Friday, May 8, 2015

Science Doesn’t Need Negative Stereotypes Reinforced

Earlier this week, I saw an article called Quantum Computers Will Make Your Laptop Look Like an Abacus, and I thought, Ooooo! That sounds interesting. So I read it, and became incredibly disillusioned.

Here’s the very first paragraph from the article: “The race to make the first quantum computer is becoming as important as the race 75 years ago to get the first nuke. It could change the balance of power in politics and business.”

I wanted to stop reading then, but gave the article the benefit of the doubt. I felt that perhaps further down it would give me hope. I came across this: “These machines will be millions of times more powerful than today’s fastest supercomputers, solving problems that now elude solving, like dead-on accurate weather prediction or modeling protein molecules for medical research,” and thought, OK. Here we go. Something positive.

And then came this paragraph:

“A quantum computer could also create indestructible encryption, and unlock any existing computer security as easily as you unzip your fly. We’re entering an era of cyberwar, so imagine how power might shift if one country gets the ability to invade any other country’s computer systems while putting up the ultimate computer defenses. That’s a major reason nations are pouring money into this research. The U.K., China, Russia, Australia, Netherlands and other countries are in the game. In the U.S., the CIA, National Security Agency and Pentagon are all funding research, while Los Alamos National Laboratory operates one of the most significant quantum computer labs.”

And I went back to being disillusioned.

We have the potential to create this amazing and world-changing computer, and the only thing we can think to do with it is make war on the rest of the world? Really? We don’t want to use it to help with medical breakthroughs? Or discover new things in space? Or solve the energy crisis?

It is exactly things like that that make people distrust science. And this is where zombies come from.

More often than not, science is looked at in a bad light, mainly because we’re never exactly sure what their motive is. If we look at zombies films, science and scientists are often obsessed with taking over the world or conducting experiments because they can. In the case of Frankenstein and several others, they want to cheat death. And the end result is the dead rising from the grave and destroying the world.

This has the potential to be that kind of scenario. Do I think it will raise the dead? Probably not, but since no one really knows what a quantum computer will be capable of, who’s to say it’s outside of the realm of possibility. Or what if it leads to smart machines like we see in Terminator?

Putting worst-case scenarios aside, it’s not exactly like the desire to create this machine is for the good of humanity. What this does is reinforces an already-existing negative stereotype of science and scientist. And they didn’t need any more help being the bad guy.

I will say, however, that I’m intrigued to see what kinds of horror movies will be created based on the quantum computer.

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