and the entire platform is managed by more decentralized and democratic DAO organizations.
Through more democratic governance and more realistic memory records, the world will eventually be more genuine.
The core of this logic lies in the immutability of blockchain technology and the uniqueness of ERC-721, which ensures the accuracy of memory records from a technical level.
The DAO governance form accompanying the birth of the blockchain, based on true democratic governance, can protect the expression of memory from the influence of authoritarianism as much as possible.
This is the goal of practitioners. It is great, but it is destined to have resistance.
First of all, it is stated that as a carrier of memory, NFT cannot really solve the authenticity of the recorded memory. It has been shown above that any memory will be more or less distorted after abstraction.
In addition, in "Risk Society", Ulrich Beck once proposed a relatively simple way to solve the risk society brought about by technological progress. That is, we should focus our consensus on progress rather than technology, that is, we must always admit that technological progress has always promoted the visible progress of our society throughout human history.
Compared with knotted notes, tattoos and writing, the Internet has undoubtedly promoted the progress of society and memory inheritance. The emergence of Web3, blockchain and NFT will be even better than Web2 forms.
But this consensus is too vague, just like no one can stop history from evolving, and no one can stop history from swaying.
Like most trends in history, the popularization and utilization of technology has its swings, and every great technological change is often followed by a round of reflection on technology. In the end, new technologies will achieve the most favorable balance for human society in the game of progress and reflection.
Just like in the Internet, although everyone's traces will not be completely removed, due to the existence of propaganda settings, social consensus will be interfered and it will develop towards the expectations of opinion leaders.
Although the carrier of NFT is in Web3, its manifestation still cannot break free from the shackles of the Internet. To a certain extent, it cannot avoid the interference of propaganda setting on social consensus. The most obvious case is that the current overall atmosphere of NFT is mainly based on Western culture. The squeezing of weak cultures by strong cultures has resulted in generally lower prices for non-Western based NFTs. This will also have an impact on the transmission, simulation and cognition of different civilizations' memories.
But we cannot deny that NFT is the best current record carrier of memory and history by far, and blockchain is still a great technology.
In fact, history is written by the victors, and the blockchain is not exempt from the tradition. There is a situation of "tyranny of the majority" in the consensus statement. For memory, the great thing about NFT is that the right to remember and tell is delegated to each independent individual, so that the group can simulate the past facts and history to the greatest extent, know their own past, and provide for themselves future decisions.