White Paper                       Quantum ITThis somewhat esoteric and tongue-in-cheek publication explores therelationshi...
Quantum mechanicsQuantum mechanics is a branch of physics that explains the behaviorof matter and its interactions with en...
The big IT pictureThe big IT picture is a concept that comprises three entities and theirrelationships. The three entities...
Demand-supply dualityDemand-supply duality refers to the third relationship in the big ITpicture, between the users and IT...
User uncertainty principleA common complaint that IT people make about the behavior of usersis that they are always changi...
Schrödingers bitForgive me if these thoughts have confused you. On the other hand,you may be grateful for being confused. ...
Could there be a parallel with the analog-digital business-IT paradox?Bits that are simultaneously 0 and 1 and do justice ...
AuthorAfter promising results in physics at secondaryschool, Mark Smalley failed his first year exams at theUniversity of ...
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Quantum IT v2

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Quantum IT v2

  1. 1. White Paper Quantum ITThis somewhat esoteric and tongue-in-cheek publication explores therelationship between quantum physics and IT. Three quantum physics concepts are transposed to the IT domain, giving us Demand-supply duality, the User uncertainty principle and Schrödingers bit. The relationship is admittedly very tenuous and challenging and to paraphrase the Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman: “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum IT." Mark Smalley, 3 April 2012 1
  2. 2. Quantum mechanicsQuantum mechanics is a branch of physics that explains the behaviorof matter and its interactions with energy on the scale of atoms andatomic particles. It provides a counter-intuitive description of much ofthe dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energyand matter. The theory ordains that the more closely one pins downone measure (such as the position of a particle), the less preciseanother measurement pertaining to the same particle (such as itsmomentum) must become. Put another way, measuring position firstand then measuring momentum does not have the same outcome asmeasuring momentum first and then measuring position; the act ofmeasuring the first property necessarily introduces additional energyinto the micro-system being studied, thereby disturbing that system.As Nobel prize winner Richard Feynman put it, quantum mechanicsdeals with "nature as she is – absurd."Physics and ITIt needs only a slightly lively imagination to see the similaritiesbetween physics and IT. In this publication, three quantum physicsconcepts are transposed to the IT domain.Quantum physics Quantum ITWave–particle duality Demand-supply dualityHeisenberg’s uncertainty principle User uncertainty principleSchrödingers cat Schrödingers bitA simple but powerful IT paradigm, the Big IT Picture, provides abackdrop for this exploration of ‘Quantum IT’. 2
  3. 3. The big IT pictureThe big IT picture is a concept that comprises three entities and theirrelationships. The three entities are user organization, informationsystems and IT organization.User organization: a public or privateorganization (often referred to by ITpeople as “the business”) that usesinformation to support its goals and isassumed to have demand and usageresponsibilities.Information systems: a combinationof infrastructure (hardware, softwareand data) and applications (softwareand data) that provides the userorganization with the information(functionality) it requires.IT organization: one of more internal and/or external organizationswith supply responsibilities, that provide the user organization with the(use of) information systems with the required functionality.The three relationships in the big IT picture are: • User organization – Information systems: user organizations use information systems. • IT organization – Information systems: IT organizations plan, build, distribute, acquire, implement, run, maintain and decommission information systems. • User organization – IT organization: the aforementioned demand-supply responsibilities illustrate the client-supplier relationship between the users and IT. This is often formalized with contracts and service level agreements. 3
  4. 4. Demand-supply dualityDemand-supply duality refers to the third relationship in the big ITpicture, between the users and IT. Wave–particle duality postulatesthat all particles exhibit both wave and particle properties. This dualityis a central concept of quantum mechanics and addresses the inabilityof classical concepts like ‘particle’ and ‘wave’ to fully describe thebehavior of quantum-scale objects. Similarly, classic IT concepts like‘IT demand’ and ‘IT supply’, although seemingly perfectly logical, fallshort in describing the behavior of people in an IT context. Just aswave–particle duality postulates that all particles exhibit both waveand particle properties, demand-supply duality postulates that thebehavior of both users and IT simultaneously exhibits demand andsupply properties.This duality seems counter-intuitive. Particularly counter-intuitive to ITpeople with their stereotypical irrepressible bias towards binaryperception and ensuring behavior. “Most illogical.”, you hear themthinking, “Surely users should act from a singular demand perspectiveand IT from supply?” This binary bias is observed to be stronger inmale IT exponents1 than in their female equivalents. Men tend topartition and examine objects in isolation from other, even tightlybonded, objects while women are inclined to connect everything witheverything, independent of the looseness of the coupling.Demand-supply duality states that despite their apparent position onthe demand-supply chain, people will also exhibit behavior that couldbe expected from somebody on the opposite side of the chain.Examples of demand-supply duality are the programmer who thinks“the user doesn’t want that, he wants this”, and the business user whotells IT exactly which software package he wants, instead of justspecifying the functionality.1 Please note that the author, a male IT exponent, confesses to being afflicted with a congenital demand-supply fetish. He tries obsessively to determine whether people are fulfilling a demand role or a supplyrole. Some people find this annoying but he just likes to pinpoint responsibilities and pigeonhole people.His therapist has instructed him to write an article with an analogue analysis as part of his treatment forhis binary bias. 4
  5. 5. User uncertainty principleA common complaint that IT people make about the behavior of usersis that they are always changing their minds. Could principles fromquantum physics help to explain this behavior? Heisenberg’suncertainty principle states a fundamental limit on the accuracy withwhich certain pairs of physical properties of a particle, such as positionand momentum, can be simultaneously known. In laymans terms, themore precisely one property is measured, the less precisely the othercan be controlled, determined, or known. Now consider a user tryingto specify the functionality that is needed to support a businessprocess.Referring to the trouble triangle2, in whichthe user evaluates the benefits, costs, andtrouble caused by a change before coming toa decision regarding the approval of thechange, it is not surprising that examinationof each of these three properties createsuncertainty with respect to the requirements.This correlates with the uncertainty principlestatement that there is a limit on theaccuracy with which certain pairs ofproperties can be simultaneously known.2 ‘Ellendedriehoek’ in Naar een vraaggestuurde informatievoorziening by Remko van der Pols, RenéSieders and Ben Stoltenborg. 5
  6. 6. Schrödingers bitForgive me if these thoughts have confused you. On the other hand,you may be grateful for being confused. As a scientist recently said,being wrong or confused is much more satisfying than being right.Because if you’re wrong or confused, then you’ve got something tothink about, which in turn contributes to achieving a betterunderstanding of the world in which we live. For centuries, we werecontent with an understanding of the world according to classicalphysics, until it was improved by quantum physics. And quantumphysics, in time, will be superseded by newer insights. So we live incontinual partial uncertainty. Richard Feynman3: “I can live with doubtand uncertainty and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting tolive not knowing, than to have answers that might be wrong. I haveapproximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees ofcertainty about different things. But I don’t feel frightened by notknowing things. By being lost in the mysterious universe withouthaving any purpose, which is the way it really is, as far as I can tell.”This brings me to my final point. IT people live in a binary world:eventually, it is either 0 or 1. But business people – or “normalpeople”, as my wife calls them – live in uncertainty. Remko van derPols transposes this to the IT domain: “IT people aim for perfection,but business people live in an imperfect world”. But are enough ITpeople aware of this contraposition? And can we resolve the paradox?The Schrödingers cat thought experiment was devised to illustratehow quantum physics would apply to everyday objects. A cat, alongwith a flask containing a poison and a radioactive source, is placed in asealed box. If an internal Geiger counter detects radiation, the flask isshattered, releasing the poison that kills the cat. Quantum mechanicsimplies that after a while, the cat is simultaneously alive and dead.Yet, when we look in the box, we see the cat either alive or dead, notboth alive and dead4. No quantum physicist worth his Higgs boson5really doubts that the fate of the cat is something independent of theact of observation.3 YouTube video: ‘Richard Feynman on uncertainty and doubt - Brilliant!’4 The sensitive reader is assured that no cats or physicists were harmed in the course of this experiment.5 A hypothetical elementary particle predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics. 6
  7. 7. Could there be a parallel with the analog-digital business-IT paradox?Bits that are simultaneously 0 and 1 and do justice to reality’suncertainty? I think it’s worth thinking about – you never know. Toparaphrase Richard Feynman: “I think I can safely say that nobodyunderstands quantum IT."SummaryThis somewhat esoteric and tongue-in-cheek publication explored therelationship between quantum physics and IT. Three quantum physicsconcepts were transposed to the IT domain.Demand-supply duality states that despite their apparent position onthe demand-supply chain, people will also exhibit confusing behaviorthat could be expected from somebody on the opposite side of thechain.The User uncertainty principle refers to the uncertainty caused by theevaluation of the benefits, costs, and trouble caused by a potentialchange.Schrödingers bit addresses the paradox that while IT people aim forperfection, business people live in an imperfect world.While the points are valid, the relationship between physics and IT isadmittedly very tenuous and challenging and to paraphrase the Nobelprize-winning physicist Richard Feynman: “I think I can safely say thatnobody understands quantum IT." 7
  8. 8. AuthorAfter promising results in physics at secondaryschool, Mark Smalley failed his first year exams at theUniversity of Surrey in the UK, emigrated to theNetherlands and became a computer programmerinstead. Mark now works as an IT ManagementConsultant and Principal Technology Officer atCapgemini in the Netherlands and is responsible forglobal promotion at the not-for-profit, vendor-independent ASL BiSLFoundation. He is specialized in Application Lifecycle Management andIT Governance. Mark is a regular speaker at international conferences,where he has reached out to thousands of IT professionals.Follow and engage with Mark on Twitter @marksmalleyEmail: mark.smalley@aslbislfoundation.orgFurther details, publications and speaking engagements atwww.linkedin.com/in/marksmalley 8

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