Privateer Science

Pirate_Flag_of_Jack_Rackham.svgJolly Roger of Calico Jack Rackham

The ongoing multicore parallel computing revolution seems to have gone up a gear or two in the last few years. As I have written before, this is the Age of Amdahl’s Law: what matters is the serial bottleneck.

Work comes in two basic kinds: serial and parallel. The first cannot be sped up by adding new resources but the second can.

In my view, this is the least understood of all economic laws and the one with the greatest consequences for business and social innovation.

Hierarchical decision-making structures are replete with bottlenecks. Think of any bureaucracy. To get a form you stand in line. The first line is to get a number, so you can wait. You wait so you can get in line. The second line is to get the form. However, that form is the wrong form so you go back to stand in line. Then you get a number…

You get the picture. In any society that does this habitually very little gets done.

Of course, this problem is not limited to Government. Business suffers greatly from this problem. So too does Academic Research.

Call me a cynic, but my experience of academic research in physics taught me that before you were allowed to discover something you had to get in line.

The first line was about doing stuff that made you an Academic. Usually that process was so long and drawn out that you wound up forgetting what the line was for.

It turns out you could just go right ahead and discover a whole bunch of things right of the bat. However, then you were Not in Line. Get back in line!

This is a perfect example of a serial bottleneck.

However, once you understand the power of Amdhal’s law then things look different.

Here are the game changers:

1) all physics is an algorithm
2) algorithms can be turned into software
3) software can be protected and is valuable

Finally, in this new world of Google Compute Engine you can spin up a cluster for rent. Hence the capital cost barriers to radical innovation in algorithms is low.

So what are the real barriers?

The social bottleneck of Academic “publish-or-perish” screw-you syndrome pretty much ensures nobody with any good idea will get anywhere.

Chalk that up as a good thing.

The negative network economy of Academic Rivalry pretty much stalls all real advances for at least one generation until all opponents have finally died out.

The Academic flotilla may have all the Pomp and Pretty Pennants of the Spanish Main, but they are: Dead in the Water.

So how does one exploit this?

I think the answer is Privateer Science.

Academics are not crash-hot at business.

For decades, they enriched publishers by madly competing to publish in journals that nobody read. Now they are madly competing to pay top dollar to be published in journals that the public can read for free.

Okay, so first barrier down.

You can read what they did for free while they fight each-other for scraps.

What does a modern Privateer do in this circumstance?

Focus on the profitable bottleneck.

In quantum mechanics, that is many-body theory with strongly correlated fields.

I know, I know, every wanna-be genius in Physics will duke it out on quantum computers.

Okay, cool… but where is the market?

The market for strongly correlated fields is Chemistry, Superconducting Electronics, Photovoltaic Devices and Nano-structures among other things.

These are Big markets, here today, and served by existing Multi-Physics software companies with real product.

And it is all about parallel algorithms

That is what any budding Tesla or Edison of today should focus upon. The Big Score.

Work out a better QED that is simpler for strong self-interactions and you are done.

Better yet, if you find one – keep it a secret. Exit the rat-race of Publish-and-Perish.

Raise the Jolly Roger and load those cannons with grape shot…

All is Ripe for Plunder on the High Seas.

10 thoughts on “Privateer Science”

  1. It would help if you gave your privateers a safety net. YOU, Kingsley Jones, needs to found a company that pays privateers in return for a percentage of their patents and government contracts. Sort of like a Raytheon or a Mitre or even an MIT, but much better. Those old fashioned research institutions suffer from a lot of outdated, pre-internet era baggage that makes them very inefficient. I just bought my first Amazon e-reader. What a miraculous piece of technology! Could academics or Raytheon have ever built something like that? Of course not. Raytheon could have built it, but at one thousand times the price. As for the academics at MIT and other universities, they are too busy fighting for tenure and fighting with each other to be able to focus on a single product, try to commit to a rough timetable, and collaborate among each other in large numbers. What I am suggesting is what IBM and Google are trying to do nowadays (IBM’s Watson and its push into QCs, Googles driverless cars and internet goggles) But I think there is still a lot of room in that market for the Kingsley Jones’ of the world to lay a stake.

    1. Here is that company:

      Alphaxon Research LLC

      http://www.alphaxon.com

      Kind of like RAND corporation only more fun.

      Alphaxon is starting out with the Energy complex, but I see many new and emerging opportunities in adaptive learning and control.

      The classical Bayes processor has many many large markets.

      That is before we get to the quantum Bayes processor 😉

      Saint Kalman be blessed, our eternal benefactor.

  2. Keeping new physics concepts secret is NOT an option. The indispensable first test of a physics concept is that it can be cogently expressed to a free-thinking audience.

    Speculating on foundational physics is, by basic human nature, vulnerable to grandiose, spiritual, or just plain crazy ramifications. Everyone is vulnerable to this tendency. We each have within ourselves an obfuscative inclination far greater than anything Academics might impose upon us. And as a community of speculators, our only defense against it is each other. We MUST sound off against each other, and keep each other tethered to proven science even as we venture aweather of it.

    And we cannot assume that Academics are a great enemy. They are people just like anyone else, innocent until proven guilty. And they can explain things to us that we might not understand on our own.

  3. Understand your point, but would indicate that secret is an option.

    There is significant commercial value in moving beyond the current Academic idiocy. There are important problems to be solved and an intransigent group of folks who ignore the great body of material within published academic physics.

    We live in strange times.

    The Academy is an Ass.

  4. Huh? It sounds like you just called yourself intransigent?

    “Commercial value” is an Ass. And if a grassroots organization thinks a profit motive can advance physics, these are strange times indeed!

  5. Nonsense. Of course, a profit motive can advance physics.

    Do you think D-Wave faced Academic Opprobrium for fun? They did it for profit by pioneering the application of a quantum computing paradigm the academy ignored. That is Privateer Science in action. They do not need Academic Blessings. They sold $50M USD of gear to stellar reference accounts. Meanwhile the Academics have shown: 21 = 7 * 3.

    If you think Privateer Science cannot possibly advance physics because it lacks the imprimatur of “Academic Blessing” then all I can say is: “Watch this space!”

    Craig Venter faced similar objections for the advance of genomic sequencing.

    Elon Musk was mocked for thinking he could build a private space industry.

    People are most welcome to mock me, but I think a new QED can be built in short order and I know for a fact that my former academic colleagues are not trying. Furthermore, the result would be worth serious coin to commerce in materials science while advancing society at large.

    Against this possibility, we have all the publicly funded “Big Shots” in physics bickering about how many universes there are next door.

    Is it 10^500 or 10^501?

    Frankly, I don’t care. I just want a more useful QED.

    The question is this: “Who can possibly stop me?”

  6. The D-wave is your idea of new physics? That’s not physics; that’s just propaganda about an imaginary machine! You want to know how many universes there are? One! And it doesn’t include a D-wave!

    This is a perfect illustration of what’s so horribly wrong with keeping new physics secret. Not only does it deprive humanity of knowledge, but it doesn’t even give anyone a reason to believe that any knowledge has even been found.

    I agree that a new quantum theory can be built in short order (and not just QED). But it’s not the fault of Academics that it hasn’t been done. It’s the fault of people like you, who shill for scams, and accuse of mockery anyone who suggests rational thought.

    Who can stop you from something you refuse to start?

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