Technology is the answer, what was the question?
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?
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.
The quantum era requires curiosity, and the ability to look far enough into the future
The need for knowledge is now growing faster than the ability of degree programs to keep up with developments. It is worth keeping an eye on the quantum time on the horizon because it is estimated to be a reality in 2030. When realized, quantum machines will revolutionize our understanding of the possibilities of technology.
The importance of developing technology will increase strongly in the coming years. However, the ability of organizations to perceive the possibilities of new technologies is still limited:
Companies and organizations already know how to describe goals, objectives, and processes quite well as part of strategy work, and how to reach the goal. However, often one important question is left unasked: what should we learn to reach the goal?
Learning itself is in transition. Many of the developing technologies are such that degrees have not yet been developed around them. As part of the green transition, we will experience a wave of micro-degrees and a shift in learning towards non-formal learning. The need for knowledge is now growing faster than the ability of degree programs to keep up with developments.
It is worth keeping an eye on the quantum era on the horizon because it is estimated to be a reality in 2030. When realized, quantum machines will revolutionize our understanding of the possibilities of technology.
The Quantum era challenges human perception
Whereas today’s computers calculate digital bits, ones or zeros, a quantum computer calculates with qubits, which enable the processing of huge masses of data simultaneously. The scale can be understood, for example, by the fact that Google’s 54-qubit machine completed a task in about 3 minutes, which, according to Google’s estimate, would have taken a traditional supercomputer ten thousand years. In addition to Google, Intel, IBM, and Microsoft are also participating in the global quantum computing race, while governments like China, the United States, and England are investing in quantum technologies. In Finland, VTT has acquired its quantum machine.
Quantum technology is hoped to provide solutions to many questions affecting the energy industry, medicine, and at the same time the whole of humanity. It is possible that we will find, for example, things about climate change that we cannot currently understand and simulate, because the capacity of today’s computers is not enough.
With the help of quantum technology, we will probably get more information about humans as well, and we will be able to produce more individualized information for medicine and understanding of the human molecular level. These are challenging topics and often the most difficult questions of all, to which the computing power of the human brain is impossible to adapt.
“Like a thief in the night”
Although the quantum era still seems far away to many, quantum computing and quantum technology are currently developing at such a pace that it is worth following the development closely.
Attention should be paid to the quantum. For example in Finnish companies, so far there have been almost no preparations for the arrival of quantum technology, which is very worrying. In many organizations, the matter has not been given even the first thought, even though it is important to at least be aware of the existence of quantum technologies.
A point of comparison can be applied to artificial intelligence; artificial intelligence also experienced the so-called artificial intelligence winter when its realization was not believed. In 2017, artificial intelligence spread to everyone’s consciousness, and new applications started to enter the market. Artificial intelligence became a reality and part of the everyday life of organizations. A similar development can be expected from quantum machines.
All signals and almost daily progress support the fact that we are moving forward all the time. One day, five, ten, or twenty years from now, a quantum computer will be a reality. Preparation for the quantum era must start now because when the time comes, it happens out of the blue, and challenges, which are difficult to overcome as a winner, arise for the unprepared.
From data security and cyber security point of view, quantum technology also brings a clear challenge. If a quantum machine can break virtually any current encryption, it will significantly increase the threat of cyber-attacks and make, for example, current blockchain technologies vulnerable. On the other hand, with the help of a quantum machine, it may be possible to create a completely unbreakable internet, which takes cyber security to a new level.
Quantum technology can be used for research and product development or for improving the productivity of processes in many different industries. It becomes easier to produce different analysis and forecasting models and, for example, in the banking and financial sector, fraud prevention, and risk assessment become substantially more effective.
From humanity’s point of view, the greatest benefits arise from speeding up the development cycles of medicines and vaccines, as well as combating climate change, and the possibility to reduce emissions.
Quantum technology also requires a change in mindset
Quantum technology requires an extensive change in the way of thinking, when the current digital world gets from a world that consists of strings of ones and zeros, to a world where ones and zeros are simultaneous and in two states at the same time.
Everything will be much faster
The words efficiency and productivity will not disappear anywhere, but in the future, they will focus on things other than human-made work. In practice, this means, for example, that when a quantum machine simulates a solution quickly, the meaning of human work changes.
It is good to be aware that this does not mean that human work will disappear, but that the importance of humans as part of the process must be seen differently. A person must see meaning in the process itself; for example, in learning something new, better understanding humanity, or increasing empathy. In the future, the manager’s most important task will be handling this slow and at the same time lightning-fast process and asking the right and meaningful questions.
The paradigm shift will also be seen as a change in decision-making, which will be revolutionary in terms of management. While now we can in some way trace how artificial intelligence has reached its conclusions, it is not possible to act in the same way with a quantum machine, because there might be no traceability.
The absence of verification and relying on a quantum machine will be big leaps forward because we are used to being able to verify how the result or conclusion in question has been reached.
The leader of the quantum era dares to think big
From the point of view of companies, it is important to think about how an organization can succeed with the help of a quantum machine, and what are the questions that we can seek answers to with the help of a quantum machine?
Leaders who know how to think big and who dare to tackle multidimensional and difficult problems by utilizing quantum technology to solve them will succeed in the quantum era. The problems themselves must be able to be formulated from different perspectives than before.
Competing actors should be kept an eye on and at least be aware of their goals to introduce quantum technology. Unprepared companies sooner or later face the so-called zero moments, which makes an unprepared company unnecessary, history has many examples of this to tell.
Emerging technologies and becoming familiar with them is on the agenda of a future-aware government operating in the present. It is not enough for the boards of companies and organizations to only look at the year that started, but the focus should be further, ten or even tens of years away. However, this does not necessarily mean that there should be ready-made plans. For many, it is enough to be curious about the becoming quantum era.
It’s about increasing awareness and following the development of technology even from the corner of the eye. About realizing that when quantum time is realized, it will change many existing truths.
Anticipating quantum time is one of the most important tasks of management
The development of quantum technology already offers us many possible paths to the future and the questions in which direction leadership should develop. Following weak signals and advancements and being aware of technological developments plays a key role in future-proof management.
You can still hear a lot of voices saying that there will be no quantum era. Of course, this may be possible, but very unlikely so. This is evidenced, for example, by the significant investments that are currently being made in quantum machines around the world. Fundamental breakthroughs have also been made where a quantum computer has already been able to be more efficient than a classical computer in a narrow sector. Currently, the development of quantum technology is moving forward by leaps and bounds.
That’s why it’s interesting how quantum time has received so little attention in companies so far. It seems that the biggest reason why the quantum era does not fit on the management’s agenda is that the issue and the importance of the phenomenon are not yet fully understood, or the topic still seems too distant.
However, it is typical for development that things progress slowly at first until suddenly a leap forward is taken. In the same way that the development of a traditional computer has taken it from one large, room-sized machine to a tool that fits in your pocket, a similar future awaits the quantum machine.
That’s why it’s worth looking at and familiarizing yourself with the quantum future right now.
#technology #quantumconputing #prediction
The article was originally published in Finnish at Johdonagendalla leadership portal.
Cristina Andersson is an entrepreneur and business management consultant. She has been working with artificial intelligence and robotics since 2011. She is a member of the steering group of the Artificial Intelligence 4.0 program led by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, and she serves as the chair of the program’s Green transition group. Cristina is an educationalist by background. She has also studied the future of work, technology, and management, and she sees professional foresight and learning as a vital part of continuous learning. She believes that one must understand emerging technologies to realize what to learn and study.
In a Robotizing World a Worker Becomes an Investor
A lot of talk about the future of work is going on around the world. Almost everybody seems to be worried about what will happen when robotization and digitalization take over more and more of jobs that used to belong to us humans.
Indeed there is a great need for new solutions because there are jobs that will never require a pair of human hands and the development does not show signs of getting slower. Just the opposite is happening, as robots get cleverer and handier they keep on moving to new areas of business, not avoiding even the work of the scientists, nerds or customer servants.
Following the discussion of the future of work in Finland, it seems that a lot of effort is put into making old models solve the new challenges. That will not happen, we think, and therefore we suggest a new design for thriving in the working life where in addition to humans there are several different artificial agents keeping the wheels of economic life and societies rolling.
Work Is Dying – Long Live Work!
Professor Richard Florida has shown in his study ”Occupational and Industrial Distribution in Peterborough” that the number of jobs that include service and creativity will increase whereas jobs in the farming and manufacturing sectors will decrease to an extent that it is not reasonable to compile statistics in those fields anymore – even though growth is strong in those sectors. Somebody or something is working hard in farms and factories!
The former CEO of the International Federation of Robotics Dr. Shinsuke Sakakibara foresaw in 2013 that in the coming five years robots will create millions of high quality jobs – there where robots are used, we would like to add. The benefits of the development are seen for example in the US where Paul Krugman thanked robots for reshoring jobs to America (http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/08/rise-of-the-robots/) . Reshoring seem to be trending in other countries too, thanks to robots and automation.
The window of opportunity is open. Robots and automation create new jobs, innovations, new companies and most important: new possibilities to solve the enormous global challenges we face in our times. However, the window might be closing. What happens when robots storm into service sector, offices and hospitals – places where we are used to see many post-industrial workers? The closing time for the window can be closer than we think – or want to believe. We need to get prepared.
Some politicians still hold on to a dream of a factory to where people swarm to work in five continuous shifts. We have bad news for those politicians: your dream will not come true. The first fully automated factories are running as well as fully robotized hotels. We can see the signs of the new world, now we need to act.
The Future of Work: From Worker to Investor
So, what is the future of work? Micro jobs, part-time jobs, entrepreneurship, these are some of the solutions presented, many of them are seen a part of sharing economy. However, will sharing economy be a sustainable solution? Even Uber that is often portrayed as a leading example of sharing economy have started to put a plan to use robots instead of people in action http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/may/22/uber-self-driving-car-pittsburgh
Will entrepreneurship be a solution to guarantee jobs for all? Perhaps not. Not all want to become entrepreneurs and probably there will be companies that need human workers also in the future.
What about basic income? A guaranteed minimum income could be a part of the solution but it does not solve the challenges of globalizing, complex and fragmented job markets. We need new solutions to offer people possibility/possibilities to create a concept for work, a way to combine several jobs in a portfolio that provides economical means for living and wealth creation, inspiration and incentive to use their own capacities optimally and enough safety to enable freedom from fear of survival.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Please allow us to present Work as an Investment!
Work as an Investment means that a person offers her/his work to a company or organization in a same way as an investor invests in shares. During the investment, a dividend is payed, and if the investment is profitable, it can continue. If the investment does not create sufficient value it can be denounced and the company pays the ”price of the day” for the investor. WaaI includes incentives for both the ”employee” investor and the ”employer” or the organization where the investment is placed.
WaaI is a way of doing business with one’s competencies and capabilities. It is not a time-bank where people exchange tasks. It is not a way of crowdsourcing either, even though there are some similarities.
Work as an Investment is a new way of thinking work and job markets, it is based on business- and investment concepts. Elina Lepomäki, a Member of the Finnish Parliament, writes: ” … a direct or indirect border-crossing trade of anybody’s competence is going on. There will be work only for those who have something to give in their domain and can provide it with a market price.”
WaaI is a tool for human beings to deal with their work input like an investor. The work input can be invested in several organizations and by so means build an investment portfolio where the capital produces best interest and grows optimally.
From CV to the competence portfolio
For workers it should be useful to assess their own skills and capabilities in relation to their factual (1) core work knowledge, (2) customer-specific knowledge and (3) strategic competence and knowledge. Each individual has his or her own competence portfolio. They negotiate and make work contracts in the labor market based on their own personal competence portfolio.
On the other hand, each has its own employee talent portfolio, which they can develop through training, education and self-improvement. When an employee goes to work for any organization, new work represents an opportunity to develop his/her competence portfolio more versatile and add something valuable to their own competence portfolio. Also, the employer has the chance to develop the whole company’s total human/intelligence capital portfolio. In the best case both parties will benefit based on Win-Win principle, i.e. the employee can increase the value of his/her competence portfolio and the employer receives an additional contribution to the knowledge-based capital portfolio. In addition, this kind of competence portfolio may be the great possibility for a wide range of investment opportunities and business agreements.
Like in the business world, start-ups and companies develop new business models, workers should also develop new kind of competence portfolio models, which help them to diversify risks and work investments in their personal life. Modern portfolio theory (MPT) is a theory on how risk-averse investors can construct portfolios to optimize or maximize expected return based on a given level of market risk, emphasizing that risk is an inherent part of higher reward. This kind of MPT thinking can be applied also to work markets, where workers invest in their competence portfolios. Why we allow risk management based concept/model? On the MPT for companies, but we do not allow the MPT for workers? Indeed, the WaaI model allows portfolio thinking for all workers.
Like in stock markets investors invest in many companies, WaaI suggest that workers could invest their work input in several companies. A WaaI -investor can have a number of human capital portfolio contracts. This requires, of course, that the investors’s and the company’s roles are very clear, which is not always true in the conventional labor market.
There are also many trainers and educational organizations, that can be involved in the contract and competence portfolio model. For example, today through crowdsourcing business models citizens will reach very “divergent model” agreements in the labor market. Actually, some of these new contract models are not particularly fair. If you want to see work as an investment, it requires a kind of an investment agreement with an investment commitment to a genuine on both sides of portfolio contractors. Admittedly, new research is needed to clarify the operating work contract models in which both workers and employers are free to agree on the terms of the work carried out. In the very traditional model of “paid work”, involved parties do not have a clear idea of the portfolio investment model, which makes it a high-risk contract model in the rapidly changing labor markets. The traditional model of “paid work” or employment also displaces many people from the labor market, if they are not ready to set up their own companies. This is a real problem in the freelancer work market.
A useful model to understand the key components of competence portfolio was developed by Professor John Holland when the RIASEC personality model was formulated. According to this model, people´s orientation can be classified as Realistic (Realistic), Investigating (Investigative), Artistic (Artistic), Social (Social), Enterprising (Enterprising) and Conventional (Conventional). This model has proven to be useful and reliable scientific basis as a model example of competence portfolio with strong career planning point of view. When the work is seen as an investment, the WaaI model can help people in their career planning and support people’s inherent personality traits and talents.
Figure 1 shows an integrated WaaI model with key elements: (1) Human capital classification of core work knowledge customer knowledge and strategic skills knowledge, (2) human personality and competence model based on Holland’s RIASEC model, and (3) competence & qualifications needs analysis of organizations and companies, which should have a very clear connection with companies needing core work knowledge, customer knowledge and strategic skill knowledge.
This kind of integrated WaaI model could be useful, for example, when labor unions, public agencies and private agencies want to develop effective local bargaining system (in Finland?). This conceptual model would also help to orient training and educational organizations providing the right kind of core work knowledge, customer knowledge and strategic knowledge. In Finland, the key challenge is to form a correct big picture of the knowledge capital of future(s?) of labor markets. In addition, correct precision training of national talent pool is by no means an easy thing to accomplish. Integrated WaaI model and the associated WaaI -portfolio competence model could be an effective and realistic approach to these future challenges.
Digital applications WaaI’s tools
In Finland, which is modern knowledge and innovation society, we can easily develop new intelligent digital applications, that would help to improve matching of firms and employees to the knowledge capital in a rapidly changing global labor market. Work as an Investment model could be a more realistic way of working in the changed social circumstances. The local intelligent bargaining model of labor markets, which functions digitally, could be sufficiently ambitious and bright model for the future developments of the labor market.
WaaI is a new social innovation. All sides of labor market stakeholders can benefit from WaaI in a big way. Like all inventions, the WaaI model also calls people for the further developments and piloting. After WaaI 1.0 comes WaaI 2.0. Nowadays, when more labor market flexibility is much desired, we need more dynamic experiment cultures and courage to make a new WaaI idea function in changing realities of work markets.
Cristina Andersson and Jari Kaivo-oja
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