Techopian Weekly - Views on the News - 7 August 21

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Techopian Weekly - Views on the News - 7 August 21

Techopian's weekly roundup on some of the key stories covered this week. For those too busy during the week but need something to make them seem informed on Monday morning.

Google creates Time Crystal — apparently — and this is a very big deal
China, AI and drug research
Low code automation and the labour shortage
The cult of the Olympics
Dignity of work and UBI
We need to talk about management
Virtual reality market to hit $180 billion by 2026

Google creates Time Crystal — apparently — and this is a very big deal

Time Crystals are "wickedly difficult to understand and even harder to explain," stated the NextWeb. So there you have it, we won't bother; suffice to say that researchers at Google may have created a Time Crystal which could create a revolution in quantum computers and change the world.

So there you have it. Isn't that exciting news?

Except, let's have a go. Time Crystals were, until the Google discovery, a theoretical concept. The Google report has not yet been peer-reviewed, and the researchers themselves don't seem sure about what they have discovered.

The concept of Time Crystals was first theorised in 2012 by Nobel Laureate and MIT Professor, Frank Wilczek.  In a nutshell, they contradict two of the most fundamental laws of physics; — Isaac Newton's First Law of Motion and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. At least, sort of contradict.

They imply the possibility of perpetual motion and could transform quantum computing by introducing coherence to a computing system that has decoherence.

Maybe the best way to look at Time Crystals lies with their name. They don't introduce the concept of time travel or anything like that but do appear to be arrow proof — or more precisely, time arrow proof. I refer, of course, to The Second Law of Thermodynamics — one of the most important laws of physics, which is sometimes referred to as Time's Arrow.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics illustrates how things change — inevitably. Buildings crumble, bodies decay, nothing stays as it is. This is closely associated with the idea of entropy. One of the problems with these concepts is that some people define entropy as a thermodynamic quantity, and others define the Second Law of Thermodynamics as establishing entropy. So that doesn't help. But keep to the first sentence of this paragraph — everything changes over time.

One metaphor to explain The Second Law of Thermodynamics is the jam and butter example. If you have kids, you will understand; over a week or so, the jar of butter gets more jam in it. That's time's arrow and entropy.

According to Wikipedia, "Time crystals do not violate the laws of thermodynamics: energy in the overall system is conserved, such a crystal does not spontaneously convert thermal energy into mechanical work, and it cannot serve as a perpetual store of work. But it may change perpetually in a fixed pattern in time for as long as the system can be maintained. They possess "motion without energy"; their apparent motion does not represent conventional kinetic energy."

It is notoriously difficult to maintain a quantum state when using quantum computers — that's their big problem.

As this paper states: "If we can harness it, quantum technology promises fantastic new possibilities. But first, scientists need to coax quantum systems to stay yoked for longer than a few millionths of a second."

That's where time crystals enter the quantum computing story. Because Time Crystals possess "motion without energy," they could theoretically massively extend quantum states

And if we can crack quantum computers, then; well, things like calculating protein folding — the building blocks of life — become viable, and the number of secrets currently held by the universe will diminish enormously.

Yes, if the Google researchers are right — if, if, if — then we may have taken a baby step towards creating the most significant technology since — well since ever. But if you want to understand this more thoroughly, don't ask us. If you do understand this more thoroughly and reckon you can explain it better then than us, by all means, let us know, and we will tell our readers.

Low code automation and the labour shortage

Unless you have recently returned to Earth after a long stint on Mars, you probably know there is a labour shortage problem.

The explanations are many — Brexit in the UK, maybe, but then Brexit doesn't explain the labour shortage in the US, Australia, Germany, Italy or Hungary.

There are lots of Covid related explanations— including perhaps the so-called pindemic.

And in the US, Republicans say the benefits system is too soft. Democrats say it is the fault of employers for being all mean and nasty and screaming words like 'booh' at staff.

But what we can say for sure is that this problem ain't going away. And if you were born between 1946 to 1964, it is your fault — or maybe it is the fault of your naughty parents who got all amorous after WW2. First, the baby boomers are retiring, then Generation X will retire, and there aren't enough of those pesky millennials and generation 'z'eders to go around.

Maybe then we need lots and lots of automation. It seems that this is what we will get.

And maybe we need things like low code or no code to enable non-programmers to start adopting building automations.

Is low code the solution to labour shortage?
The labour shortage is everywhere, but nowhere is the shortage more pronounced than in coding — is low code the answer to the labour shortage.
We need AI to counter labour shortage as baby boomers retire
There is a labour shortage, and it is a worldwide problem. The causes are many, but the retirement of the baby boomers means this demographic crisis has legs; we need AI urgently.

Dignity of work and UBI

Talking of the argument that benefits are too soft, we have only gone along and made another video on universal basic income.

One of the arguments made against UBI is that it detracts from the dignity of work. Similarly, others say it disincentives us from working, and others say it will make us lazy.

But when we interviewed UBI experts, they had a quite different take. Seems that lazy people are lazy, whether you let them starve or not. And productive people are still productive, if you give them money or not.

Universal basic income and the Dignity of Work
Critics of Universal Basic Income say it detracts from the dignity of work, disincentives people from working and makes them lazy.

The cult of the Olympics

We have been musing.

Do we spend too much on the Olympics— is the Olympic ideal an outdated concept?

Do we put too much emphasis on elite sport and not enough on supporting ordinary folks?

And do we put our sporting stars on too high pedestals at the expense of everyday heroes who just try to be decent and care for others?

Correlation does not necessarily mean causation - it may be a coincidence that in the UK, obesity rates shot up roughly during the same period in which team GB's Olympic medal tally shot up.

But then again sport is fun, entertaining and does enormous good.

Read our musings and let us know the musings of your own.

The cult of the Olympic hero — is it good or bad?
hould we be inspired by elite sport seen in the Olympics, revel in the cult of the hero, or instead do more to support the ordinary person?

See the article on LinkedIn if you want to comment.

We need to talk about management

"We need to think differently about management and about what management really means," said Rob Hughes.

He adds: "People have experienced an alternative way to work over the past 18 months, and we've had to give them the responsibility to get on with the job."

"Now we take it away because middle management is presence management rather than people or developmental management?"

"Many have realised that much of the office-based mentality is treating adults a bit like they are small children, with no ability to just get on with it by themselves without the oversight of a more responsible person."

We need to talk about Management...
For some, WFH is not viable 100% of the time. However, it’s going to be part of the mix for most companies moving forward and we need to stop thinking that being in an office is the way to be productive.

Virtual reality market to hit $180 billion by 2026

If in 2014 you had Googled virtual reality, the first entry you would have found was a link to the virtual reality forum, a group set-up to promote VR. It stated: "virtual reality developments have slowed in recent years, and progress has not exactly been recent."

Later that year, Oculus Rift was sold to Facebook for $2 billion.

Virtual reality has been making its way up the hype curve, from technology that didn't seem to be going anywhere to technology that still didn't seem to be going anywhere. It began with a huge surge of hype and almost quietly, reality kicked in and the hype disappeared. But these things experience tipping points — and while technology cynics decry its failure to fulfil potential in the past, things are bubbling under the surface, again.

A new report forecasts that the virtual reality market will be worth $180 billion by 2027 from $17.25 billion in 2025.

Virtual reality market to hit $180 billion by 2026
A new report forecasts that the virtual reality market will be worth $180 billion by 2027 from $17.25 billion in 2025.

China, AI and drug research

There is a lot of talk buzzing around at the moment that the Chinese economy is about to do a Japan.

"Is it really turning Japanese? We don't really think so?"

Back in the 1980s, Japan seemed unstoppable— on course for overtaking the US economy, then it crashed, and the predictions of Japanese economic supremacy turned into tales of woe.

China will be just like that; goes the narrative.


Number one, there is debt; it is enormous and rising fast.

Number two, there is demographics — China is ageing as the one child per family policy backfires.

Number three is debt.

Number four is a waste of resources — which is kind of reasons one and three.

Reason number five is that China is no different from any other developing country that can't get past the middle-income trap.

And number six is debt.

But there is another way of looking at it.

Bear in mind's China's population— it is quite big. If Chinese GDP per capita measured in dollars reached a quarter of US GDP per capita, the two economies would be around the same size.

No one - hardly anyone — is suggesting Chinese GDP per capita will reach developed world levels anytime in the next few decades. But if its GDP per capita reached half US levels, its economy would be twice the size of the US economy.

Here are three reasons why Chinese cynics may be wrong:

  • Digital technology lowers barriers to entry.   Consider how challenger banks are taking on established banks in the West — this illustrates the point. For a whole host of reasons, developing countries have an unprecedented opportunity to close the gap with the advanced world. China is also 'less stringent' when it comes to IP and Patent law. This is bad for business but very good for innovation and speed.
  • Climate change — climate change cynics are going extinct, buried under an ever-growing weight of evidence. Climate change will also create enormous opportunities; for organisations and countries that lead the world in fighting climate change, riches await. In fact, billionaire investor Chamath Palihapitiya recently tweeted: "The world's first trillionaire will be made in climate change." And which country leads the world in technology for fighting climate change, such as renewables? You have guessed it, China
  • Then there is China's investment in AI. Indeed there is a correlation between AI and Chinese economy cynics. But as this paper points out, AI drug discovery booms in China.

Hope you enjoy this newsletter, let us know by emailing and if you really like it, send it to a friend you really care about.

Bye for now.

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