Justin Woodring

Justin Woodring

PhD student at LSU

An Appeal to Consider The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Why Quantum Computing and AI Matter


It's an understatement to say that the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as some have so aptly titled it, will have massive implications on our daily lives. But for many this isn't so obvious, AI remains a magic fairy capable of granting wishes and quantum computing is something relegated to the likes of rocket science.

Although I suspect most my readers will have a greater than layman understanding of these technologies, this post is intended for the mass of those who don't specialize in technology but have the power and responsibility to affect real change, e.g. CEOs, shareholders, politicians, and those who look forward to creating a better future.

Artificial Intelligence has a history dating back into the early 1900s, and in truth, its history has been rife with intense optimism and also periods of complete fiscal doubt. In fact, its history is so closely intertwined with computer science, that the field as a whole advanced faster than our computational capacity. Many promises were made on timeframes that couldn't possibly enabled by technological computing capacity and the entire discipline saw a frigid winter following the 70s. Robots from cartoons like the Jetsons become a public pipe dream.

Many researchers were laid off, they lost their livelihoods, and the persistent few who held on were considered lucky. But moving forward advancements in the late 90s and early 2000s went unnoticed by the mass public. Machine learning techniques like Bayesian filtering were integrated into spam filtering and other technologies. Then deep learning truly became possible and it was strongly correlated with fields like quantitative analysis, voice recognition, and image detection. With the rapid digitization of many paper processes, information became more and more abundant and data science as a discipline emerged. But for those not in the field, the technology progressed right underneath our noses.

And then one day it happened, one day people were talking about AI, but in particular ChatGPT. AI exploded into the public eye in the blink of eye. GPTs as a concept were being pioneered for several years in the field of deep learning. But they didn't matter to anyone, because people couldn't wrap their heads around the true revolutionary step that was at one time years ahead; then months; and then days ahead of them.

Many struggled to rapidly adapt. Some still are. Although data lakes as concept were developed over 4 years ago, many organizations are still struggling to adapt to these changes that are considered rapid for an entity with the scale of an organization. But alas, the future is now, as it always is, and the key point here is that AI is not going away. Ignoring this revolution, will only make it even harder to compete in the future with those already choosing to pursue an AI enabled future now. This AI-enabled future will pay a price sooner than some think for overpromising as it has in the past when technological accomplishments failed to meet public expectations, but pursuing AI with a level-head in nonetheless the correct path forward. The old tortoise and the hare adage seems rather applicable here.

However, Artificial Intelligence and more specifically ChatGPT and various other GPT models can already make the argument for themselves both in a hindsight 20/20 sense, but also literally, I mean just ask ChatGPT why it's important for policymakers and organizations to pursue AI moving forward, you'll get a pretty clear and concise answer.

Quantum computing on the other hand, has yet the ability to argue logically and syntactically concise reasoning for its own investment. And I'm not promising a quantum future tomorrow, but I'm not saying it's impossible either. The discipline itself, is on the verge of massive breakthroughs, and today represents a huge opportunity to reinvent an economy or reorient a company for tomorrow's competitive advantage. Quantum computing will drive forward artificial intelligence, material sciences, chemical sciences, pharmaceuticals, logistics, cryptography, and allow humanity to solve problems we can't dream of solving in the classical world. This isn't advice to buy up every company touting "quantum" on Wall Street, but it's call to think realistically and practically about how we can create a better future tomorrow.

And moreover physics is boring for a lot of people. Students I've interacted with ask me questions like why do I hate myself for choosing that path, or mimic gagging noises. This is an infantile expression of the way that a lot of adults also feel about the discipline. But I would remind those who think this way that ChatGPT is basically applied statistics and algorithms, both strongly mathematical in nature (a discipline that also draws the ire of those same individuals).

As a resident of Louisiana, I think the state should pursue subsidizing a second quantum exchange, the likes of Illinois' Chicago Quantum Exchange (who now hosts Canadian partners). There are no major players in the South yet, and whoever establishes supremacy here and integrates with university systems, will undoubtedly become a southern de facto standard. This is the time to think about subsidizing quantum development in your country, in your state, or your province.

Illinois, Canada, the UK, France and Singapore, are all investing significantly in a quantum future, it's time to look to the forward thinkers, and think about how you will be a part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

This post was copied from where I originally shared it on LinkedIn here