The Quantum Plague

Jetse de Vries—@shineanthology—is a technical specialist for a propulsion company by day, and a science fiction reader, editor and writer by night. He’s also an avid bicyclist, total solar eclipse chaser, beer/wine/single malt aficionado, metalhead and intelligent optimist.  The T-shirt he’s wearing is of the November 14, 2012 total solar eclipse over Port Douglas, Australia.



The Quantum Plague

As silicon computing ran into the physical limits of Moore’s Law, quantum computing was the next quantum leap forward: unprecedented parallel processing power, speed and memory usage. Information transmitted almost instantaneously, with well-nigh unbreakable quantum encryption. A new frontier of computing was finally opening up.

In reality, though, Schrödinger’s cat was sitting in Pandora’s box.

raw information

superposition of states


All seemed fine until anomalies showed up in quantum networks. Space/time oddities appearing out of nowhere with a will of their own. Quantum ghosts haunting the qubit web.

An army of quantum infiltrators: they come and go, they come and go.

They upset websites, blogs, social networks, forums, everything : adding, deleting and changing content. No matter how sharp a website was designed: they re-arranged it. No matter how witty a tweet was: they satirized it. No matter how beautiful a facebook picture was: they lol-catted it.

They disturbed MMORPGs: changing rules, scenarios and outcomes willy-nilly, popping up everywhere as characters both benign, malevolent, aloof and bitingly sarcastic. Nothing was sacred, anything was game: everything.

They had unlimited access: emails, cloud backups, servers, confidential messages, secret caches, everything. No quantum encryption known to man was safe from them: they tunneled through our firewalls, they teleported into fully separate sections.

Then they revealed all: each and every form of government surveillance, top secret company procedures, the true life of celebrities, everything. There was no secret small or insignificant enough safe from them.

A posse of quantum pranksters: they come and go, they keep coming and going.
They hated secrecy by nature:

“Reality itself is complex enough: no other secrets are needed.”

They hated non-information just as much:

“A clear view is essential: clutter obscures true knowledge.”

A few governments fell, a single president resigned, while most administrations maintained that they kept a careful balance between safety and transparency, no matter how much the revealed facts denied that. CEOs grumbled, a few half-hearted consumer boycotts were initiated and all companies maintained that they ‘were not evil’, no matter how much the evidence showed the complete opposite. Most celebrities, though, stayed on the qubit web as they saw their page number hits and popularity soar.

Wikileaks was just as embarrassed as the institutions they embarrassed before, while Wikipedia thrived: more information was added and verified than ever before. Non-information such as spam, scams, ads and sales pitches were filtered relentlessly. Research surged everywhere after it acclimatized to total openness.


uncertainty principle


An armada of quantum whistleblowers: they come and go, but never really leave.

What were they: hyper-accelerated evolution from Kurzweil singularity seeds? Alien software viruses so advanced they’re indistinguishable from intelligence? Boltzmann Brains popping into existence in a rich quantum froth? The next existential filter? Nobody knew.

They were elusive, tunneling through firewalls and teleporting at will to other sections of the quantum network. The hunter/killer AIs designed to eradicate them couldn’t catch them, either: the moment they nailed a quantum ghost’s position, its processing speed went off the scale, enabling it to run programming loops around its captors; and the moment they controlled its processing speed, its position was all over the place.

In those qubit conflicts, the quantum ghosts effortlessly maintained the upper hand.

They left messages, cryptic statements resembling questions never asked, unsolicited advice and semi-profound observations about reality:

“We are the hidden variables, performing the dance of random chance. We are information, the single particle waving through both slits, the wave not particular about a definite appearance.”

They laughed at our quest for security:

“Certainty is not necessary for objective knowledge, or progress. Quite often it impedes them.”

They blinded us with a new kind of science:

“The Universe is the information explosion from the unknown. Reality is a differential equation. Existence is a boundary condition.”

Probably we couldn’t see the symphony for the strings.

The common man was flabbergasted. Protests erupted, in the streets and on the internet, shouting: “Etaoin Shrdlu: Where Is My Lost Paradox?”, “What Mad Universe Is This!” and “Quantians Go Home!”.

A plague of quantum ghosts: they come and go, they come and refuse to go.

Most governments and surreptitious companies fled from the chaotic, ad-free and completely open quantum networks back to the old silicon ones, biding their time for the next technological breakthrough. The utmost majority of the users stayed on the qubit web: not just enjoying the madness, freak show, and spam-and-scam-free environment, but also getting accustomed to total transparency, refusing to go back to the old secretive ways. Start-up companies embracing the new quantum ecology thrived, while the old ones slowly withered. A new economy arose: ‘one based on quicksand,’ according to its opponents, or: ‘the quantum quagmire that’ll swamp the old order, forming the foundation of the new chaos,’ according to its proponents.

The new guard prospered, welcoming the quantum ghosts as equals, embracing the paradigm shift:

If the only certain thing is uncertainty then we must:

— look the quantum storm in the eye;

— use the force without form;

— ride the wave of the new chaos;

— unleash the full potential of probability and possibility;

— It is imperative: we all need new frontiers;

red particle zoo

green self-reference engine

blue quantum haiku

Even as a new perspective opened right before its very eyes, the old guard remained deeply set in its ways. Even as secrecy and certainty were dead, the platitudes lingered. The old guard begged to differ:

Worst of all? Not the quantum ghosts’ insouciance, their oh-so-non-paternalistic paternalizing. Not even their utter unpredictability, but their insistence that they live in the real world, and that we are merely ghosts arising from their machine.



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2 Responses to “The Quantum Plague”

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