Transcendental Bloviation

Politics, Space, Japan

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Ubiquitous Qubits, Virtual Economics

I can't get over quantum cryptography. It's now been demonstrated across the Vienna sewer system of all places. The systems at the endpoints are still heavy - they don't fit into 19" racks. But they might shrink, since almost everything involving electronics and lasers seems to get miniaturized eventually, if my Sony Discman is any indication. The distances are still limited, though they've grown from centrimeters to over a kilometer. The data rates for key transfer started slow, but are expected to become respectable soon enough. And the impetus may be real: quantum supercomputing could eventually render standard public-key cryptosystems obsolete. That would mean all current e-commerce gone in a puff.

Quantum cryptosystems are being targeted for large electronic funds transfers right now, where it makes the most economic sense. Military apps are being considered, even key exchange for satellite communication - though how they'd get the optical fiber up to a satellite escapes me.

Move over Namibia: virtual world economies have just surpassed your GDP, according to Edward Castronova. Invisible market hands and increasingly visible court-tested virtual-world property rights are now moving virtual world economies toward the next hurdle: overtaking the GDP of Haiti. Well, you gotta start somewhere. Virtual world labor productivity ranks up there with Bulgaria. Bulgaria! It boggles the minds of even the experts in this area.

"When you realise the immense cultural impact that a place like Jamaica has had," Castronova says, "you also realize the potential impact that virtual worlds might have." I think he's talking about reggae music here. Pass me that e-spliff, mon. Ja love.


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