Let’s aspire to be more than just a friendly neighbour

The Canadarm - a fine piece of Canadian technology, that would have gone nowhere without the US.
The Canadarm – a fine piece of Canadian technology, that would have gone nowhere without the US.

This blog is most emphatically not about politics, and although it has often been observed that everything is political, this exaggeration actually has become less true the more it is raised.

Whereas, in a feudal society all activity is at the pleasure of the ruler, within a liberal democracy, citizens, and scientists alike, don’t have to pay attention to politics, and their freedoms are guarded by an independent judiciary.

Globalism has been an attempt to free border crossing business from the whims of politics. Since history never moves in a straight line, we shouldn’t be surprised that, after the 2008 financial meltdown, this trend, towards more global integration, is now  facing major headwinds, which now happen to gust heavily from the White House.

Trudeau, who is one of the few heads of states who can explain what Quantum Computing is about, will do his best on his state visit to Washington to ensure freedom of trade will commence across the world’s longest open border, but Canada can’t take anything for granted. Which brings me around to the topic that this blog is most emphatically about: Canada is punching way above its weight when it comes to Quantum Computing, not the least because of the inordinate generosity of Mike Lazaridis, who was instrumental in creating the Perimeter Institute as well as giving his alma matter the fantastic  Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC).  This facility even has its own semiconductor fab, and offers tremendous resources to its researchers. There have been some start-up spin-offs, and there is little doubt that this brings high-tech jobs to the region, but when I read headlines like the one about the quantum socket, I can’t help but wonder if Canada again seems to be  content to play second fiddle.  It’s a fine piece of engineering, but let’s be real, after everything is said and done, it’s still just a socket, a thing you will plug into the really important piece, your quantum chip. I am sure Google will be delighted to use this solid piece of Canadian engineering, and we may even get some nice press about it, just as we did for the Canadarm on the space shuttle, another example for top notch technology that would have gone nowhere without the American muscle.

It's what you plug in that counts.
It’s what you plug in that counts.

But the Quantum Computing frontier is not like access to space. Yes, it takes some serious money to leave a mark, but I cannot help but think that Canada got much better bang for its loonies when the federal BDC fund invested early into D-Wave. The scrappy start-up stretched the dollars much further, and combined great ambition with brilliant pragmatism. It is the unlikely story where a small Canadian company was driving development, and inspired an American giant like Google to jump in with both feet.

 

 

Canada needs this kind of spirit. Let’s be good neighbors, sure, but also ambitious. Let there be a Canadian QC chip for the Canadian quantum socket.

 

4 thoughts on “Let’s aspire to be more than just a friendly neighbour

  1. The role of early stage investors (angel and venture capital) in Canadian technology companies is often not understood by the Federal and Provincial governments. Companies such as D-Wave Systems and General Fusion most likely would not have got off the ground had it not been for angel investors and VCs (BDC, GrowthWorks Capital, Chrysalix…).

    1. There are times when everybody needs to pay attention, but to me these are times of crisis, not the normalcy that a liberal democracy should aspire to. In an ideal world you just need to pay some attention when elections role around, and the choices will reflect minor adjustments and emphasis in an overall well oiled governmental machine.

      It’s an ideal, some may argue even an utopia, but I beg to differ. I think if you came of age in a prosperous stable European country, we can all remember times like these. And they fall outside the time frame discussed in the article you linked i.e. the eighties.

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