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the finitely probable machine

The February 17th 2014 issue of Time magazine, with the Infinity Machine on the cover.

“Philip Seymour Hoffman did not die from an overdose of heroin -- he died from heroin.” Aaron Sorkin’s obituary.

The cover story, Quantum Quest by Lev Grossman (author of two of my favorite fiction novels), reports on everyone’s favorite quantum computer, D-Wave. Much like a superpositioned qubit, we haven’t yet been able to observe whether D-Wave’s computers are the real deal. The story notes that the CIA is investing, but the goverment has invested in lots of wacky ideas.

I’m a little skeptical of how exactly quantum computing will solve the problems it’s supposed to, such as (regular) software testing of the sort found in the F-35. Converting all possible error conditions in a program into a traveling salesman problem sounds kind of hard. Perhaps that’s just my own ignorance, as later in the article the VP from D-Wave explains that quantum programming is different: “What does it mean to be an answer?” Woah. head explodes.

I’ve only been tangentially following them, but the D-Wave pitch did come across as kind of shady, relying as it does on they laughed at Einstein; they’re laughing at us, therefore we’ll succeed style deflection: “The people that really understand what we’re doing aren’t skeptical.” Sure, if you’re right, ignoring your detractors is reasonable, but it’s also the first thing I’d expect from a snake oil peddler. It’s not a particularly reliable signal. The good news is within five years we’ll have quantum computers so powerful they’ll incontrovertibly prove the theory works. Unless we don’t.

Among the ways quantum computing will change everything, I’m most excited about the GDP boost from hyper-personalized advertizing. Prosperity for all!

In other everything is new news, The New Dating Game unlocks the secrets to happy online dating: ditch the endless questions and turn it into a (drinking) game. Unfortunately, they still haven’t solved the mystery of “freelance chef” who’s actually a fired waiter.

In lighter news, My Doctor, the Concierge is funny. For $10,000 per year, your doctor will chat with you via Skype or Google Hangout. “I admit I was impressed that someone had figured how to monetize Google Hangout.” Well said.

B.J. Novak has a book of short stories out, One More Thing.

Posted 11 Feb 2014 02:16 by tedu Updated: 10 Oct 2014 00:32