On September 5, we organized an Investor Day on the Future of Computing. With Danum Investment Advisors becoming part of Dasym in summer 2018, we stepped up our efforts to enrich this annual Danum event with speakers from the Freedomlab Thinktank and its large network of thought leaders. Over 60 people attended this day-long event at our Freedomlab Office in Amsterdam. This special issue of our Horizons Newsletter provides you with the most important insights of the day and a video with the highlights of the event. For any questions or remarks, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Developing the 21st century problem solving skills
In his introduction Arief Hühn, head of the Freedomlab Thinktank, outlined how AI could help us deal with the challenges of the 21st century, be it climate change, overpopulation, or waste of resources. Nevertheless, to unleash the full potential of AI, he pointed out that two important issues need to be solved: data and AI silos and the limitations of classical computing, such as speed and computing power. Blockchain technology could solve the silo issue by enabling participants in a network to transact and exchange data without the need for a middle man. Examples of how that works, were provided by Rutger van Zuidam, founder and CEO of blockchain hackathon Odyssey. He described, for instance, how they aligned stakeholders to create a mobile virtual power plant using electronic cars. Quantum computing could provide us with a solution to the second issue. Dr. Cor van der Struijf, who leads IBM’s quantum computing efforts, showed for instance how quantum computing was used to speed up calculations in quantitative finance, to improve efficiency of car batteries, or to simulate scenarios. While each technology is powerful of itself, Hühn emphasized that the combination of AI, blockchain and quantum computing will deliver the powerful synergies that will form the technology stack of the 21st century.
The geopolitics of quantum technology
Quantum technology could radically transform the geopolitical landscape, explained Freedomlab researcher Alexander van Wijnen. Cracking quantum cryptography, for instance, will give the wielder the ability to decrypt all encryption standards. It could shift the balance of power similar to the British deciphering the Enigma code during WWII. Moreover, the unprecedented calculating power of quantum computers could turn complex scenarios into foreign policy. For example, in 2010 a drought forced Russia to ban wheat exports to Tunisia, leading to protests over rising food prices that erupted into the Arab Spring, which, in turn, triggered a refugee crisis that contributed to Brexit. Quantum computers could simulate such scenarios. Considering its potential power, quantum technology will likely become a key driver of the coming shift of global leadership. Historically, hegemons (the U.K., the U.S.) emerge after long periods of conflicts between many different countries (such as the Napoleonic Wars and the World Wars). During these conflicts, countries devaluate their currencies and their tolerance for debt grows, which accelerates innovation (e.g. railways, steamships, automobiles). Van Wijnen speculated that today’s ongoing trade and currency disputes suggest that another long conflict is in the making with quantum technology as the prize.
Investing in a quantum future
Dasym CIO and Danum founder Erwin Kooij, told how in 2011, Dasym’s predecessor Cyrte identified the Quantum Society as a key future driver for technological and hegemonic shifts, representing the start of a new computing and analytics era driven by quantum communication. In his presentation Kooij pointed out that the first signs of that era are emerging, with companies in pharma, chemistry and material science industries experimenting with quantum simulations, encryption and optimization. Governments are involved too. The E.U. presented a plan in 2018 for a €1 billion initiative on quantum technologies. The U.S. passed the National Quantum Initiative Act in December 2018, which authorized $1.2 billion over five years for funding of research. China, meanwhile, said it would invest ‘tens of billions of dollars’ in research centers dedicated to quantum information sciences. Nevertheless, as the speakers during our investor day have shown, most efforts in building the future of computing are found in the lab and not even close to full-scale implementation. Still, quantum and other future computing technologies are bound to transform companies, making it necessary to prepare. While there are no pure-play quantum relative investments available today, we are preparing to invest in its future.