Physics, Economics and Morality

The reason for entrepreneurship success is intellectual honesty and pursuit of truth

物理、经济与道德 – 创业的真谛与成功的原因是因为追求真理

Learn, strategize, produce, learn, strategize, produce…on steroids. I’m enjoying this startup tempo, especially when your whole team is learning the same things together. Remember when we were students, peer studying groups were proven to be effective? This should be carried on even in corporations and as one’s organization gets bigger. The interesting thing about being in the workforce in the information era is that people who are 10-30 years older than you are learning the same new things, driving the same new industries and reading the same new books. No more relying on legacy experiences in a specific vertical.

学习、战略、生产、学习、战略、生产…… 我很享受现在这种快速循环累积的创业节奏,尤其是当自己整个团队都在一起学习同样的东西。还记得我们还是学生的时候,同龄人学习小组是一种很有效的学习方法吗?即使在大企业中或者当团队在成长时,也应该延续使用这种方法。在信息时代工作的有趣之处在于,比你大10-30岁的人也在学习同样的新东西,推动同样的新产业,阅读同样的新书。不再依赖特定垂直领域的经验和年数。

When I just started my intrapreneurship full-time, I still thought there were so many things in business we don’t learn in science and technology R&D. But I began to realize that we did learn them – the core methodologies – we were just not trained to map our formal education to the practical areas in industry. I understand some of us who are highly technical tend to shy away from anything closely to do with money. We may prefer narrowing ourselves in our own “pure” fields of study until retirement, because the rest just seems too fluffy and human-made-up.

刚刚开始全职创业的时候,我仍然以为商业中有许多东西是我们在科学和技术研发中没有学到的。但我开始意识到,我们其实已经学了这些核心方法–我们只是没有正式地培训,将我们的正规教育映射到工业的实际领域。很理解我们这些高度技术性的人倾向于回避任何与金钱密切相关的东西。我们当中大部分人可能更倾向于把自己局限在自己的 “纯 “研究领域,直到退休,因为其他的东西看起来太过松散和人为编造。然而,一个创造者不可以纯粹地做创造者。他们在成长的过程中会学到:诞生容易,生存难。(用科技产品开发的理念来讲:ideas are cheap; scalability is gold.)虽然一个创造者只想在乎发表,围绕他们的一切,所有人,在乎的是金钱,以生存。而生存甚至发达,就是得走套路。而套路是创造者天性厌恶的,因此创造者要么贫穷,要么不受当代赏识,要么不是纯粹的创造者。

However, building a startup is nothing different from what we learn in scientific research. We observe a phenomenon, come up with a theory to try to describe it, maybe run some simulations and design an experiment to validate our theory. Just as how physics is the study of nature, we use a startup to study the market – the nature of economy. It’s a complex many-body system, just like in condensed matter physics. If our theory (hypotheses) is correct, the business has a reason to scale. If not, we may discover something fundamental about nature. Either way, it is exciting.

但从积极的态度来看,其实建立一个创业公司与我们在科学研究中所学到的没什么不同。我们观察一个现象,想出一个理论来试图描述它,也许进行一些模拟,并设计一个实验来验证我们的理论。就像物理学是对自然的研究一样,我们用创业公司来研究市场, 因为经济就是人文自然。这是一个复杂的多体系统,就像在凝聚态物理中一样。如果我们的理论是正确的,企业就有基础扩大规模。如果不对,我们可能会发现一些关于自然界的根本问题。无论哪种都是令人兴奋的。因此,我为了用科技帮助传统领域发展数字化转型,也从科学家拓展成了企业家,同时创出一条科技时尚的道路。我在学习物理学时感受到的顿悟再次启迪了我。可以很高兴地再次确认,就像应该先学历史再学政治,确实可以先学物理再学经济,我对世界的一切认识和理解以及我采取的方法都源于我学习了物理。它可以应用到很多领域,甚至包括在建立一个企业或创造一个解决用户需求的产品。

As Bob Dorf and Steve Blank put it, “a startup is a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.” It is not a smaller version of a bigger company. It is also not set up for claiming glory, which we see often. An experiment fails most of the time. Even with the technology, a wrong business model still fails. Even if someone else has built the technology first, you can still build a successful business with leverage. Learning and correcting are what’s leading to occasional/eventual successes.

正如Bob Dorf和Steve Blank说的,” A startup is a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. (创业公司是一个临时组织,旨在寻找一个可重复和可扩展的商业模式)”。它不是一个大公司的缩小版。它也不是为了(像我们经常看到的)创始人的光环而设立的。一个实验大多数时候都会失败。即使有核心技术,一个错误的商业模式仍然会令其失败。即使已有前人先建立了技术,你仍然可以用商业杠杆建立一个成功的企业。学习和纠正才能走向偶尔的成功。我至今做过非常非常多的实验,但现在正在做的这个实验是迄今为止最大和最难的实验,以探究现实和验证一个经济理论。

My first-hand experiences in quantum computing and fashiontech made me compare seemingly different industries to find commonalities manifested in people’s pursuits. Every industry has a holy grail, which should be backed/driven by morality or intellectual curiosity: for quantum computing, it would be to reach millions of qubits, in order to simulate nature; for fashiontech, it would be to reach inventory = 0, MOQ = 1 and SKU = infinity, in order to reduce waste and pollution.

同时亲身经历了量子计算和时尚科技,让我体会到看似不同的行业,人们在追逐目标体现出的共同点。每个行业都有一个圣杯,它应该由道德或好奇心来支持或驱动:对于量子计算,这个圣杯是要达到百万量子比特,才能模拟自然;对于时尚科技,它是要达到库存=0,每批最小产量=1和SKU=无穷大,以减少浪费和污染。

There are many paths that lead to the same result. Although a holy grail may not be completely reached, given the economic system we live in, for achievable goals that can define how the world evolves, one builds a business to solve some problems. For unachievable ideals that’s good for the society, one relies on writing books to shape how people think.

有许多路径可以通向相同的结果。虽然圣杯可能无法完全达到,但在我们所处的经济体系中,对于可以实现的目标,人们可以通过建立一个企业来解决一些问题而定义世界如何演变。对于无法实现的、但对社会有益的理想,人们需要依靠写书来塑造未来的思维方式。

Along the way, constraints and conditions have to be optimized, such as revenue and business leverage. The discrepancy in the approaches and how people think are what cause competition and sometimes animosity. If the effort is driven by morality, empathy allows us to understand we all want the same good result and collaboration.

在这一过程中,约束数据和条件需要被优化,如年收入和商业杠杆。是方法上和思维方式的差异导致了我们所看到的竞争,有时甚至是敌意。如果目标是由道德驱动的,那同理心能让我们理解其实大家都想要同样的好结果,应该合作。

In fashion, we try to move from overproduction to a sustainable model but there is tremendous hurdle carried forward from historic mode of production and societal structure. Even though the industry knows that mass production has led to environmental exploitation and workers rights violations, it still behaves this way because, paraphrasing Freakonomics (by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner), “if morality represents an ideal world, then economics represents the actual world” (in my words, math is how an ideal world should be; physics is how the real world is).

时尚界最需要解决的问题,是从过量生产转向可持续的模式,但这有巨大的障碍,是从历史上传统的生产模式和社会结构延续下来的。即使这个行业里的人都知道大规模生产导致了环境剥削和人力剥削,但它仍然这样做,因为用Freakonomics里的话来说(Steven Levitt和Stephen Dubner),”If morality represents an ideal world, then economics represents the actual world. (如果道德能定义一个理想的世界,那么经济学描述的就是现实的世界)”。用我的话说,数学描述的是理想世界;物理学体现的是真实世界。

To change how the industry works is like a phase transition, which requires an activation energy to jump the hurdle. There are smaller steps with lower activation energies, like catalysis, including consumer demand, digital processes, supply chain connectivity and factory automation. Could there be conditions for tunneling, i.e. a completely different scalable way of making clothes that is so much more efficient than anything existing?

要改变行业的运作方式,就像要达到一个相变,需要一个激活能量来跳过这个巨大障碍。也可以用一些小步骤达到,需要低一些的激活能量,就像催化作用,比如消费者需求、数字流程、供应链连接和工厂自动化。能不能产生隧道效应的条件,也就是以一种完全不同的可规模化的服装制造方式,比现有的任何方法都高效得多?

Growth of economy is like increase of entropy. We know the latter is bound by the laws of physics. We do not know if consciousness of some sort is involved in making the latter happen. But we do know the former is driven by human choice. For ones who prioritize the former, predicting where the market is leads them to fuel the increase of entropy. But we start to observe results that are against our morality. Morality holds us back from indulging in the most money-making paths, while resenting others who choose those paths because society deems local gains of entropy a success.

经济的增长就像熵的增加。我们知道后者受物理学规律的约束。我们不知道是否有某种意识参与了后者的发生。但我们知道,前者是由人类的选择所驱动。对于那些认为前者最重要的人来说,预测市场的发展方向鼓励他们不断助长熵的增加。但我们会观察到这会导致违背道德的结果。道德阻止我们沉迷于最能赚钱的道路。而对其他选择这种道路的人感到不满,因为社会世俗定义了熵的局部增长就是所谓的成功。

Interestingly, phase transitions also happen because their entropy is favored, globally. Phase transitions can happen when there’s enough activation energy. It starts with local sites being excited. When local sites reach critical mass, the transition happens very fast. Suddenly the entire matter changes to a different phase. If the activation energy is not enough, which comes from human choice, local site excitation gets absorbed by the reservoir of existing phase. Then no change globally. Sometimes the activation energy is intentionally extinguished by human choice, guided by their individual morality which has existing critical mass because of the societal definition of success.

有趣的是,相变的发生也是因为熵的增加更有利,从全局上看。当有足够的激活能量时,相变就会发生。它从局部位点被激发开始。当局部位点达到临界质量时,转变发生得会非常快。突然间,整个物质变成了一个完全不同的相。如果激活能量不够(因为人类的选择),局部位点的激发就会被现有的相所吸收。那么就不会有全局的相变。有时,激活能量被人类的选择有意熄灭,在他们的个人道德的指导下,因为社会对成功的定义,已超过临界质量。

Everything else is hype, which tends to be louder and noisier. Temperature makes noise but also provides energy. This is why in every hype there is some truth to it. Pursue truth (veritas).

其他的一切都是噪音,来自炒作,炒作往往声音更大噪音更多。温度会产生噪音,但也会提供能量。这就是为什么在每个炒作中都有一些真理。但我们因该去追求的,是真理。

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