After “disruption” the most overused word in contemporary jargon is “quantum.” Once the province of physics, the word is applied willy-nilly to any concept in need of some pseudo-scientific sexiness. It’s basically a cognitive rocket engine that makes any word that follows sound like it’s the latest offering from the SyFy channel.
The granddaddy of words preceded by quantum is, of course, “quantum mechanics,” who are the grease monkeys that repair the Starship Enterprise. Since then, other q-word combos have entered the lexicon with the speed of “quantum computing” (which will hasten the coming Singularity and enslave us all) or have made the “quantum leap” (abruptly moving from one quantum state to another until you turn into Scott Bakula) into our parlance.
From the Wimpy School of Economics (“I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a quantum-burger today”), comes the term “Quantum accounting,” which is “borrowing against future interest earnings with the intention of inventing a time machine and going back in time to make a deposit.” This is what happens when your nation’s economic policy is created by “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Certified Public Accountant.”
Deep thinker Deepak Chopra once made a case for a “Quantum Soul” that anticipates some of the notions floated in Dr. Robert Lanza’s popular if controversial “Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness Are the Keys to Understanding the Nature of the Universe.” The gist is that one’s consciousness doesn’t end at death so much as gets freed to roam the multiverse (probably in search of a new body – thus explaining reincarnation and multiple personality disorder). This is a better fate than the one faced by Johnny Depp in “Transcendence,” in which he dies, leaving his consciousness free to roam the Internet. Oh, and spoiler alert.
I’m presently working on a “quantum hangover” machine, which transmits the impact of my overindulgence to another version of me in a parallel universe (yep, that dude’s going to hate me). Perhaps he’ll try to offset his misfortune with a few cups of “quantum coffee” – a concept pursued by physics-savvy baristas who postulate the possibility of a “bottomless cup” that never runs out or grows cold. It was conceived as a means to avoid pouring refills. And it tastes like infinite angst.
“Quantum of Solace.” Does anyone remember the pre-”Skyfall” James Bond flick? It was sort of a footnote to “Casino Royale” and finds Bond out to avenge the death of Vesper Lynd who died because, you know, she was a woman in a Bond flick. Yeah, I don’t remember it either.
Alan Turing’s name has been bandied about lately due to the alleged passing of the so-called Turing Test, which judges an artificial intelligence’s ability to exhibit behavior indistinguishable from a human’s. The AI in question was able to fake its humanity by posing as a 13-year-old boy during a chat session and apparently nobody noticed that 13-year-old boys aren’t technically human. Before Turing devised this dubious exam, he described the “Quantum Zeno Effect” in which “an unstable particle, if observed continuously, will never decay.”
Why no one has figured out how to bottle this phenomenon as an anti-aging beauty aid is beyond me. It’s sort of like Dorian Gray’s portrait but in the form of a mirror that you use to stare at yourself continuously, so you never decay.
Naturally, this would cause a “quantum disruption” of the beauty industry but I’ll save that rant for another quantum column.
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Daedalus Howell trades wampums for quantums at DHowell.com.