Wang Yang: Hong Kong can become a great “city” in metaverse

Author Wang Yang

Wang Yang

Vice president, Hong Kong University of science and technology

(University Development)

Professor Wang Yang is now vice president (University Development) of the Hong Kong University of science and technology. Professor Wang is an internationally renowned scholar with a wide range of research fields; He has published more than 100 research papers in pure mathematics and interdisciplinary mathematics, many of which are published in top scientific journals. He was the program director of the National Science Foundation from 2006 to 2007.

Professor Wang obtained a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of science and technology of China in 1983 and a doctorate from Harvard University in 1990. Professor Wang started his academic career at Georgia Institute of technology in 1989 and then joined Michigan State University as head of the Department of mathematics in 2007. Professor Wang joined HKUST in August 2014 as head of the Department of mathematics; In November 2016, he was promoted to the dean of the College of science. During his tenure, he established a big data biological intelligence laboratory and launched a popular master of science course in data technology; On October 1, 2020, Professor Wang Yang became the vice president of the Hong Kong University of science and Technology (University Development).

This article is a transcript of Professor Wang Yang’s speech in the activity of “metaverse 2022 Outlook: technology, economy and investment opportunities”

Metaverse will help create a new economy for Hong Kong. When I was in the United States around 1990, there was a hot topic about Amazon and Wal Mart. Through a series of innovations, including price, volume, management and logistics, Wal Mart beat the American retail industry everywhere. At that time, many voices said that Wal Mart should be regulated by anti-monopoly law. Later, Amazon came out. At that time, Amazon was not a particularly large company, but only sold books on the Internet. But we all feel that Amazon has taken a promising path. We can restrict oligopoly like Wal Mart through the Internet and Amazon. But what people didn’t expect is that Amazon has basically knocked down all the enterprises that Wal Mart didn’t knock down at that time, and even almost knocked down Wal Mart for some time. Therefore, the original intention of the Internet era is to empower the whole people, but this has not been achieved now. Nowadays, the Internet platform is monopolized by several giants, creating amazing wealth for themselves, while the wealth gap in the world is growing.

Now our country proposes common prosperity, which is our lofty goal, or our original intention. However, in Hong Kong, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, and the new social environment, including the impact of the epidemic, the financialization of Hong Kong’s economy and the loss of manufacturing industry, make this trend irreversible in a short time. When we talk about common prosperity, what should we do next? We often hear in Hong Kong that we need to innovate and solve the problems of people’s livelihood, but how to do it? This is a question worth exploring.

Hong Kong can become a great “city” in metaverse

Metaverse is likely to be a very good opportunity to help Hong Kong develop in the future and truly achieve common prosperity. It is also the future of Hong Kong’s economy. Why do you say that? First of all, we don’t have a particularly good definition of metaverse, but it’s not a bad thing. In fact, I’ve read a lot of views. It’s because you don’t know the ultimate model of metaverse that metaverse has also generated a lot of heat. We discuss whether metaverse is a virtual world, but I personally think metaverse will be the ultimate form of digital economy, and this definition may be broader.

In the future, our economy will be a digital economy to a large extent. Now, we regard the real economy as how many cars and mobile phones China has made, which we call the real economy. However, I personally believe that the digital economy will be a part of the real economy in a few decades. Digital economy must be a very important part of the real economy after entering the metaverse era. This is not to say that we do not eat food or make mobile phones, but that the digital economy should be a part of the real economy. We should have ideals, and we also have the opportunity to build Hong Kong into one of the greatest cities in metaverse. “City” is a very vague concept in metaverse, because many of the metaverse we imagine now are likely to be distributed, so what is a city or even a community can be said to be a decentralized concept geographically. But I still want to emphasize that in the virtual concept of “city”, Hong Kong should become a great “city” in metaverse, just as Hong Kong has been one of the greatest cities in the world over the years. Such a great city was built on the basis of empowering citizens, equity, sharing and common prosperity.

Digital economy is the future of Hong Kong

At the just concluded two sessions, I was pleased to note that there were seven detailed proposals on the development of metaverse in China. One is that metaverse is a new opportunity for digital economy, and the other is to promote common prosperity.

So how to promote common prosperity in metaverse? I think the digital economy is the future of Hong Kong. In fact, we often talk about innovation in Hong Kong. We are also looking for the next economic growth point, but I think some of our discussions are not in place. Let me give an example. About two years ago, Hong Kong carried out many so-called innovation projects, built many large innovation centers, and supported hundreds of millions of Hong Kong dollars for each center. In fact, after reading it, I think this has not got rid of the innovative method of the past. In the past, our innovation was to spend a sum of money, and then find a few experts and a group of people to focus on doing a few things together, so we can rest assured. However, in the future environment of a truly innovative digital economy, innovation should be empowering. All citizens are a distributed and emerging form. Therefore, why we mention the digital economy now is precisely because it can bring a lot of innovation opportunities empowering citizens.

Now there are many technological innovations driven by metaverse, such as blockchain technology and Internet 3.0. There is a great idea that everyone can share this part of the economy on the basis of Internet 3.0 and blockchain, rather than being monopolized by several oligarchs, that is, many people can innovate. Under the premise of this innovation, we can see that Hong Kong is actually very basic. In the Hong Kong Unicorn we made last year, 20% of the unicorn enterprises related to blockchain technology accounted for. Many of the successful enterprises in the blockchain have gone out from Hong Kong. From this perspective, Hong Kong is fully capable of playing a leading role in metaverse or in the new Internet 3.0 and blockchain technology.

Metaverse helps promote social equity

Why do I think promoting social equity is a goal of our future development in Hong Kong? The polarization of Hong Kong is obvious to all. By 2020, 550000 people in Hong Kong were below the poverty line, accounting for 8% of the total population. As a very rich society, this is unacceptable. How to solve this problem? Why did we have polarization in the past? One is the financialization of the economy, which actually hollowed out the real economy. Now to fill the gap in the real economy, metaverse must be the direction of our future development. Now metaverse has seen many innovative concepts, such as sharing economy and common prosperity. On this premise, metaverse can lead the world, which I am very confident.

Metaverse promotes educational equity

In terms of education, from another perspective of metaverse, it can help solve the problem of educational equity. In fact, only 20% of Hong Kong’s high school students go to college after graduation, which is lower than that in the mainland. I have made some arguments that metaverse will bring educational revolution in the future. Why do I think education in the future must be a decentralized model? Why will it develop in metaverse? Of course, this includes some technological innovations, but I think more important is the innovation of ideas. It is not only technological innovation that can really give us a very vivid lesson. For example, in history class, we are likely to return to history in metaverse, so the history I learned will be more vivid than what we learned in the classroom now. There are also some popular ideas to help realize the fairness of education. These ideas will eventually play a very important role in fair education in Hong Kong and even the world.

Metaverse helps the innovation of governance model

Through this epidemic, the government of Hong Kong has exposed many problems in governance, especially the phenomenon of “streaking” in dealing with the crisis. Now we often make complaints about Hongkong’s efficiency. Through this epidemic, we see a trend. In order to solve the problem of efficiency, we need to strengthen centralization, that is, our government should have stronger executive ability and stronger administrative ability. However, in metaverse, we often talk about the so-called concept of decentralization. In fact, many things are completed efficiently under the framework of decentralization. In the future, we can really improve our governance model through metaverse. People often argue whether our future system is a strong administrative led and centralized system or whether we have more decentralized mechanisms in the future. People who hold these two views argue endlessly. I personally believe that driven by metaverse, our governance in the future must be two legged and centralized to a certain extent. This concentration must be based on infrastructure, including our digital economy. It cannot be done without certain administrative concentration, and it is impossible to do without some government resources. However, at the same time, in another form of creation, we will also see many decentralized spontaneous management methods, which will coexist in the future. And it is precisely because of this coexistence that we can really promote the efficient and fair development of our society.

To sum up, I think now Hong Kong has reached the juncture of many social problems that need to be solved, including how to find the next development point of society, including how to achieve a fair society and how to solve the problem of the gap between the rich and the poor. At this time, there is only one way. This way is that we must produce in the sharing economy dominated by digital economy. We are now talking about innovation, but we should also take into account that Hong Kong cannot return the manufacturing industry to Hong Kong in the short term, so it is very difficult for Hong Kong to develop the traditional real economy. However, if we regard the digital economy driven by metaverse as a part of the real economy, Hong Kong has very superior conditions. Therefore, after recognizing such superior conditions, we must vigorously develop the digital economy and metaverse. The government should make a strong investment, invest in the infrastructure of the digital economy and education, so as to truly make Hong Kong a prosperous A shared and fair society.