Liu Yukun, English name Ken Liu, is a Chinese American science fiction writer. His most well-known achievement is the successful translation of the English version of Liu Cixin’s “Three-Body” series novels, which has made Liu famous in international science fiction literature.
This time he brought his new work “Byzantine Empathy Byzantine Empathy” and integrated VR technology and block chain into the novel. Even he successfully published his own ICO in the novel, called Empathium “Empathy Currency”.
Lawyers who cannot write codes are not good writers.
When Liu Yukun was 8 years old, he immigrated to the United States with his parents. His main job was as a lawyer and programmer. He even worked as an engineer at Microsoft. Later, he studied company law and became a practicing lawyer. Writing is only his hobby. This hobby has enabled him to win the world’s highest science fiction literary award “Hugo Award” twice with “paper in his hand, love in his heart” and “sorrow of things”.
Recently, Twelve Tomorrows, a science fiction anthology published by MIT Press in May, includes his new work Byzantine Empathy and his translation of Liu Cixin’s work “Gold Yuan Ye”.
Byzantine Empathy, also translated as “Byzantine Empathy”, is a short science fiction story about the combination of a block chain and VR. In the story, he created an encrypted currency called “empathium”, which is translated into Chinese as “Empathy Currency”. In the novel, encrypted currency is no longer the plaything of drug dealers and terrorists, but appears in a more elegant form. Bitcoin.com conducted a special interview on this issue. The following is a transcript of Ken Liu’s interview.
Interview Record: About Novels
Q: Why did you think of bringing bitcoin, or encrypted currency, into the Byzantine general problem?
Liu Yukun: In a short story, it is difficult to explain all aspects of encrypted currency in detail. The best way is to focus on a certain point. In my opinion, this point is the consensus reached by people on encrypted goods and the authority of the system, which is also quite consistent with the human story I want to say.
The Byzantine general problem can just satisfy this point. It is a complicated information communication problem. It may be well solved by encrypting currency or block chain technology combined with VR.
In the works I know about encrypted currency, they are more or less related to international terrorism or drugs, but I am almost completely different from them. This does not mean that I do not agree with their themes, but I think the mathematics, algorithms, history and ideas behind encrypted money are very interesting, and I want to use these interesting things as my story themes.
When we read some novels, we are easily influenced by media reports, simplifying some complicated problems into meaningless opinions or forcing us to merge into existing opinions. I want to tell a story of respecting readers and practitioners of encrypted money from the most basic papers, source code and those who spend their time and energy on encrypted money, without avoiding those complicated problems.
Q: Why did you choose to publish a novel on Twelve Tomorrows?
Liu Yukun: Wade Roush, editor of MIT Press, invited me to contribute, hoping to write an article on the technical fields covered by MIT’s technical review. I think I can write this article from VR and block chain, which I am good at.
Interview Record: About ICO
Q: How did you build “empathium”?
Liu Yukun: I have studied many disaster relief and non-governmental organizations. They have some differences in dealing with the victims of natural disasters and man-made disasters. This is a more complicated problem. I hope I can find the answer through block chain and VR technology. This idea becomes the basis for creating “empathium”.
Q: Why did you choose VR and Block Chain as your story themes?
Liu Yukun: Apart from being a very interesting mathematical application, the block chain also means a new development in building a consensus system and solving collective decision-making problems. Historically, people have solved this problem through elections, juries, courts, absolute monarchs, etc.
As a medium, VR, like movies, TV and the Internet, is constantly changing the way people communicate information and constructing the identity of individuals and groups. As a science fiction writer, how can I ignore technologies that will have great influence on the present and the future?
Interview Record: Real Science and Technology
Q: What do you think of system hackers?
Liu Yukun: After studying how the law restricts and guides the company’s decision-making, competition and cooperation methods, and how enterprises can bypass the legal restrictions, I think system hackers should be considered as the basic components of society, including the world in the novel.
Q: Is there any connection between your view on hackers and your programmers and legal background?
Liu Yukun: My main work is programming and lawyers, so I am used to looking at problems through semiotics, and programmers and lawyers have something in common in the way they think about symbolic systems: they all try to fundamentally build a hacker of symbolic systems and solve some problems through established rules.
For a writer, readers have received emotional response training on various literary genres and narrative techniques, and the writer is like an emotional construction machine to provide content. This is not very different from lawyers integrating corporate contracts or corporate structures and programmers programming.
Personally, I prefer writing, as well as programming and law, so I can find things beyond my technical ability from the work I love. To me, some source code fragments or legal arguments are just as worthy of appreciation as works of art. The same is true of novels. In addition to building a machine for emotional communication with readers, it also requires some extra creativity.
Encyclopedia of Super Nerve
Byzantine Generals’ problem
the byzantine generals problem
It was proposed by Leslie Lamport(2013 Turing Prize winner) to study the fault tolerance of distributed systems.
The Byzantine Empire wanted to attack a powerful enemy, so it sent 10 troops to surround the enemy. Byzantine generals can only communicate offensive signals through messengers, so they must agree on a common battle plan. However, one or more of them may be traitors, who are trying to confuse others and find an algorithm to ensure that loyal generals reach an agreement.
The significance of this problem is to study the fault tolerance of distributed systems and verify that it is impossible to achieve consistency through message transmission on unreliable channels with message loss.