Saturday, May 18, 2019

Quantum health

A recent article (1) poses an intriguing question that if information such as one's genetic composition and proclivity to diseases are available to a patient, whether that could change her physiology. As argued in the article, the outcomes of a quantum phenomenon are intricately connected with the observer and analogously, this could happen in health. It is an interesting thought experiment.

My company, Decision Options, is currently involved in helping a speciality hospital identify patients at high risk so that a higher level of care could be provided to ameliorate such risk. In the status-quo, this knowledge is available only to the medical professionals, attending to the patient. However, it is fascinating to think about the possibility of providing such information to patients if beneficial effects could be garnered. It is a double-edged sword as humans are notoriously prone to suggestions. Psychosomatic illnesses command a measurable portion of healthcare expenses.

The observer does define the outcomes in quantum physics. In medicine, a plethora of complex phenomena including the placebo effect as well as the structure of observers - patients, providers and payers and the interactions among them, complicate matters significantly. However, it may be time to think about a regime driven largely by unconstrained information as it likely leads to better outcomes.

There are two orthogonal axes in medicine - how does an informed observer change outcomes and how does the availability of information result in negative effects related to human internalization of such information. We need a few experiments to tease this out and it may well be worth it.

(1) https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-knowing-your-genetic-risk-change-your-physiology/?redirect=1

Saturday, May 11, 2019

"Shoddy simulation," asserts Mario

A recent philosophical banter (1) that speculates that the complexity of the universe may be emanating from a shoddy construction job of the entities that are simulating it, is thought-provoking. However, the illogical and complex stance of the universe could also be due to many other reasons.

First, anybody who has ever designed a simulation knows that such games never consider how simulated entities view it. But rather, the objective function is always exogenous, trying to optimize the players' needs and requirements. Humans often fall into a trap of assuming that they have some level of importance and if we are indeed in a simulation, we could be completely irrelevant. So the fact that the expansion of the universe will result in complete darkness in the future is only illogical from the perspective of the simulated entities.

Second, many of the characteristics of the observed universe appear to follow the general specification of games that tends to get harder over time. Assuming there are observers outside the context of the simulation, they may be progressing to higher and higher levels of the game. Again, from the perspective of the simulated entities, this may appear illogical as they are contained in a miniature theater within an apparently infinite stage.

Finally, what is observed by the simulated entities - illogical construct, complexity, and lack of control - could all be by design. By placing hard constraints on mobile agents across the universe, the game maker may be running an experiment to test if they could escape it. Since nobody wants to play an infinite game, it may be programmed to self destroy in the absence of a progression in the intelligence of the simulated entities.

It appears likely that the experiment will end without proving that the agents could surpass the initial constraints placed on them.

(1) https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/life-unbounded/the-lowest-bid-universe/

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Quantum initiative: Lifting humanity from mediocrity

The US National Quantum Initiative (1) is arguably the most important science and technology initiative today with far-reaching beneficial effects. With a foundational change in computing, humans could possibly begin to understand themselves, their genes, approaching diseases and their date of expiry. They could seek consciousness in Silicon, costless energy and space travel. They could attempt to mend a broken planet and provide resources for the next generation to rise. They could invent materials that aid space elevation, instant terrestrial travel, and skyscrapers that truly scrape the sky.

It is late. Conventionalism has dominated science and technology lately, most constructing careers by proving what has already been proved. They have slipped further into mediocrity, some taking pictures of black holes and others proving gravitational waves exist. But, if the technologists are truly practical and would like to make a difference, why don't they try to solve problems that are more difficult than collecting data and deploying supercomputers on it. The answer is that there is no money in it. The ones who made a difference did not seek money and for the last hundred years, it was money that drove science and technology.

Not even those sitting on top of mountains of data have any interest in advancing technology in a step function fashion. If they do, their own technologies and R&D would be rendered instantly useless. It is an ironic state of affairs - the technologists without an understanding of sunk costs attempt to protect it, while the governments who play second fiddle to the monopolies, play along.

Humans are a funny lot.


(1) https://science.sciencemag.org/content/364/6439/440