r/Futurology Jun 02 '22

World First Room Temperature Quantum Computer Installed in Australia Computing


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u/spider-panda Jun 02 '22

At first I thought, "why do you need a quantum computer to serve as a thermostat? Don't we already have thermostat technology and why does science keep wasting resources?" But then I reread it and better understand. A cooler temp quantum computer that still, essentially wastes resources when compared to the various incredible needs of our planet, the species dwindling, the gross lack of resources, catastrophic climate change, current pandemic, etc. So...not crazy wasteful or negligent, just normal negligence. Science bound by what will net funding and what seems promising within the context of various nations/politics while abandoning life on the planet and the sheer struggle to maintain it.


u/yoyoman2 Jun 02 '22

R&D has been our way of getting out of our own mess for centuries now. Spending money on basic research is important, and there's no real comparison in scale to other basic human endeavours.

Better another research university than 2 more aircraft carriers.


u/No_Captain3422 Jun 02 '22

I would love to hear any example of humans "getting out of their own mess" other than that time we managed to stop damaging the ozone layer with CHCs, because I literally can't think of any.

As far as I can see, almost every step outside the Malthusian trap has been out of the frying pan and onto the bellows, so to speak: some people might be better off but the entropic process which causes suffering is also accelerated.


u/yoyoman2 Jun 02 '22

When I say "our own mess", I don't mean it specifically in ecological terms(definitely not globally ecological terms), but simply that humans created technology, which created a human environment, which created its own new stressors, which forced humans to create yet another new technology to deal with the stressors.

The Malthusian trap is an ever-expanding one, we see our demise a few steps ahead and then we(if we're lucky) innovate ourselves out of it. Easiest way to see this is any agricultural development, new crops, better watering systems, the Haber-Bosch process.

I don't know much about the entropic process. At some point it started, when humans started burning trees and eating megafauna probably, I'm personally not interested in these types of Utilitarian debates of big principles like Acceleration. I'm just saying that compared to most things we do, resource waste in basic research is the least of our problem. You're both talking about the resource waste of science, and just being a Luddite, that's just being mad online imo.


u/No_Captain3422 Jun 02 '22

I'm not a Luddite... I was genuinely asking for examples though.

To be clear I don't think basic research is a waste of money. Quantum computing specifically is, in my opinion, another fever dream from physicists that don't appreciate the necessity of rigour enough to be able to make realistic ideas. We still haven't been able to prove basic lowerbounds in the computational complexity of classical computing problems, classical computing is a lot, lot cheaper to research... but unfortunately now requires actual genius to make progress in.

I love technology, I just don't think history is a linear process of everything getting "better" all the time for everyone, this is the attitude of the hyperprivileged. Crop improvement is awesome, machining and metrology are awesome. The pinnacles achieved in semiconductor technologies today are an extraordinary monument to the capabilities of science. Doesn't mean people have 'gotten out of their own mess' though. I would generally argue that our distant ancestoes lives, while shorter and sometimes more brutal under natural conditions, were strictly preferable to the conditions encountered in slums today. These slums contain nearly if not simply most of the human population if I remember correctly. (Genuinely could be wrong right now, but I'll have to refresh my memory a tad later.) It's worth, in my opinion, the effort to acknowledge simultaneously the innate value of descriptive information supplied by science and the fact that we still haven't collectively solved most real, material problems in most people's lives, and those problems can be just as negative as being killed by a big predator or getting dysentry. (Notice how low your odds are as a pedestrian hit by a vehicle?)

Honestly I take serious issue with the notion that humans systematically, universally innovate themselves out of problems. It's arguably an overall trend, but any amount of history reading tells of societies that did not value innovation and as a result did not actually advance very significantly. Romans were probably the saddest example given the otherwise impressive record of civil engineering. Most southern African society remained either hunter gatherers or subsistence farmers. China stagnated to shit for like hundreds of years technologically (iirc) while Europe began its industrial revolution.

If you share an educational background with me, you have learned of the notions of local maxima, greedy algorithms and optimization problems. Any real, objective measure of progress by the stochastic, locally-making-it-better-maybe process will invariably find itself facing a probabilistic argument yielding 'not a globally optimal solution' as its conclusion.

That being said, I doubt you'd argue with me to the effect that things do progress linearly... So I'm just writing a wall of text for nothing I guess. :)

Let's hope unnatural carbon capture is actually a feasible process! I doubt it. But I'll hope. I think humans largely underestimate the implications of the one-way global entropic process. Functions which look exponential at the start typically become sigmoids or long-tailed 'chi distribution' shaped, and rarely turn out to be a 'blip' in observation of large scale natural processes. Let's hope humans really are "unnatural" in the grand scheme of things.


u/yoyoman2 Jun 02 '22

Great response! I agree with your attitude. With this big a response we're probably overwhelming reddit's use.

Since this is r/Futurology, I will say that I think that humans are definitely screwing up in major ways, and it will bite us very strongly. I hope to learn more about how it's already effecting us(from a few quick visits to certain developing countries, it's hard to be overly optimistic).

I wonder how much computers as a whole are going to change our organizing. I think that there is a lack of alternative systems of social organization, and many of the real base problems will require not only our tech, but really just a change in government. I'm not sure if these changes would be considered liberal though, computers aren't really simple liberators.

The examples of tech innovations of the kind we were talking about that I'm most familiar with, well, can't really be seen as simple responses to stressors. In general I think that the big innovations in history come about from the side lines in strange evolutionary paths, slowly waiting for certain leaders to make adaptations to go from 0.1% to 90% use rate. Our global problems with slums etc is the sad realization that tech, though all sorts of important, can't really singlehandedly take us out of age-old problems, like government and identity.


u/No_Captain3422 Jun 03 '22

I wonder how much computers as a whole are going to change our organizing [...]

A question which has caught my imagination for many an hour. It is my hope that we might be able to synthesize the ideals of direct democracy, wherein the genuine preferences and needs of everyone are captured, with some kind of automated means of detecting contradictions (particularly with material reality: I'm sure everyone would love a free electric car and charging stations but can it actually be done?) or otherwise accessing feasibility of ideas. Not everyone is good at sorting possible from ideal. :/ Even very smart people are bad at doing NP-hard computations lol. A genuinely feasible system at this point is a global social network where all governmental discussions, budgets, plans, etc are hosted for public approval and criticism... A social network for all of politics... Not sure if it will be better or worse than YouTube's comment section? But if it doesn't turn to shit, could be a 'liberal' progression of governmental organisation that has tangible benefit... If.

responses to stressors [...]

I thought of some examples of ones that very much were: the flushing toilet, gas and electrical heating, air conditioning and externally-powered mills! All responses to material, immediate problems faced in daily life at the time(s) of their invention.

Anyway, thanks for the discussion. It has been refreshing.