My biggest fear is not being able to handle complexity as I get older. It’s disconcerting and inevitable. In response, I ask a lot of questions to fill my brain with answers I can - hopefully! - rely on later. I am so annoying that a friend once said, “Uff, you ask too many questions!”
I shudder as I imagine the plight of my kids when I am in cognitive decline but continue to ask.
On the tech side, curiosity translates to trying new apps.
Social media was fantastic at the beginning. The novelty of the tech and the ability to connect and explore provided a fertile ground for learning. I tried, stumbled, and got good at basking in the attention. Then, I realized how the apps expose and polarize us.
When I abandoned Twitter, Insta and Facebook, I was nervous. Not for the loss of social connection, but for severing the tech cord. I knew I wouldn’t miss out on conversations, photographs and milestones because I have the DNA of a nosy neighbor. I was afraid that if I don’t know the next generation of social apps, how will I stay connected with my grandkids!
Personally, I am coming up on the fourth anniversary of the “death of social media” and I am happy to report that I don’t miss a thing.
The non-social tech is what has my attention. Topics like quantum computing, autonomous vehicle, and cryptocurrencies are extending our frontiers by leaps and bounds.
While the world is spreading disinformation, outright lies and promoting a popularity-based existence on social apps, scientists and technologists are laying a foundation to alter our lives in significant ways. They are barreling ahead on how we improve disease management, how we stay safe, how we maintain data privacy, how we reverse the effects of climate change, how we invest.
Take quantum computing as an example. It uses qubit processors made from synthetic electrons. These electrons when caught mid-spin, deliver multiple values and dependent interactions. The end result is incredibly fast processing speeds to cope with the explosion in complex data all around us. Quantum computing helps explain large-scale enzyme behavior in drug discovery, finds more robust ways to predict financial risk and optimize portfolio, offers faster encryption and decryption of data, exposes how gazillions of water molecules interact to predict hurricane behavior, overcomes scale errors inherent in gyroscopes used for navigation and much more.
These tech advancements will certainly not help me stay connected with Mina at a social level, but they will help me understand her context. Mina and her friends may study and work on quantum computers. We are likely to pay her in cryptocurrency and visit in a self-driving car.
Until big tech creates safer spots, I won’t be cool enough to do social apps, but I intend to ask many, many more questions about things that will impact our kids and their kids in material ways.
On this journey, thank you for putting up with my questions and allowing me to share what I learn.
(A part of this article appeared in LinkedIn on 1/21.)
Image from Honeywell Quantum Solutions