The history of NKN core team


[Editor’s notes] These are just copy&paste from Discord discussions. It is not complete and needs work.

I can tell the story of how the core team started off. Yanbo and I have worked together for 8 years in two internal startups/ventures within Nokia, the first one is mesh wifi product, while the second is 4G LTE small cell with backhaul. Both were world first at that time. I was the co-founder/product manager, while Yanbo was the tech lead and core developer.

We went on to our different career paths later: I continued with Nokia for a while and then joined Google (Project Fi), while Yanbo joined Qualcomm, a small telecom startup, and then co-founded OnChain in Beijing.

Since 2015 Yanbo and I have been brainstorming using Fintech and later Blockchain to disrupt Telecom business, which intensified in 2017 and resulted in NKN concept.

We met Yilun in beginning of 2018 in a blockchain meetup in SF Bay area, where Yanbo was making a presentation. Three of us immediately hit off nicely, and after one more dinner we sealed the deal.

Allen and I were working together in Global Partnership and Alliance team in Nokia for about 4 years. Together we have signed quite a few major partnership deals with carriers, equipment vendors, and startups. And we did scouting for potential equity investment and M&A towards over 100 small startups. That experience gave us a very extensive professional network in the communication industry.

The Cellular Automat and NKS idea is entirely by Yanbo. During his Qualcomm days (he was expat in California for a few years), he had some free time to study the entire book of NKS from cover to cover sometime between 2015-2016. He was very excited about the idea and how to apply. I was not so sure in the beginning, but I get converted eventually. :joy:

And then when Yilun joined, he immediately saw the relationship of Cellular Automata with his work on computational neuroscience where each neuron is just like one cellular automaton! In addition, he introduced Ising Model from Physics, which enabled us to mathematically prove if a particular CA rule is convergent or not. This significantly reduce the complexity of searching for the entire computation universe (as basic NKS will suggest), but instead focus on finding a small subset of rules that satisfy the physical (temperature) and mathematical conditions.

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Adding more from Yanbo:

Glad to see people talking about the story about how NKN starting and how can we found each each. it lets me recall some good memory, I have some additions here. In fact, a lot of what we did in Nokia with Bruce and later worked at Qualcomm was the P2P network, or we called WIFI/Wireless Mesh at the time, and the wifi mesh protocol like IEEE802.11s, all of them have a lot of similarity with the current network of layer of blockchain, but NKN’s p2p network scale is even larger, and the algorithm has improved a lot compared to that time. After join Onchain, we thoroughly developed the blockchain systems from scratch. (Using classic PBFT like protocol). After accumulating a lot of network system and blockchain system development experience, we see the possibility of a better combination of the two and potential solutions.

In term about the associate the CA &NKS ( with NKN, it is not an idea from my imagination. In fact, I was deeply fascinated by the complex theory & research around 2010. Here is a very good complex/chaos system documentary film made by BBC at that time. ( At we mainly studied the Fractal Theory( proposed by Benoit B. Mandelbrot (, which describes how to construct a complex system from simple rules, but Fractal is relatively more widely used in the graphics field. and later, after more in-depth research, it was discovered that CA is actually further expanding and extending this manifestation. So we studied NKS more deeply and had the opportunity to discuss with CA master Stephen Wolfram. Combined with the problems we encountered at the time, we found that when the scale of the system is getting bigger, it is difficult to have a Top-Down method to make the whole system get consensus state. Either the cost of doing so is too high or the complexity out of control. But the core properties of the CA are equal and the appropriate rules are only applied to the local but can finally make the whole system reach a consistent state. This attribute is perfect match with our requirement and could solved this problem. So when I first explained this theory on the presentation, Dr. Yilun who have been research blockchain for a while and meanwhile is a expert of computational neuroscience, we immediately reached a consensus under such a common philosophy and ideal, and started our happy cooperation.

Stephen Wolfram: A New Kind of Science | Online—Table of Contents)

The latest on exploring the computational universe, with free online access to Stephen Wolfram’s classic 1,200-page breakthrough book.

Another interesting thing is that in 2015, we happened to see Professor Dan Boneh ( in Stanford’s thorough analysis of Bitcoin from the perspective of cryptography. We also benefited from his cryptography course, also laid a good foundation for us to complete such a project.

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