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Supply Chain Resiliency Critical to Exponential Quantum Computing Innovation and Climate Change Response

Quantum Technology | Our Sustainable Future
Presented by The Quantum Daily and Oxford Instruments

Sometimes OODA Loop comes across a resource that is of clear value in our research – and it is just too good a resource not to highlight it directly for the OODA Loop community. Such was the case with our recent discovery of The Everyday Astronaut and their recent YouTube Channel interview with Elon Musk and his five-step engineering process.

The recently released documentary – Quantum Technology: Our Sustainable Future – is another one of those invaluable resources. This documentary is arguably one of the best thirty minutes you will spend pondering the future of technology and the challenges of climate change at the same time. The film is a production of The Quantum Daily and Oxford Instruments. The Quantum Daily website is an invaluable resource on all things’ quantum computing.

We discovered the film while grappling with the idea of technological innovation grinding to a halt in the U.S. – over the course of the next decade – due to a prolonged, severe shortage in the availability of advanced semiconductors. This chip shortage is partially brought on by a lack of domestic chip manufacturing capacity stateside, amongst other troubling geopolitical variables. The strategic concern, of course, is for the impact on advanced technology product innovation – such as autonomous systems and 5G communication – and the impact on the innovation trajectory of crucial exponential technologies like quantum computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, additive manufacturing, and synthetic or industrial biology.

The severe threats and existential risks faced by the U.S. have caused some to call for mobilization efforts equivalent to the WWII war effort and the Manhattan Project. The high technology industry calls such “at scale” efforts “Moonshots,” based on President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 clarion call to land a man on the moon.

Exponential Technologies

Moonshots are part of a business strategy framework known as “exponentials,” which is based on the exponential acceleration of technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence, amongst others.  In a very accessible manner, Salim Ismail (the founding executive director of Singularity University and former head of innovation at Yahoo) explains the doubling pattern and trajectory which further accelerate Moore’s Law (contributing to the exponential growth of an innovation) in the following way:

  1. First, the doubling pattern identified by Gordon Moore in integrated circuits applies to any information technology. Ray Kurzweil calls this the Law of Accelerating Returns (LOAR) and shows that doubling patterns in computation extend all the way back to 1900, far earlier than Moore’s original pronouncement.
  2. Second, the driver fueling this phenomenon is information. Once any domain, discipline, technology, or industry becomes information-enabled and powered by information flows, its price/performance begins doubling approximately annually.
  3. Third, once that doubling pattern starts, it does not stop. We use current computers to design faster computers, which then build faster computers, and so on.
  4. Finally, several key technologies today  – quantum computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, additive manufacturing, and synthetic and industrial biology  – are now information-enabled and following the same trajectory.

Are More Energy-guzzling, Hot Computers with Hot Chips Really the Answer?

Quantum Computing is an exponential technology that is of vital strategic importance to issues of national defense, economic security, cybersecurity, and high-performance computing. The revelation of the documentary is the role quantum computing will play in response to not only climate change, but the modeling, visualization, and forecasting of real-time climate crises and emergencies as they manifest in the atmosphere, as well as sustainability models and sustainability solutions for the entire climate ecosystem.

Are more energy-guzzling, hot computers with hot chips really going to help remedy climate change? How is this expansion of computational power any different from the debates surrounding the energy consumption by technology, like how to stop data centres from gobbling up the world’s electricity and Bitcoin’s impacts on climate and the environment as the cryptocurrency uses more electricity than many countries?

In fact, the opposite is true of quantum technologies. The documentary positions quantum as the next-generation solution to energy consumption by the technology sector, contributing to a drastic reduction in energy consumption that would contribute to a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions.

From the Documentary

CEO Joe Levy, whose company, SeeQC, is developing a quantum computing platform for business use – addresses energy consumption in a very compelling, accessible, and erudite manner:

“From the macro perspective, imagine for a moment that you wanted to build a massively complex classical computer like an exascale computer. Well, the Department of Energy ran a study a couple of years ago that showed that at certain sizes you would need to power it with you know a nuclear power plant the size of Fukushima and obviously that is not a practical scenario. But the fact is because quantum computers can scale exponentially it gives you the opportunity to build incredibly powerful computers that could fit in the room that we are sitting in and that would require, you know, a small a relatively small amount of electricity.”

Richard Murray, CEO of ORCA Computing, whose company is on a mission “to develop scalable quantum computers for real-world applications and that integrate with real-world technologies” takes on energy consumption,  the future of data center architectures, and wider adoption of machine learning using quantum computational power:

“The other massive challenge for high-performance computing systems is the energy consumption required to process the data. I mean what is actually alarming is that the same energy constraint for consumption also applies to data centers. And more and more people are using data centers to really crunch the numbers to train machine learning algorithms. And there is an alarming statistic that machine learning is actually off-limits to a lot of smaller companies purely because of the cost required to power the computers that you need to perform machine learning.”

“So, it is inhibiting the uptake of machine learning literally based on the kilowatt per hour energy consumption of these massive computational systems. Quantum computers have the ability to process data in new ways – much more simplified, more natural ways – and I really believe that is one way of allowing the huge energy consumptions of data centers, or sort of remote computational nodes, to be greatly reduced. That opens up machine learning for much wider applications – either on the move or sort of for the cheaper type of applications.”

Where to Start?

It is vital that quantum computing be here to stay, as the technology will play a significant role in mounting a response to cybersecurity threats, national security challenges, and the coordinated global response to climate change in the next 7 to 10 years.

Provide your company, organization, and your people the new mental models for a transformation in their thinking about the role of technology, specifically the role of exponential technologies like quantum computing, in providing solutions-driven ecosystems, platforms, and products to business challenges and societal risks ahead.

This mind shift is crucial to your competitive advantage.   The analogy here would be nuclear power.  Once demonized and marginalized as a viable, non-carbon-based source of energy and power, it now sits comfortably in the “all of the above” portfolio of solutions that need to be scaled and deployed to combat climate change.  So too with quantum computational power and the exponential technologies generally.

If any of the exponential technologies are in your organization’s future, what resources and levers need to be pulled or incentive systems re-aligned for an exploration of supply chain resiliency within your organization? Is an evaluation in order of your dependency in the next 7 to 10 years on foreign-produced computer chips?

Related Reading:

A direct link to the film:  Quantum Technology: Our Sustainable Future

Exponential Technologies

In 2006, the inaugural Singularity Summit was held on the Stanford University campus, to further explore Kurzweil’s framework for and predictions of the future. By 2008, Singularity University was founded. Soon, a serious-minded community of technologist were giving more rigorous thought to one of the core concepts on which Kurzweil built his singularity thesis, the Law of Accelerating Returns (LOAR), which is the basis of exponentials.  For more on Exponential Technologies and Exponential Organizations, see Exponential Organizations:  Why new organizations are ten times better, faster, and cheaper than yours (and what to do about it) by Salim Ismail.

For more on China’s strategic framework and implementation measures for competitive advantage in the semiconductor industry, see China’s Formal Bid for Global Dominance of the Semiconductor Supply Chain

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OODA is one of the few independent research sources with experience in due diligence on quantum computing and quantum security companies and capabilities. Our practitioner’s lens on insights ensures our research is grounded in reality. See: Quantum Computing Sensemaking.

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Daniel Pereira

Daniel Pereira

Daniel Pereira is research director at OODA. He is a foresight strategist, creative technologist, and an information communication technology (ICT) and digital media researcher with 20+ years of experience directing public/private partnerships and strategic innovation initiatives.