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The Coming of the Quantum Economy

Friday, September 17th, 2010


From FT.com:

Computers set for quantum leap

A new photonic chip that works on light rather than electricity has been built by an international research team, paving the way for the production of ultra-fast quantum computers with capabilities far beyond today’s devices.

Future quantum computers will, for example, be able to pull important information out of the biggest databases almost instantaneously. As the amount of electronic data stored worldwide grows exponentially, the technology will make it easier for people to search with precision for what they want.

An early application will be to investigate and design complex molecules, such as new drugs and other materials, that cannot be simulated with ordinary computers. More general consumer applications should follow.

I bet.

I’m no computer geek, but I know a bit about economics. Quantum computing represents a moment of comparative advantage for the nation(s) that pioneers it akin to Great Britain being first with the Industrial Revolution. The first use for the world’s first lab functional quantum computer is to apply it’s power in other fields where innovation is stymied by previously intractable math problems, thus permitting a burst of patentable breakthroughs or discoveries that lead to applied scientific and commercial uses. The second use of the quantum computer’s power will be put towards solving problems related to optimizing quantum computing itself, both in terms of refining the systems and assembling arrays.

Advantages of this nature tend to be self-reinforcing and synergistic. The state that accrues these downstream spillover benefits of quantum computing in rapid succession could potentially leapfrog over everyone else to a degree not seen in centuries.

Jeremy O’Brien, director of the UK’s Centre for Quantum Photonics, who led the project, said many people in the field had believed a functional quantum computer would not be a reality for at least 25 years.

“However, we can say with real confidence that, using our new technique, a quantum computer could, within five years, be performing calculations that are outside the capabilities of conventional computers,” he told the British Science Festival, as he presented the research

The upside of holding this kind of technological  advance back from the commercial domain in order to “lock in” comparative advantage until the nearest quantum computing rival has gotten close, but not yet reached, operational use, will be overwhelming.

Don’t you feel great that the corporatist Bush administration was indifferent to venture capital start-ups, explicitly hostile to basic science research and xenophobic toward top-notch H1-B and foreign grad student talent while the Obama administration is explicitly hostile to start-ups and enamored of pouring scarce billions into rustbelt legacy industries, outdated infrastructure projects and oligarchic Wall Street paper shufflers instead of the high tech and VC sectors?


Distracted by Drones

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Should have posted tonight. Have an interesting idea too – but I was distracted by having to comment on this article at SWJ BLog.

Boyd Conference 2010: October 15- 16 at Quantico

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Dr. Chet Richards has passed along information that there will be an upcoming BOYD CONFERENCE at Quantico on October 15th and 16th at the Al Gray Research Center. The organizer of the conference is LTC. Stan Coerr, and he is busy assembling a line-up of presenters who include LTG Paul Van Riper, Robert Coram, GI Wilson, Don Vandergriff, Fred Leland and others.

I can’t really give out Col. Coerr’s email without the gentleman’s permission but for those readers who are seriously interested in attending, either send me your email address or leave it in the comments and I will coallate them and send them on.  I am not sure yet if I will be attending as it depends heavily on my work commitments, but I’d like to be there.


Rob Paterson has more details on the Boyd Conference including contact information for registration:

….This symposium goes beyond Boyd’s Work. His influence on other professions and individuals making efforts to more effective outcomes in their perspective fields will be the focus of the Boyd and Beyond symposium. Topics discussed will focus not only on important military issues but will, as well, take Boyd’s theories into the different professions and realms of conflict these professions deal with.  How Boyd’s theories apply and what they have done to make all more effective at solving problems via the observation. orientation, decision and action cycles.

Understanding the OODA Loop, and the effects; Interaction, Insight,  Imagination, and Initiative, Command and Influence (LEADERSHIP) have on the constant repetitive nature of the decision making cycle can when leveraged, lead to gaining the advantage or as COL John Boyd stated; the essence of winning and losing;

“The essence of winning and losing is in learning how to shape or influence events so that we not only magnify our spirit and strength but also influence potential adversaries as well as the uncommitted so that they are drawn toward our philosophy and are empathetic towards our success.”

Law Enforcement, Homeland Security Professionals, Colleges and University Safety and Security, Hospital Security, Hotel Security and private business looking to keep their workplace safe, will benefit from the lessons learned and applied at this symposium. Developing better strategies, tactics and methods and operational art to make your organization more effective in all that it does, is the type of learning that will take place at the Boyd and Beyond Symposium

Summer Series 2010: Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop by Giustozzi

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Summer Series 2010: Reviewing the Books! has begun. This review was originally posted in July, 2010 and is being re-posted as part of Summer Series:

Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop by Antonio Giustozzi

I just finished reading Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop: The Neo-Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan by historian Antonio Giustozzi who has subsequently gone on to write in rapid succession, Decoding the New Taliban: Insights from the Afghan Field and Empires of Mud, which I intend to read as well. Giustozzi is doing something important with his study of the Neo-Taliban insurgency that twenty years ago, a professional historian would have eschewed: applying his his historical expertise and methodology in a disciplinary synthesis to understand a dynamic, emerging, phenomenon at the center of current policy.

At the outset, Giustozzi writes:

This book is written by a historian who is trying to understand contemporary developments making use of not just the historical method, but also drawing from other disciplines such as anthropology, political science and geography. As a result, this book combines an analysis of the development of the insurgency based on available information with my ongoing work, focused on identifying the root causes of the weakness of the Afghan state.

This is a useful investigative methodological approach. “Useful” in the sense that while adhering to scholarly standards, Giustozzi offers readers the benefit of his capacity as a professional historian to evaluate new information about the war with the Neo-Taliban, while orienting it in the appropriate cultural-historical context. Not all of the information dealt with is reliable; Giustozzi candidly explains the disputes around particular unverified claims or accusations before offering his educated guess where the truth may be or the probabilities involved in a fog of war and ethno-tribal animosities.

Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop is an academic book with a fairly detached tone and heavily endnoted chapters, which Giustozzi divided in the following manner:

1. Sources of the insurgency

2. How and why the Taliban recruited

3. Organization of the Taliban

4. The Taliban’s strategy

5. Military tactics of the insurgency

6. The counter-insurgency effort

The chapters have a wealth of detail, bordering at times on minutia, on Afghanistan’s complex and personalized system of politics which help shed light on why the effort at providing effective governance, a key COIN tenet, is so difficult. One example:

“….Strengthened as it was by powerful connections in Kabul, Sher Mohammed’s ‘power bloc’ proved quite resilient. Some of the Kabul press reported ‘criticism’, by former and current government officials from Helmand, of Daoud, whose attempts to restrain and isolate the rogue militias and police forces of helmand were described in terms of collaborationism with the Taliban. Daoud reacted by accusing the local ‘drug mafia’ of plotting against him and tried to convince President Karzai to leave him in his post, but not even British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s efforts sufficed to save him. Karzai sacked Daoud in the autumn of 2006. His replacement, Asadullah Wafa, was widely seen as a weak figure who for several months even refused to deploy to Lashkargah.”

This example is a typical one for political life in the provinces. Karzai’s counterinsurgency strategy does not have much to do with ours, and is largely antithetical to it. What we call “corruption”, Karzai sees as buying loyalty; what we call good governance, Karzai views as destabilizing his regime. We are not on the same page with Hamid Karzai and perhaps not even in the same playbook.

Giustozzi is exceptionally well-informed about Afghanistan and the political and military nuances of the old Taliban and the Neo-Taliban insurgency and the structure of Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop is clear and well-organized. Giustozzi is informed about COIN in this context but less so generally (in a minor glitch, he posits Mao as primarily waging guerrilla war against an Imperial Japan – Mao didn’t – which did not have much of a “technological edge” – which Japan certainly did over Chinese forces, Nationalist or Communist, for most of the war) but Giustozzi is not writing to add to COIN theory literature, as he specifically noted. What the reader will get from Giustozzi is a grasp of who the Neo-Taliban are as a fighting force and the convoluted, granular, social complexity of Afghan political life in which the US is attempting to wage a COIN war.

Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop is strongly recommended.

Recommended Reading

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Top Billing!Lexington GreenAfghanistan 2050 Roundtable Summing-Up

Lexington Green wraps up the Afghanistan 2050 Roundtable with an analytical essay:

[….] B. Failure of the American Effort in Afghanistan

Our posters were nearly unanimous that the current American effort in Afghanistan would not succeed, or even have a long-term effect on Afghanistan. That is an expected, but still damning vote of no confidence on the decade-long Bush-Obama non-strategy for Afghanistan. The strongest counter-example was Trent Telenko, who suggested a strategy to secure the country that sounds plausible to me, an non-expert.

Joseph Fouche had my second favorite observation of the Roundtable: “America has the firepower to destroy a large country, the heavy forces to invade a medium country, and the manpower to occupy a small one.” The USA and its military are not configured to do the kind of nation-building the US Government seems to want to do. Thomas P.M. Barnett has long observed that these tasks, if they can be done at all, require lots of people. The USA has a military composed of a small number of highly trained and expensively equipped people. The only way that a country the size of Afghanistan could be pacified is to put lots of boots on the ground. The only countries that have that many boots are China and India. Afghanistan will not be pacified by the USA, using hearts-and-minds methods. It may be pacified by one of the two large Asian powers, using more direct method. Jim Bennett speculated on what it would look like if China moved in, bulldozer fashion. His vision seems highly plausible over the long term.

Fringe provided a thoughtful analysis of the US failure in Afghanistan, which I won’t summarize but I strongly suggest you read. I think it is the single most informative post in the Roundtable. He notes that successful US wars have not had an “exit strategy.” To the contrary, they consisted of a battlefield success followed by an extended occupation. This provides an initial test, before the outset of a war. If it is not worth an occupation, it is not worth invading in the first place. “With few exceptions, if it’s worth a war, there is no exit strategy.”

One intriguing set of predictions was of ongoing, networked non-governmental efforts to provide some relief for the Afghan people. Dr. Madhu predicts ongoing turmoil, with NGOs doing humanitarian work where governments are unwilling or unable to go. David Ronfeldt foresees a “secretive ethicalist netfirm” operating swarms of surveillance UAVs to protect Afghan women. While this seems exotic at first glance, David is probably tapping into what seem to me to be the likely trends.

Radical advancement in technology may make much of our current thinking obsolete by 2050, and probably a lot sooner. Zenpundit noted in a comment that “[t]he DIY movement combined with high tech sectors like desktop manufacturing and nanotechnology are going to permit [individuals] and small groups to have their own capacity for military intervention.” The bad guys will take advantage of this first, since governments will try unsuccessfully to control the process. Once that fails, we will see a massive breakout of self-help as military scale violence becomes accessible and ubiquitous. Once this happens, the nation-state itself will be an over-priced, unusable legacy system that not only fails at providing the core function of providing physical security, but obstructs it. We will have to move to a different arrangement entirely. Goodbye, Westphalia, you won’t be missed very much. The good guys will win but the process will be ugly. This was roughly what I predicted in my initial post, with a posited dissolution of the USA, followed by a networked regrouping of the successor entities

The New LedgerChris Albon and Craig Hooper A Second Great White Fleet

….After January’s earthquake in Haiti, the U.S. military and Coast Guard vessels transported supplies, provided security, and even conducted air traffic control for Toussaint L’Ouverture International Airport. During the ongoing flooding in Pakistan, helicopters from U.S. warships have delivered critical food aid and airlifted thousands to safety. Both disasters presented a side of America that is too rarely seen on the world stage: young American men and women sent to aid beleaguered nations.

However, in both these cases the U.S. flotilla was ad hoc, assembled either by reassigning ships from more traditional duties or, as in the case of the hospital ship U.S.N.S. Comfort, deployed from port only through the Herculean efforts of her crew. There was no dedicated squadron trained and tasked for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. We should change this.

Thomas P.M. Barnett – Deep Reads: “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” (1979) & “Theodore Rex” (2001)

Anyone who’s read my history-of-America in “Great Powers” knows TR is the pivotal figure in so many ways, not the least of which being the profound influence he had on his cousin–FDR.

If you’re only going to read one, read the first, simply because the ride up is always more interesting than the time at the top. As soon as I read this book, I thought to myself, why isn’t there a big Hollywood movie of such a seminal figure in our history. Scorsese is making a movie of the book, with DiCaprio in the title role. Scorsese makes a lot of sense, because of the NYC connection.

Seydlitz89 – A Total War Doctrine Masquerading as Strategic Theory?

Here we see the distinction between the study of “war” and the study of “warfare”. War remains the same and a general theory may apply, whereas warfare is specific to the time and interaction in question. Each of the theorists I mention above – -including Clausewitz – dealt with both in their analyses, many times quoting Clausewitz or assuming a general theory foundation and then developing their own specific “art of warfare” based on military history/personal experience for their own epochs. It is this art of warfare for the particular epoch which in turn supplies the basis for military doctrine

John RobbJOURNAL: Koran Burning

An unexpected global event occurs.  What caused it?  The event was produced by an individual, relatively powerless by traditional standards.  However, since this is the 21st Century, this individual is able to use unfettered access to a global super-network to leverage and amplify his actions.  The event he creates disrupts established global social networks and puts them into turmoil.  That turmoil creates the opportunity and sustenance needed to activate dozens of small subnetworks/groups.  As these groups interact, a new dynamic is formed.  

  • Here’s an interesting theoretical question:  How long will it take for someone in the open source swarm forming around this, to surpass and replace Terry Jones now that a systempunkt has been both identified and proven to work?  His fumbling makes it possible for new entrants to run with this.  These efforts don’t meet the level necessary to surpass/trump the efforts of Jones, but they add to the confusion.  
  • Eide Neurolearning Blog –Risk-Taking and the Entrepreneur Brain

    ScienceDailyMental Maturity Scan Tracks Brain Development

    Current IntelligenceHannah Arendt and the Challenge of Modernity

    SWJ BlogHezbollah in South America

    That’s it!

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