Month: March 2023

Technology is the answer, what was the question?

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In the days of computer infancy, in 1966, Cedric Price, known as a radical architect, posed the question in his lecture: “Technology is the answer, but what was the question?” Price’s purpose with the question was to provoke the audience to think about what the development of technology would mean in architecture.

Today, when the development of technology accelerates day by day, the same question can be asked. What question is technology the answer to?

Virtual Reality” by Bruce Mars/ CC0 1.0

It’s awesome to follow the development of quantum technology. New breakthroughs occur every day. Investments in the sector are increasing fast. There are already a few different technologies to build the so-called universal quantum computer, and the winner has not been chosen yet. The quantum boom has reached Finland as well, thanks to the cooperation between VTT and IQM, in which the CSC’s Lumi supercomputer has also joined, creating great headlines around the world, in addition to new utilization opportunities, of course. KvanttiKarelia, ecosystem projects aim at anyone interested, with its seminars and open discussion sessions, providing information and awareness of the possibilities of quantum technology, mainly quantum computing, to a wide audience.

A lot is happening in the quantum field, but the universal quantum machine is still in the so-called long run, and there is no exact measure for the number of kilometers to run. Many anticipate that the year 2030 would be the year of the general-purpose quantum machine, but it remains to be seen whether it will be that year. It could be sooner, or it could be later, the native of Savo would say (Savo is a region in Finland). So far, a quantum machine does not exceed the capabilities of a classical computer, but it can help a classical computer in some tasks.

But what would be the question if a quantum machine is an answer? Browsing the know-it-all internet, questions there is an abundance of meaningful questions. How can we save the world from climate destruction? How can we develop better medicines and save people from serious diseases? How could the financial sector become more secure and efficient? How can a safe cyber environment be guaranteed for states, companies, and individuals? How to optimize logistics and traffic for the good of the nature and commuters? Among other things, it would be worthwhile for the decision-makers to put these questions on the agenda now, or preferably even yesterday so that they are ready for new policies and solutions when the time comes – or at least to combat threats related to cyber security.

In the recently published book “Convergence” (Ed. Greg Viggiano, Wiley 2023), quantum pioneers Denise Ruffner and André M. König reflect on the future of quantum technology. They state that nature is not based on classical physics, but on quantum physics. The arrival of a quantum machine would therefore mean a big change in the way we understand the world and the realization of solutions in a new way. Ruffner and König also foresee the arrival of strong artificial intelligence with the quantum machine. What happens then? In addition to good things, the development of horrific weapons of mass destruction is also possible, the authors remind. That’s one more good reason to prepare for the arrival of quantum machines, even if the schedule has not been confirmed.

Let’s go back to our architect, Cedric Price. What did he dream about? What would have been the question if technology was the answer. Price dreamed up an experience space called Fun Palace, a concept that is considered his main work. In the Fun Palace, a combination of technology, varied materials, and interactivity would create an unprecedented space for learning, science, and culture. A space that would transform with its users.

What would architect Price say about the metaverse? I would imagine that he would be ecstatic to see, for example, the implementation of the National Museum in the metaverse. “This is exactly what I meant”, he would exclaim. In his lifetime, Price never saw entertainment centers equal to Fun Palace. And Fun Palace didn’t materialize either, neither the investors nor the planners believed in it. Sad.