In Alex Garland’s recent sci-fi TV series Devs, Silicon Valley engineers have built a quantum computer that they think proves determinism. It allows them to know the position of all the particles in the universe at any given point, and from there, project backwards and forwards in time, seeing into the past and making pinpoint-accurate forecasts about the future.
Garland’s protagonist, Lily Chan, isn’t impressed. “They’re having a tech nerd’s wettest dream,” she says at one point. “The one that reduces everything to nothing — nothing but code”. To them, “everything is unpackable and packable; reverse-engineerable; predictable”.
It would be a spoiler to tell you how it all ends up, but Chan is hardly alone in criticising the sometimes-Messianic pronouncements of tech gurus. Indeed, her lines might as well have been written by the entrepreneur and business writer Margaret Heffernan, whose book Uncharted provides a robust critique of what she calls our “addiction to prediction”.
More here – UnHerd