Bryan Lindenberger

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Monday, July 31, 2017

Beyond Party and Prejudice: Marketing and PR in the Quantum AI Age

A few weeks ago, Western media reported that humans had “teleported” an “object” into space. Friends, family, and associates quickly shared this little nugget of mis-information – a few with Star Trek references – and quickly moved on.
I’m still not sure what disturbs me more: the mis-information itself, the ease at which it was so easily accepted, or the potential of what actually happened.
What actually happened insofar as I understand it seems far more interesting.
First note, I am not a physicist. I’m a writer who’s worked in grants and marketing for the past few years, but with enough logic in me to realize that we weren’t suddenly “teleporting” “objects” and if we had, it would require greater pause than a share between cat pictures.
So I wondered what actually happened and looked into that at my skill level.
Turns out that it has a whole lot to do with a quantum computing network, and the potential to take it global. Further turns out, the difficult part of quantum communications at a global level is getting an entangled photon (works with electrons I assume? I don’t know, ask Niels Bohr) through the Earth’s atmosphere intact. After that, it seems that the questions are largely financial and logistic in terms of infrastructure – who can lay optic fiber the fastest?
Quantum computing and communications has a lot less to do with “teleportation” than with busting down the door on Moore’s Law. Humans are terrible at imagining numbers – why should we – but let’s say computing breakthroughs that promise speed at the level of hundreds of millions of times faster are a big deal. As an example:
In the early 2000s, for example, people thought it would take about 24 billion years to calculate on a quantum computer the energy levels of ferredoxin, which plants use in photosynthesis. Now, through a combination of theory, practice, engineering and simulation, the most optimistic estimates suggest that it may take around an hour. – Alex Bocharov, Nature Magazine Interview, October 2016.
That is the “boring” and stodgy part: harnessing “quantum weirdness” to turn Moore’s Law on its ear, and potential to take it to a global level from what has been (mis)reported as “teleportation.” I frankly find quantum computing easier to grasp, and therefore far stranger, than teleportation.
Concurrently, we have amazing developments in Artificial Intelligence coming out of Google, IBM, others, and here is a fascinating one from recent days out of Facebook.
Artificial intelligence system makes its own language, researchers pull the plug.
I don’t believe for a second anyone “pulled the plug” (I hope not!) but more likely related research shifted to another department.
Anyone with a sense of history of language steps back in awe.
The earliest records of human, written language were not epic poems, love letters, or anything of that sort, but shipping manifests. That is to say, inventory. Here, AI quickly created its own language to expedite the process of not only keeping their own inventory, but in fact linguistic shortcuts in negotiation.
In a public and popular exchange, Mark Zuckerburg quipped at Elon Musk and Bill Gates calling them “naysayers” with “doomsday scenarios” regarding artificial intelligence. Musk quipped back, but outcomes may be far more banal (and in fact human) than popularly reported.
“I think that the biggest risk is not that the AI will develop a will of its own, but that it will follow the will of people….short consumer stocks, go long defense stocks, and start a war.” – Elon Musk (video, Werner Herzog)
Two courses in technological breakthroughs – quantum computing and artificial intelligence – are now happening concurrently, and they will be married.
I am not a physicist or programmer, my idea of computing is building gaming machines from scraps, but I am a communications person who is struck by how ill-prepared we are for this eventuality as it unfolds before us.
Yet all of the above (including the links to layman’s materials) have me asking the following questions.
These are questions that I immediately ask:
·        Is any civilization, and maybe particularly those emphasizing individuality, prepared for the hit to the ego to find ourselves among greater, more efficient, intelligences?
·        Was H.P. Lovecraft correct when he said, “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents” because we are about to correlate them.
·        At what point does “pulling the plug” on an AI experiment become an ethical and in fact moral dilemma – we are close.
·        What is the role of Public Relations and Brand Identity in the face of cognitively-aware data? That is, a favorite sneaker shoe or political directive factually proven the lesser or greater of choices, or an intelligence making b2b decisions without brand loyalty, will greatly change business.
·        What would it feel like to have everything you have ever thought or dreamed of imagined in seconds?
·        As in the thought experiment asking about alien visitors a few years ago, are persons certain cultures or religions more at risk of difficulty living among a superior intelligence?
·        Technological breakthroughs tend to lower employment but are followed by increases in emerging areas; yet these transitions take time, and society and tech move faster than ever before. If something as simple as self-serve kiosks can impact entry-level jobs, are we ready for an even larger shake-up?
·        We’ve wondered through all of human history, and certainly recently in popular literature, religion, and film, what it will be like to meet and even live with intelligence far beyond our own understanding – what PR, outreach, and communications efforts are being developed to prepare us for this imminent eventuality?

Far from a naysayer - thought, imagination, and efficiency are all things I believe humankind will benefit from. The lack of discussion - let alone preparation - in the face of what promises to be the most culture shifting series of breakthroughs in human history, and likely the shortest time, seems cause for concern. Are we prepared?
Originally appearing at LinkedIn where I invite follows and connections.