Crisis + data + digital = quantum tech

It's time to stop being scared of Quantum Computing

My weekend thoughts

It’s a warm, sunny Saturday morning in Miami Beach and I am, like most of you, isolated alone at home. Am I supposed to work from home today? I mean I did have to google what day it is… bottom line, I am indulging you with a special edition of my newsletter. Enjoy, share, comment, criticize, debate. ❤️

🆘 Postulate 1: An economic crisis

I think most of us have accepted that we are not only experiencing a global health crisis but also seeing the birth of what might arguably be the largest economic crisis AND transformation in modern history.

As an economist like me, what is happening at the level of the corporation and employee, is pretty simple. We call it a liquidity crisis (oh AMEX when will you stop calling me). A shortage of liquidity occurs when (1) your markets, (2) your funding or (3) your accounting F’d up. We are currently experiencing a combination of 2 and 3 at a scale, scope and reach never seen before.

To get out of such a liquidity crisis, there are, in this context, 2 possibilities:

  1. Increase your funding aka obtain loans, grants or issue bonds or equities

  2. Grow your balance sheet aka increase your revenue and margin

Poll: Has option 1 worked for you? I cannot find reliable numbers but it seems that most of the economic stimulus has gone past many of us

This means, for most of us, increasing our revenue and margins (I smell innovation and new technologies) are the only way out.

The BCG Henderson Institute has explored that exact question and looked at the past 4 economic downturns to see how companies fared.

14% of us will manage to outgrow this downturn and the competition with increased revenue and margin, these are those who will adopt data, digital and the technologies needed to leverage them.

14% of us have enough cash to “buy” innovation and outgrow this downturn, albeit with lower margins and on borrowed time.

The rest of us ⚰️.

Goldman Sachs just released a client survey last week

  • 93% said this crisis will impact the way their business operates

  • 69% say large corps will gain a further advantage over SMEs

  • 68% will permanently change their business model (business model is how a company makes $$$)

💾 Postulate 2: Data - the new gold, oil, diamonds, and everything else

It’s an adage so old that I struggle to write it on a Saturday morning so I’ll let Albert say it:

If it has become clear to you yet that our world, society, politics, media, social media and business is ruled by data then please do something better with your weekend than read me.

Facts are increasingly hard to identify. Certainty is the true north star. Opinion, bias and memes drive not just behaviors but most buying decisions. This is as true for a protein shake as it is for enterprise technology. Hence, only those who

  1. Collect data

  2. Clean and prep their data

  3. Store, secure and structure their data

  4. Visualize and analyze their data

  5. And, this is the big one, act on it consistently and regularly

…have a shot in today’s world. The world is already made out of two camps - the data haves and the data have nots. This will exponentially accelerate over the next couple years.

Undertone: you can’t win at data with Excel spreadsheets and some A.I.

🛠️ Postulate 3: You are not a digital business you say??? 🤣🤣🤣

🤷 The only logical result

  1. Outgrowing is the one chance to survive in the digital age

  2. Outgrowing is dependant on how well you leverage data

  3. To leverage data you need new tools

What are those tools you ask?

And while I love A.I. and believe it is critical to our success (I was lucky to be the co-founder of Opentopic Inc. in NYC - see video - with my buddy Christian Jorg) we shall focus on Quantum Computing, the only technology in existence today able to deal with all of our data and its use cases for the challenges that we are facing.

Why Quantum Computing?

Quantum Computing has left the spooky world of science and firmly arrived in the enterprise world. If you read an article describing it as some weird, future technology that might solve all of our SciFi problems, please put it on the same pile as your Tiger King and Covid-19 conspiracy news. 🗑️

There are many great intros to Quantum Computing, I have one on my website and I recommend this comprehensive yet easy to understand article by MIT.

What is more important to understand is the WHY? - and that, in fact, is pretty simple. Take a look at the below chart courtesy of IBM. It shows how fast a classical computer (the ones we use today working with bits and 0 and 1’s) will reach a physical limit. In fact, at some point, an imaginary supercomputer of the future would require more classical bits than there are atoms on planet earth to perform certain computations. I’m gonna say… not possible!

Think that sounds uptopic? Think again!

Something as simple as a caffeine molecule is out of reach to compute for even the most powerful supercomputer. Yes, that is correct - the coffee you are drinking this morning, masterfully blended by the expert nose of a human - cannot be computed in full by a classical supercomputer.

There is a whole class of “computational problems” called NP hard that is out of reach for our classical computers, even those of the future.

This has, to a certain extend, to do with the raw power of these machines and the more powerful they get, the more they will be able to solve.

But, and this is the crux, it also has to do with the non-classical nature of our world. Many problems, when we try to describe them as humans using math and formulas and equations, aren’t rooted in classical physics. They are rooted in quantum physics and you cannot fit a square peg in a round hole.

Using Quantum Computers is not a question of spooky, futuristic or doesn’t matter to me. It’s a question of using the right tool for the right job. Our job? See section one of this article.

But Quantum Computers are 10 years out!!!

Now a lot of folks say that Quantum Computers don’t exist yet. Or only in the lab. But wait, didn’t Google declare Quantum supremacy just before Christmas last year? Almost sounds like a #fakenews election so allow me to bring some clarity.

Quantum Computers do exist

  • D-Wave - let us shelve the argument if D-Wave is quantum or not for another day. It’s an awesome machine and it’s available NOW in the cloud, all you need is your credit card

  • Rigetti - a Quantum Computing startup with a cloud offering

  • Honeywell - coming out on Azure any day now

  • IBM - the lion sitting atop the hill with 18 🤯🤯🤯 Quantum Computers available, billions of quantum circuits executed and thousands of users

Quantum Computers are not yet supreme

  • None of these, or any of the others, deliver quantum supremacy

  • None of these deliver performance that cannot be matched by a HPC

  • All of these do deliver quantum computation capabilities live in the cloud

Nobody knows when real supremacy or, rather, quantum advantage will be achieved. And frankly, it does not matter. Honeywell says what matters is to make quantum practical. IBM says what matters is to give quantum computation power to users today. Both exist and are ready for you to be played with.

And this is why Quantum today

It’s 5 minutes to noon (thanks god, not midnight) and my morning musings are nearing their end…

My message here is simple:

  • The world is changing. Accept it.

  • To strive in the new world mastering data is the only answer.

  • Mastering data requires computational capabilities that go well beyond classical HPC’s, blockchain or A.I. - not in speed, but in nature

It is time for you to start practicing that quantum nature so you don’t end up like our fellow passenger on the plane in the video above.

I would be unable to name a single one of my (reasonable, and most of them are) quantum colleagues who would urge you - user and business executive - to figure out a quantum computer.

Or to deliver something supreme.

That is not the goal here. The goal is that you NEED TO GET STARTED NOW.

Quantum Tech is a very complex, and, more importantly, very different technology. You will need time to understand it, time to play with it and experiment, form your own opinions, plans and strategies.

Then, begin to execute. Integrate and prep your data. Hook up to your legacy and classical systems. Define internal processes and business plans.

This process takes 2 - 6 years (?) depending on your organization and industry and if you are just slightly in agreement with any of my 3 postulates then you cannot afford to wait any longer because #quantumiscoming

I am going to head out there now on my bicyle and hopefully come back with a bottle of wine. Enjoy your weekend - next week I will be talking about investors in Quantum Tech and what this all means for them 🙏👋