Usually we talk about solving real problems for our clients trying to cope with impending exponential change. Today I’ll do a bit of crystal ball gazing as It seems clear that the rate of change is, in all likelihood about to go beyond what we can reasonably chart.

While we help clients wrestle with content, commerce, customer, community, social, mobile, analytics and cloud, some real things exist that are about to challenge our thinking and in all likelihood make our thinking, human thinking, totally redundant.

The technology world is rife with sentences right now starting with the words:

The next big platform is…..

The words after that often depend on the personal or business interests of the person uttering them but the ones I hear most often are:

  • Blockchain
  • Internet of things
  • Artificially intelligent
  • Augmented reality
  • Virtual reality

These are all things that exist now. They are also things that follow a predictable cycle. If you are interested in the cycle of innovation to commodity then you will have noticed that there is a predictable path of innovation, custom built, productisation, consolidation, commoditisation and value generation that all new technology goes through. There are approaches and tools that have arisen from being able to model and predict this cycle that can really help business get ahead. Take a look at Wardley’s work to get across this.

Again, I think what’s about to happen is on such a different level that it is nearly impossible to predict what will happen to technology and humans in the next 10-15 years. If you are reading this, that’s our lifetime and our kids will live with this.

I am talking about Quantum computing. It’s a real thing of course, explained brilliantly recently by Justin Trudeau in this video Incidentally this drew amusing comparisons with Chump in his explanation of weapons grade uranium. What an eloquent man.

It’s also real that companies are already delivering Quantum computers to companies like Lockheed, Google, Volkswagen and others. Google, D-wave IBM and Microsoft all have Quantum computers in development or on sale.

So what, well a recent report indicates that Quantum computers can solve complex algorithms 100 million times faster than what is already being called a “conventional computer”. Not a typo. There is still some argument that chip experts will identify with about what model of Q computing will win out but these things are real. They are  also arguably less than 10 years from being commodity and long before that I am sure that the likes of D wave and IBM will offer cloud Quantum services for solving complex computing problems.

What I extrapolate from that is the following:

Moore’s law will need to be revisited. If the Qubit measure of compute increases at the rate is has done in turn increasing the computing power exponentially then i/o and processor power become effectively unlimited.

Yes these computers will be able to crack regular encryption but quantum cryptography is already an established science so let’s for the sake of argument assume that super fast will also accommodate secure but also it’s worth considering that in the transition to a Quantum world that there will be a need to work out how to stop Q machines cracking conventional computers and how to transition to Quantum crypto. Mind boggling and scary.

Does this mean that computers will develop consciousness? The truth is we simply don’t know but think about the possible consequence. If you have an infinitely powerful computer with a conscience then human’s alpha status is redundant. Who teaches these computers right and wrong and how does that pan out? This is AI that far exceeds human capability and in time these systems will be inserted into machines that are superior in intelligence and lifespan to us,

So provided the machines don’t kill us all as a destructive parasite….

Blockchain application space becomes the new secure internet and server architecture and the application layer can accommodate the distributed model with huge storage and compute while retaining the secure distributed model. Now that is far more than a distributed database. It’s the platform for all human applications and still based on what’s great about the blockchain protocol.

The concepts we call IOT become a given with dumb devices talking to immensely powerful compute engines with access to all the data in realtime all the time. In theory this could make the world as safe or dangerous as you can imagine.

The power of graphics and simulation software can make a virtual reality totally real and the notion of intelligent computer beings creating a simulation for organic life becomes not only believable but possibly more appealing than “real” life.

So while you are contemplating your new website, app or facebook/wechat campaign, maybe ask yourself whether you think this next evolution of compute leads to the life we want to lead or the end of civilisation as we know it. There’s no doubt in my mind that this will be bigger than the wheel, the question is will we roll with it or be crushed under it. Maybe we should get a Quantum computer to model the answer for us! I am just not sure we are ready for the exponential of exponential. What do you think?

Guest post by Justin Tomlinson


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