Discover more from Quantum World Detangled | André M. König
Quantum technology: death by incremental improvement
Hollywood the quantum tech innovator & what I will be talking about at CogX London
My last newsletter was about how enterprises can navigate the conundrum of being innovators without throwing out their entire business model - and I encouraged enterprise users of quantum technology to think big.
Then Hollywood came along and encouraged me not to think so small.
As I'm getting ready to travel to London where I'll be speaking at CogX - the technology leadership summit - I thought it would be fun to revel in my dream of bold quantum technology a bit more.
Below you can find a discount code to join me at CogX - read on after it as I share my vision.
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Here is what my message on stage at CogX will be: incremental quantum tech will be its death!
Where I am going with this: quantum tech is something new not something better.
Some liken it to the invention of fire, the wheel, electricity or the internet. And yes, quantum computers, networks or sensors sure are better in certain aspects than their classical cousins.
However, they are rooted in quantum mechanics, which is an entirely new understanding of a completely different world. Hence, using quantum technology to do existing things better, faster, cheaper is falling short of its promise and jeopardizing our quantum future.
Vendors, consultants, experts, bankers and other quantum enthusiasts have become so good at innovation that the temptation to productize and commercialize what we have today is hard to resist. Let’s make the enterprise 15% better, it’s worth billions.
My hope is that inventing something new won’t become impossible in consequence.
What “Heart of Stone”, a new Netflix movie, proposes is not entirely new to be fair. Yet, it stretches the boundaries of innovation in welcome ways - and maybe that is a futuristic middle-ground an entrepreneur might be able to take on to help invent what’s next.
A note on data privacy Heart of Stone hinges on the fact that "Heart" - the quantum computer - is all knowing due to its ability to break any encryption and harvest any source of data. While it uses this data for good (so it seems) to build predictive models, I, in no way, condone such violation of personal privacy or enterprise confidentiality. Heart of Stone is fictional, as is this hypothetical use case. I use it for illustrative purposes of what will be possible one day - it's up to the user (us humans) to decide if the outcome is benevolent or harmful.
Now buckle up, #QuantumIsComing
In the Netflix movie Heart of Stone, the Heart is a quantum computer that can hack into anything, including cell phones, power grids, banks, governments, and military systems.
What the heart does with this mythical, yet, very tangible ability, is to collect data. All data. Literally.
Thanks to access to all of this data, the heart is able to build predictive models for any type of analysis.
Want to know what a company stock will be doing tomorrow? The heart will tell you and provide you a confidence interval for the prediction. Is your favorite sports team winning this weekend? Will you fall in love with the person on your first date tonight? The heart has the answer to most questions you can imagine.
The confidence intervals the heart propose are stunningly high. However, even the heart is no oracle…. yet.
As the data changes in real time (maybe you’re having one glass of wine too many on that first date) or the time horizon for your prediction becomes too long, the accuracy of the prediction quickly deteriorates.
The heart is not a sentient machine; it simply predicts everything, continuously modelling all the data it receives.
The sources of data - from the web, personal devices, protected databases - are augmented by “live” data from its users. In this case, agents of a secretive organization, fighting for good.
These agents carry various sensors, augmented reality contact lenses, (very) smart phones and other gadgets that provide a feedback loop of real time events. Are you engaged in an afternoon car pursuit through downtown Rome? Now you can send back data on pedestrian movements, natural obstacles and other information that the heart might be unable to gather via its sources.
The resulting prediction, continuously displayed in the same augmented reality interface, adjusts accordingly.
Ultimately, it provides an analysis and recommendations of the best course of action. Turn right at Via dei Trevi. Don’t buy that company stock. Order a glass of water instead.
Heart of Stone is not my all time favorite movie, however, I was struck by how they presented the #quantum aspects, which I find inspiring. Here is why:
❤️ Name: Heart. That's cute. Quantum for good and quantum at the core of it all. Not just some enterprise application.
Quantum is actually sitting at the heart of the entire system and enables it. Not just a quantum computer but also sensors, networking and encryption. An end to end solution powered by various quantum technologies working hand in hand.
🖇️ Use case: A cryptographically relevant QC (kept on a space station for safety) used to collect and analyze data to build predictive models. Thinking big (let's discuss data privacy later 🗓️). And it isn’t used to steal your money or shut down our power plants, rather, to enable better decision making in a real life context.
We might argue over how the movie expresses this. Surely, not all of us are secret agents fighting evil.
Using it to find the optimal solution, in real time, of a hard problem and implementing it immediately.
⚒️ Application: The way it is put into action, with a central operator orchestrating the data sources, scenario planning and real time tasks, is a strong example of how to integrate humans and technology.
All of this works seemingly across devices, types of data, languages and other tactical obstacles; evidence of a very flexible, scalable and solid architecture on which the tech stack has been built.
Communication is done via all mediums - voice, text, data, video - again, all fully integrated and building on each other.
I have worked in enterprise tech long enough to know that building a system like this would be a fantastic feat. It can be done but only outside the constraint of enterprise business models and investor expectations.
👓 User interface: A holographic 3D interface putting the user at the center and enabling her to visually pick sources of data, overlay them with entities, concepts, geographies and gradually zoom in on specific aspects. Going from big picture to specific solution.
This was first done in the Mission Impossible movie with Tom Cruise looking for clues and evidence. Heart of Stone takes this a big step forward but the approach remains the same.
Make data and content tangible. Detach it from its source. Make it all interactive and fully discoverable. Give it space (literally) so that the user can discover new objectives.
UI’s like this can be built, in fact, the designer behind Mission Impossible did so with a company named Oblong. Deployment and adoption of such an UI will take a lot of behavior change, though, from enterprise buyers and end users. Again, a Tony Stark type of entrepreneur will need to break down existing thinking and rebuild the future.
Integration: Beyond the UI, the Heart is streamed onto AR devices across a distributed team, enabling them to contribute data and benefit from up to date analysis for best possible decision making.
An API dream or nightmare? You decide!
But it shows what is possible if you build systems from scratch with a big vision from the start and the tools to succeed. This is the opposite of what happens in technology most of the time - build an application and then figure out how to load data into it and distribute your results.
Holistic system thinking is a financial and strategic risk that only the very bold who are not afraid to break the status quo can undertake.
⛑️ For good: With power comes responsibility.
A cryptographically relevant quantum computer might be the most powerful weapon imaginable. Unrestrained access to any strategic, financial, enterprise or military system in the world.
Hollywood resisted that temptation and didn’t do yet another doomsday movie. Society and policymaker need to figure out how to keep pace with technological development and enable “good” use cases for powerful technology.
This will only happen if users, entrepreneurs and investors pro-actively push this type of agenda.
A nice dream.
This is why incremental improvements stand in the way of breakthroughs. The tasks are too big, the risks too significant and the vision too bold.
It takes determination, ambition and stamina to pursue something like this and it directly conflicts with the current ways of doing - this is how quantum technology might die a slow enterprise death.
We already collect data, do predictive modeling and use it for better decision making. However, Heart of Stone takes this a significant step further and weaves it into a new fabric of human artificial intelligence, personalized to the user and contextual to the task at hand. While this might not be the next wheel or fire, it is a tremendous example of how new technologies can dramatically alter (in a good way) our reality and opportunities.
Fair warning: I am crazy about quantum tech so please do not follow my advice.
Anyone wants to team up to build bold quantum tech for good together? See you in London
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