I try very hard to keep the posts in this blog focused on the topic of quantum computing. So what does Steve Jobs have to do with that topic?
People often give you a line of BS about how it will take us at least 20.31 years to develop QCs, because, oh, it’s “so hard to do”. I believe that the speed of QC development will depend strongly on how many people like Steve Jobs we manage to enlist into the QC ranks (i.e., people who approach the QC field with the vision, energy, courage, tenacity, and urgency of a Steve Jobs).
Stevo is not perfect. Some might say he is just a glorified appliance salesman, not a scientist or a nerd. By some accounts, he can sometimes be narcissistic, ruthless, abusive, petty, and mercurial. A real pain in the ass. But I think focusing only on the lesser traits of this man would be missing the point. Steve Jobs has undoubtedly gotten a few things right in his lifetime.
A famous quote from Steve is “Real artists ship”, meaning that artists, including computer hardware and software developers, must get their products shipped to their customers in a timely fashion, or else they are not true artists. The people working to build a scalable QC should also try to achieve their goal promptly, not in 20 years, for God’s sake. We can do much better than that if we really try.
And one more thing… Steve never tires of reminding us how extremely important software is for computers. According to Steve,
“If you take away the software from the iPhone, all you’ve got left is a fancy paper weight”.
Okay, I just made that quote up, but it’s very much in the spirit of what Steve believes. Personal computers only exploded in the market once they included a few killer apps (e.g., VisiCalc (the precursor of the Excel spreadsheet), and video games like Space Invaders). Likewise, quantum computers will be dead on arrival unless they arrive already loaded with at least one compelling killer app. So what will the first killer applications for QCs look like? Probably not Shor’s algorithm. Most people don’t give a hill of beans about factoring large numbers. It’s very likely that long before QCs arrive on the scene, the use of cryptographic codes that can be broken with Shor’s algorithm will be replaced by the use of classical (not quantum) codes that already exist and which cannot be broken with QCs. (look up Post-Quantum cryptography)
Other insanely great traits of Steve Jobs that quantum computerists would do well to emulate, are
- Steve Jobs is a very persuasive salesman. He truly believes in what he is selling. Just go to WikiQuote and read some of the quotes attributed to him, or listen to one of his speeches on YouTube, to see how persuasive he can be. Back in 1981, one of the first engineers employed by Apple invented a term, inspired by Star Trek, to describe this effect: he called it Steve’s “reality distortion field“. The term is still used today, sometimes half-mockingly, but always with implicit admiration, to describe Steve.
- Steve Jobs is a very adept businessman, as is obvious from his successes.
- Steve Jobs is a special kind of businessman, one that loves technology and understands it well, often in minute detail.
- Steve Jobs understands and loves good design and high quality. He tries to make products that perform their function efficiently and yet are also beautiful at the same time; products that are easy to understand and use, and always work flawlessly.
- Steve Jobs understands the value of constantly innovating. He was able to pull Apple away from the brink of bankruptcy, in large measure by innovating new products.
- Steve Jobs understands the value of surrounding himself with very smart and creative people.
- Steve Jobs is a very effective and inspiring leader of his employees. By many accounts, he is obsessively meticulous/picky, persistent and demanding. Using rewards, cajolery, and sometimes also abuse and insult, he has been able to prod/coax, time and again, his engineers to go far beyond the limits of what they thought they could do.
- Steve Jobs knows when to pull the plug on a technology that has been superseded by a better one, or a technology that is not yet practical, or never will be. (e.g., floppy disk drives, the Newton, IBM PowerPC chips). I hope the advocates of NMR quantum computing, quantum money, a quantum internet and quantum cryptography will be just as wise. It doesn’t mean Steve gives up on computers when he pulls the plug on something. He just moves on to the next innovation.
- Steve Jobs understands what people need and/or want. He greatly boosted revolutions in the following technological areas: computer GUI (graphical user interface) and fonts (the Mac), computer animation (Pixar), modernizing the Sony Walkman concept (the iPod), online sales of music (iTunes), smart phones and multi-touch screens (iPhone), tablets and e-book readers (iPad), etc., etc. The guy has a Midas touch when it comes to technological products.
- Steve Jobs is very adept at advertising. Like many people, I intensely dislike most advertisements, but I have to admit that some of the coolest graphics and advertisements I’ve ever seen have come from Apple.
- Steve Jobs is a partial vegetarian (eats no meat except fish) (Okay, I’m biased on this subject. I’m a vegetarian too)
- Steve Jobs made an incredible comeback in his professional life.
- Steve Jobs wears a super-hero outfit, like the Incredibles. Not spandex. A black long-sleeved turtleneck, blue jeans and running shoes.
There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.’ And we’ve always tried to do that at Apple. Since the very very beginning. And we always will.
Hear hear! from all quantum computer dreamers.
I highly recommend that you read the following: