Jonathan Dowling (1955-2020)

Hi Jon,

Upon coming back online in the midst of camping — wondering which irritating telemarketing firm was pestering me with 27 missed calls and messages — I was completely devastated to learn that one of my closest friends (in our own weird, highly neuro-atypical kinda way), collaborators and mentors — both in academia and in life — Prof Jonathan Dowling, had unexpectedly passed away, whose impact on the world of physics, quantum technology in particular, but most of all upon those with whom he worked — and touched — has been profound. His passing has sent shockwaves through the international scientific community. Jon was, and will remain, one of the most influential people in my life. I know many others can say the same.

Originally I was planning to stay in the camp today, but upon learning this news, instead climbed a nearby peak to erect the most appropriate tribute to Jon I could improvise at the time. Behind the empty bottle of gin (my apologies Jon, the whiskey was still half-full), you will see the Siding Spring Observatory on a nearby mountaintop, which I hope tonight will see a new star in the sky, as he and George Floyd look down from above, both incredibly proud of the American economy*.

*Quick tangent for context: the previous day a woman camping with her son emerged from their tent, saying “My god, did you guys hear that megalomaniac narcissist lunatic wandering around the campsite in pitch black at 5am this morning talking about how good he is, intermittently laughing hysterically? What a complete fucking tool!”. Me: “Oh sorry, that was me and James reading the latest Whitehouse Press interview from CNN. My apologies if you thought you were about to get murdered.” (FYI: she took it pretty well, and saw the humour in it. Not sure about the son.)

The Dowling Tome of the Warrumbungles (geocached at: 31º17’3” S, 148º59’3” E, 760m asl).

Inside the bottle, is a handwritten message, of the most profound and insightful wisdom Jon ever bestowed upon me — of which there is far too much to recall. I geocached the bottle, cunningly hidden away on the summit plateau where it can’t be seen to the naked eye, for someone else to discover (coordinates: 31º17’3” S, 148º59’3” E, 760m asl). I hope one day, one of Dowling’s student-grandchildren — perhaps one of my own — will discover the Dowling Tome of the Warrumbungles, revealing its wisdom for future generations of physicists, and other forms of lunatic, to come. If not, future archeologists will one day uncover it, date it, and ask themselves what primitive species of the distant archeological past would write such incoherent, obviously drunken Irish nonsense.

My friendship and connection with Dowling is a unique one — I think most fond of him can say the same, from their own perspective. Our prisms through which to view the world were so distinct that they provide quite alternate realities within which we respectively live: on one hand highly concentrated from a specific perspective, routine, and way of life, with strict comfort zones and patterns of behaviour; on the other, willy-nilly all over the fucking shop. The fact that such orthogonal lenses through which to view reality, nonetheless demonstrating absolute and respectful recognition for one another — not seeing it as a weakness, but as a strength — is testament to the open-mindedness and inclusivity of both. I think Jon and I would both agree that neuro-diversity is the most important, yet most undervalued form of diversity that exists (it encompasses all the rest).

Jon and I saw the world from opposing ends of the emotional spectrum, yet nonetheless, since the day we met, saw a common underlying sincerity and morality in one another. Every aspect of our world views and life experience were so utterly disparate, yet nonetheless, even at the times of most heightened disagreement, there was always the common thread of utter mutual respect for our differences, the ways in which we viewed the world, and the understanding that an outright difference in opinion should never equate to anger or hate, but rather an opportunity to learn something new. We recognised our differences, of which there were many, not as a basis for exclusion or contempt, rather one most valuable to include for the difference in perspective it has to provide. Jon was one of the few people who has seen me both at my best and at my worst: from hospitalisation to delusion. He never blinked an eye. He accepted it. We would spend all day at the whiteboard, yelling foulmouthed abuse at one another, then switch it off, retire to the pub and piss ourselves laughing about it (unlike the head administrative officer of the host institution at the time, who screamed at us that we were "a bunch of wankers", before storming off in a hissy fit because we stole the $20k digital whiteboard from the common room that'd she'd previously kicked us out of, something Dowling took utmost amusement in, and wore as yet another one of his badges of honour).

It is this anti-commutation (from the emotional perspective), yet commutation (from that of open-mindedness and inclusivity), that brought us together: this is one thing, regardless of the others, that we agreed upon, despite never having said so — the strongest bonds between us are often those we don't express. This is the most valuable lesson I have learnt from Jon (but admittedly not the one written inside the geocached bottle of gin) — that alternate views of reality, despite being potentially orthogonal and incongruent, are the most insightful, and should always be accepted, listened to, and heard: alternate realities underpin the discovery of reality, and our different ones underpinned ours. There is no individual on Earth with the intellectual or emotional capacity to single-handedly provide the unified explanation for everything, although many will pretend to. We both recognised this — the value to include all mindsets, despite the fact that one might not be capable of comprehending the other — I could never quite fully grasp his (in fact hardly at all), and he could never fully grasp mine (I don't think he even tried to, to be honest), yet nonetheless there was an absolute intellectual union between us, at some bizarre level at least. This is the kind of emotio-intellectual union I have had with very few others, and I see it for its value, as should everyone when they encounter it in life. When you lose someone with that level connection, you lose a part of yourself.

To me, Jon was the most inclusive scientist I have ever met, despite being drunk, vulgar and obnoxious much of the time. He never gave a shit about your race, religion, socio-economic class, political orientation, nationality or wealth: his vulgar obnoxiousness was completely and utterly indiscriminate, yet never intended with contempt — all he cared about was whether he believed in you as a person — whether you had the willingness, sincerity and passion to succeed, the only thing that matters, and the one thing we could always agree upon, despite it never being said — in which case you were deserving of more, not less, of his lunacy, which to him was a sign of affection.

Unfortunately his passing means he won’t see our upcoming book, The Quantum Internet, in printed form later this year via Cambridge University Press. He told me it was a pile of crap (referring to it as The Doorstop — because it’s thick and useless), and placed a bet with me (in writing), for a bottle of whiskey of Ryan Mann’s choice (up to a value of $500), that in ten years time it would be my least cited work. He makes these bets with literally everyone, and he always loses. This one was a rookie strategic miscalculation on his part (needles to say, he was completely piss-drunk at the time — not that his reasoning would necessarily be any more coherent if he weren’t), given all I’d need to do to manipulate the outcome of this one is publish a paper gaining no citations at all. “Easy!”, I thought, “I already have plenty of those!”. “You fool, Dowling!”, I smugly boasted to myself at the time, as I went around attempting to win favours from strangers in the form of future contracts by offering them shots of expensive, artisan whiskey, on the tab of one of the world’s most influential physicists, in advance. I was just so proud of myself! On this occasion, however, since he’s a co-author, the book contract is now technically invalidated. I bet the cheeky bastard had it all planned out! God dammit Dowling — was this really necessary, even by our standard of pranksterism (which I acknowledge has significantly devolved to the point of utopia in recent years)? I hope the bottle Ryan had in mind was a bloody good one.

My sense of loss right now is nothing short of catastrophic. But so too is my gratitude for having had a character as unique and impactful as Dowling in my life, which I will continue to despite his passing.

On the last day of his most recent visit here, he made some security arrangements at the last minute, for reasons I can't go into, on the basis of a presumed threat to his life. His characteristically unfiltered way of explaining his reasoning for that decision ("Peter, I'm still worried he's going to turn up at one of my lectures with a gun") triggered a rapid sequence of events that I retrospectively believed saved my own. 

Those larger than life never die, of whom Dowling is one, and are certainly never forgotten. And although my heart is bleeding right now, I know he lives on — not in some bullshit metaphysical sense (the kind of thing he overtly despises, see the Deepak Chopra story below; stay out of it, Keith) — but in the sense that he is one of those who in their lives permanently imparts a sense of themselves onto everyone they touch. This is not something that dies with him, or will ever be lost, rather passed on from one generation of physicists to the next. I’m grateful to have been a recipient of what he had to give, and to use Dowling’s exact words,

“There’s no need to pay it back. Pay it forward instead.”

This is something I hope to do, having recognised what I have gained from my own intellectual forefathers, who I never had the chance to meet, but nonetheless guided me every step of the way.

Wherever you are right now, Jon (hopefully surrounded by a multitude of full, wooden casks), I hope from the bottom of my heart that, as you requested, there’s an Irish cheesecake awaiting you (I think Zixin, Maria & Yuval are sorting that one out) — which I’m assuming is just an ordinary cheesecake with the bottle of expensive whiskey you just cynically conned out of me, poured over the top of it (in which case you're still not getting it for ten years, so there).

Dowling stories are de facto mandatory at this point. Here are a couple of lesser known ones.

Story: Free Speech Alley

The first time I visited Jon at LSU, we ate at the group's regular lunch hangout. The walk back to the department goes via Free Speech Alley, which Jon told me was a designated area on campus where everyone had the right to stand on their soapbox and engage in free speech. I was shocked. How can they have a 'designated area' for free speech? This is the land of free speech! My shock was further exacerbated when Jon explained that firearms were allowed (everywhere) on campus. "Typical", I thought, "the bloody Republicans putting the 2nd Amendment ahead of the 1st, as usual" (Jon was anti-gun, so, recognising the constitutional right of those on campus to possess them, his out-of-the-box approach to solving the conundrum was to tell his students that although he would not violate their constitutional rights to bear arms, he would wield his and refuse to teach them if they did). The area was a bit like the Speaker's Corner in London's Hyde Park, except in Free Speech Alley it's full of fundamentalist Southern Baptists wearing poster boards with extreme religious hate content. As we walked past one young lady wearing a poster board with "Your [sic] going to hell!" written on it, she pointed at me, and yelled "I hope you're not one of those practising homosexuals!!", to which Dowling candidly yelled back "Practise makes perfect!". She had nothing to say to that (in retrospect I wish I'd shown her my Grindr profile and had a chat).

Story: Deepak Chopra's private email group

You've probably caught onto the fact that Dowling and I are magnets for crazy people by now. But even by my standards, when we both got unexpectedly added to a private email group run by Jack Sarfatti and Deepak Chopra, the level of craziness was slightly over the top (whatever you do, Deepak, please don't ever start taking drugs). Jon and I wanted out, but because it was a CC-all list, not a properly set up listserv, there was no way to unsubscribe. Dowling's strategy was to respond to every message with a limerick, with escalating absurdity, until they capitulated and removed us out of frustration. In the end it worked (but only after a formal complaint being sent to the Chancellor and Provost of LSU). Reading Deepak's cringeworthy words of wisdom was so amusing, and his momentous insights so incomprehensibly stupid and juvenile, that we simply had to look him up and learn more about him (oh, instafamous via the Oprah Winfrey Show — now I get it). We discovered there's an online Deepak Chopra Bullshit Generator, that generates random Deepak Chopra bullshit (the Generator passes the Chopra-Turing test btw). We clicked the 'bullshit' button and hit jackpot with the first randomly generated quote:

"Quantum mechanics is the modality of reckless thought",
a quote we have used regularly ever since.

Here's a highly condensed version of the (actual — yes this is real now, not bullshit) conversation with some of the key highlights (pull your bongs and mushroom pipes out):

Jon:
I don't know why I'm getting all these emails but I sure wish I wasn't. On travel with only access on my smart phone and they are eating up my data plan.

Deepak Chopra:
it may may be important to remember that no one knows how or if photons hitting the retina and sending an electrical current to the brain create the experience of a 3 D world appearing to evolve in time.
False.
The only light there is is the light of awareness that makes the formless appear as form with color shape dimensionality .

[Editor's note: Deepak what the fuck is 'color shape dimensionality'? Seriously dude, do you need an MRI?]

Jon:
There once was a man from Nantucket.
Who kept all his cash in a bucket.
His daughter (named Nan),
Ran away with a man,
And as for the bucket –– Nantucket!

[Editor's note: nice.]

Deepak:
Time is a concept
No matter how hard you try you cannot experience a past or future.
Experience is always now

[Editor's note: thanks for that, Deepak. Please use punctuation in future attempts to use a three line paragraph to explain the otherwise simple notion of "now is now".]

Jon:
There once was a lady named Alice,
Who used a dynamite stick as a phallus.
They found her vagina, in North Carolina,
And bits of her tits were in Dallas.

[Editor's note: in the field of quantum information theory, a two-party interactive protocol typically denotes the parties as 'Alice' and 'Bob', following the first two letters of the alphabet (yes, you're correct in thinking that as we extend to multi-party scenarios that we introduce C=Charlie, D=Dickhead, E=Eve, etc etc.). Evidently, Alice's decision to deploy dynamite may suggest Bob was facing some serious personal issues at the time, which undermined ordinary implementation of the two-party interactive protocol.]

Deepak Chopra:
You know neural correlates of experience . No one knows how the brain or any physical matter causes experience ? The biological basis of experience or consciousness is unknown ( hard problem )

[Editor's note: no I don't. I have literally no idea what you're fucking talking about, Deepak.]

Some other physics wannabe:
I would argue that the 3-D world discovered by the brain is not due to one retina hitting photons but two... If only with one, you would only perceive 2-D...

[Editor's note: ok so I'm feeling vindicated right now in my usage of the term 'wannabe'.]

Jack Sarfatti:
You sound like a clueless New Age lite weight.
I hope I am wrong.
Have a nice day.
These days it’s important to be able to filter out reliable information on the web.
The wheat from the chaff.

[Editor's note: oooooh! Sarfatti comes in with burn of the century. Ouch, that's gotta hurt. <the wannabe crawls into a corner, devastated that they can't be as awesome a scientist as Jack – it's not that they didn't do the hard work, they just weren't born with the natural intellect that Jack has>]

Jon:
There once was a moron named Jack,
Who's pronouncements were totally whack.
The lab of his mind,
Produced nonsense in kind,
Like smoking some unaltered crack.

[Editor's note: Jack, is there any crack leftover?]

Deepak Chopra:
They are experiencing memories and emotions from the past not the past
The past does not exist
Reality is free of memory and imagination and is always now

[Editor's note: there will be no more editor's notes from now on, since I simply can't be fucked with this anymore.]

Some other highly ranked professor I don't know:
UNSUBSCRIBE ME PLEASE NOW.

[Editor's note: backtrack one step. I agree. Carry on.]

Yet someone else:
please unsubscribe me from this thread.
I'll simply conclude by saying that a block world is a possible ontology for physics but not the only possible ontology. Those of you who like the block world can keep it, just don't tell me that no other ontology is possible 😉

Deepak Chopra:
Correlates of experience (NCC )
The biological basis if any of consciousness or experience is unknown
It's the 2nd most open question in science
The first open question in Science is "what's the universe made of ? "
We neither know the nature of existence nor why or how we are aware of it

[Editor's note: watch this.]

Some random dude:
By the way, I think you're a pretty bright fellow. Too bright to be making sweeping pronouncements regarding everyone else's knowledge state. If you simply can't resist them, might I suggest that you at least hedge them a little? E.g., you might try prefacing them with "As far as I know," or "To the best of my knowledge," or "My personal buddies in the publishing industry are laboring under the unfounded assumption that...".

Another random dude:
Without our minor misunderstanding based upon basic science and biology, how can we obtain consciousness to go to the far abroad in space?

Deepak Chopra:
The brain does not observe
That's an assumption
That assumption is the basis of the "hard problem" The observer is dimensionless / nonlocal with a local point of view . The observed is also dimensionless but taking on the qualities of experience or qualia .
The infinite observes itself as the finite .
Past future and present are concepts as our space time and dimensionality
What we perceive is not what is .

Someone else:
UNSUBSCRIBE !!!!

Jon:
There once was a douche bag named Chopra,
Whose books read like fake Chinese opera.
About quantum mechanics,
He utterly panics,
And pedals his bullshit on Oprah.

[Editor's note: here's a rendition of the Dowling interpretation of Chinese opera.]

Someone else completely random:
Deepak's sentences are easy to comprehend IF you look your own mind. You can then verify his comments. But, I stress, you must look DIRECTLY at your own mind.

[Editor's note: make sure to do it DIRECTLY.]

Deepak:
Time is never an experience
T=0 always
No one can ever experience the "past " or "future " no matter how hard they try .
The only experience consciousness has is an an intermittent stream of sense perceptions, images feelings and thoughts. These are interpreted and conceptualized as space time and matter.
Consciousness is that in which all experience occurs, in which all experience is known & interpreted & out of which all experience is made.
The universe is consciousness
U=C

[Editor's note: Deepak Chopra is cancelled.]

Jack Sarfatti: (sent to the Provost and Chancellor of LSU, and the Dean amongst others, to which there was no reply.)
Who is Jonathan Dowling? Violation of Professional Ethics by Alleged Faculty Member of LSU
If he really is a professor at LSU he is violating professional ethics.
I suspect it is not really him?

[Editor's note: if you don't think it's really him, why would you write directly to the Provost and Chancellor of a major university to find out?]

Jack Sarfatti:
I have deleted Ed May and Jonathan Dowling. BTW on Dowling’s false accusations of illegal drug use as well as printing a pornographic limerick to this thread note
http://catalog.lsuhscshreveport.edu/content.php?catoid=2&navoid=40
as well as
http://news.sciencemag.org/2015/10/geoff-marcy-prominent-astronomer-resigns-academic-position-after-sexual-harassment-judgement

Me:
For the third time, please unsubscribe me from this list.

Jack Sarfatti:
Peter I have removed u several times
I never added u to begin with
Write private emails to those sending mail
Don't spam the whole list yourself

Me:
Writing private emails to everyone on the list creates just as much spam for everyone on the list as writing to everyone on the list via writing to the list, Jack.

Jon “Dundee” Dowling, with his crocodile tooth Akubra hat.

Introducing the Democractic Quantum Bullshit Detector Bullshit

In response to the highly-acclaimed, largely accurate, yet somewhat opaque and authoritarian Quantum Bullshit Detector Twitter account (@BullshitQuantum),

Screen Shot 2020-03-07 at 8.26.04 am.png

I am pleased to introduce the democratised equivalent, the Democratic Quantum Bullshit Detector Bullshit (@QuantumDemocrat), where all bullshit is determined by you, the people, via Twitter polls, expressing your First Amendment quantum rights on what is bullshit and what is not.

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Interestingly, the first result (voting still open at the time of writing this), indicates that three quarters of the community has faith in the original authoritarian Quantum Bullshit Detector, determining it to be 'Not Bullshit'.

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Happy bullshitting! And be thankful that you live in a world where we are all free to call bullshit!

Nb: the editor fully acknowledges the meaninglessness of Twitter polls, as was recently confirmed by a Twitter poll. But that is not to say we can't have fun, provide a platform to hold one another to account, and the polls and comments can't trigger useful dialogue, which I very much encourage.

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Medical marijuana in Australia is a scam

When I was in Switzerland last year climbing in the Alps, I noticed that CBD (the marijuana extract, Cannabidiol) was available over the counter in pharmacies, without a script. I’d been wanting to test out CBD for a long time, given its reputation in assisting with improving sleep cycles, and alleviating symptoms of anxiety, depression and mood disorders, without the medical side effects of prescription meds, such as benzos (liable to cause tolerance, addiction, and subsequent withdrawal) or SSRIs (which have countless side effects, including rapid weight change and loss of sleep), both of which I have used in the past, but want to avoid as much as conceivably possible.

The reason CBD struck me as such an attractive alternative is that, to the best of my understanding, it:

  • Is not psychoactive (in the recreational sense that it makes you high).
  • Does not cause dependence or addiction.
  • Does not lead to withdrawal symptoms upon cessation.
  • Is non-toxic.
  • Does not have adverse side effects such as weight change, or liver/kidney problems.
  • Can be safely used long-term.
  • Does not cause any kind of hangover or inhibited cognitive or physical function that hinders work.
  • Cannot result in overdose.

That is to say, CBD is safer than taking an aspirin or a Panadol.

Note that CBD is entirely distinct from THC, the recreationally sought-after cannabis compound that makes you high. THC also has legitimate medical uses, also legal in Australia for medical purposes. But this is not what I was exploring – I only wanted CBD.

Upon trialling over-the-counter CBD in Switzerland, my self-reported response was very positive. My partner and climbing buddy, who was with me during this trial, agreed with my self-assessment. We both agreed that this was something worth pursuing once back in Australia, given that only just recently (in the last few years) Australia had legalised medical cannabis.

So upon returning to Australia, I went to see a GP about it. They declined and said to see a specialist. I spoke to a neurologist (for about $600, and a significant waiting time). They also declined. I spoke to a psychiatrist (for about another $600, and another substantial wait time), who also declined. Using their own words (paraphrasing),

The medical marijuana legislation is a complete shambles. You’re best off going to one of the dodgy telephone companies or sourcing it on the black market.

I did both.

First the black market.

Because it’s the black market, despite it being quick (as in 30 minutes quick), there is by definition no quality control, and no guarantee that what you’re getting is what’s advertised (every recreational drug user is aware of how large the variance is in the purity of black market products – Don't trust the coke from the Ukranianian syndicate on the north side, whatever you do!). That is, if the intent is a medical one, rather than a recreational one, where you require consistent and predictable dosage, this is obviously completely unreliable. Anyway, I approached one of the underground Uberised drug dealers — who asked if I'd like any LSD tabs or MDMA pills while he was at it (I won't comment on the answer I provided). This turns up.

bottle

It certainly smelt like distilled pot. I have no idea what was in it though. It doesn’t even have a label! (Apparently it was illegally imported from Amsterdam, and therefore was legit).

So I moved onto the grey market, via one of the seemingly legitimate online dealers, who don’t advertise the CBD content overtly (instead just calling it ‘hemp oil’), in which case it’s just an obvious online racket via lack of enforcement of guarantee. Here’s me with a bottle from one of the 'legit' online suppliers. They privately communicated that it contained 10% CBD. I have literally no idea whether that’s true or not, and it's not even written anywhere on the label.

cbd2.jpg

After that whole nonsensical debacle, on which I wasted hundreds of dollars, I decided to try the (using the words of the psychiatrist) ‘dodgy phone guys’. What awaited me was the most stunningly medically unethical distribution and protection racket I could conceivably imagine. The whole system is so self-evidently implicating that it might as well be considered a political sex scandal.

First, I had to send through my doctor's certificates by email, then have a phone interview with a 'specialist' doctor, that lasted less than 5 minutes and cost $95. The doc immediately said “yep, all good, you meet the criteria, we’ll lodge an application for you”. On my behalf, they sent an individual application to the federal government for approval. Despite only requesting CBD, not THC, each application has to be individually considered, and signed off on by the federal government. The ‘dodgy telephone guys’ specifically advertise that they are experts in lobbying the federal government on behalf of their patients. It’s not beginning to sound the slightest bit unethical at this point, is it? Paying a highly secretive, non-disclosing third-party to lobby the federal government for your right to access a legally sanctioned medicine? It's literally easier for me to walk into a GP and fabricate a reason for requiring strong synthetic opiates than this (I know). Nothing to see here, guys...

Two weeks later I receive a congratulatory email from the company, advising me that my application with the federal government was successful, and I am now approved for CBD use!! Hurrah!

Does this mean I get a script that I can use to approach competing pharmacies to seek the most competitive price? Oh no, that’s where you’d be forgiven for thinking that a pro-free market, neo-liberal government were in power.

Instead, it turns out that the doctor is part of a fully vertically-integrated supply chain between the prescribing doctor, producer and distributor. I don’t even get to hold the physical script in my hand at any point. Instead, the doctor ships the oral CBD product to a cooperating pharmacy, from whom I pick it up. The cost of the product was never even advertised beforehand online. Who wants price transparency to enable market competition? The cost is only revealed after you’ve already invested into the upfront cost, at which point they have vendor lock-in regardless. Anyway, at a cost of $400 for a 25mL bottle, I was able to pick up the product several weeks later from a nearby pharmacy. Btw, as an initial customer they gave me a two-for-one deal, which I’m pretty sure would be illegal (or at least considered an unethical medical marketing practise – except in the United States) for any other medicine. Can you imagine if they started offering two-for-one first customer deals on Oxies? What could possibly go wrong?

Upon turning up at the pharmacy, a small privately run pharmacy in Newtown, the poor guy was so overwhelmed (showing visible signs of anxiety — he probably needs some CBD himself) by the complexities of the online system, that after me sitting there for more than half an hour waiting, he completely gave up and gave me the product, promising to navigate the ridiculously over-protective online system later on when he had the time.

So then I had this, an actual legitimate CBD product, with pharmaceutical quality control, and all the other bells and whistles you’d expect in contemporary medicine, at a cost of only $400 for a small bottle of plant extract (notwithstanding the two-for-one first customer deal).

cbd3

Seriously, it’d be so much cheaper if I just started smoking bongs every night, especially given that none of this is PBS subsidised, leaving legitimate medical users with astronomical out-of-pocket expenses (in excess of $10k annually from some patients I have spoken to). If I did so, it might even score me a free sexual interaction with the NSW Police (get your annual NSW Police sexual abuse calendar here).

So after many months and countless hundreds of dollars down the drain, I finally have a legitimate medical supplier. Of course, given that the supply chain is fully vertically-integrated from doctor to producer to distributor, this thing is so obviously intentionally overprotected that I could swear it was some kind of mob-like political protection racket. In fact, I’d be willing to place bets on who’s friends with the federal Health Minister at this point, given that they need to be individually lobbied on behalf of patients, and that the suppliers benefit from full vendor lock-in (should I want to switch to another supplier, I’d have to go through their full process from scratch).

And all of this red-taped protectionism coming from so-called Liberal governments. Give me a break — I’m willing to take a position in the betting markets you guys are sleeping with the doctors.

PS: To give you an idea of just how safe and non-psychoactive CBD is, here's a picture I took of a bottle of Swiss 10% CBD oil, of which I drank half the bottle (almost 100 times the recommended daily dose) near the summit of the Lagginhorn in Switzerland, at an altitude of 3,750m, from which I nonetheless managed to safely return to the hut in time for dinner, despite the route being almost entirely unprotected. Here's the video to prove it.

cbd1

There's an enormous cost and regulatory barrier of entry to people seeking access to medical cannabis, and from what I gather it's not uncommon for people to fork out in excess of $1000 in out-of-pocket expenses to gain entry into the system, not to mention the time required to navigate it. So to save you all from an enormous waste of time and money...

Executive summary: Use the dodgy phone guys for now, because for the remainder of the medical industry, from GP to high-charging specialist, it isn't worth their time to do the paperwork.

Or buy a bong...

Sex Crimes vs War Crimes (on Seth Lloyd, Jeffrey Epstein & the Military-Industrial Complex)

Following the revelations, prosecution, and subsequent death of former billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, relating to his incredibly sinister history of sexual exploitation and trafficking of minors, and the multitude of high-profile names implicated in the countless and ongoing allegations, my own community — the quantum computing academic community — has even found itself being drawn in, via the research donations given to prominent MIT Professor Seth Lloyd by Jeffrey Epstein.

For those who don’t know, Seth is an extremely prolific and influential figure in our field, who has made a beyond-staggering academic contribution to our area of research.

Although there hasn’t been any suggestion (to my knowledge) that Seth was in any way involved in or supported Epstein's sexual depravity, following the revelations that he had accepted donations from Epstein to fund his research, who is currently on paid leave, many are calling for him to be dismissed from MIT outright for his lack of judgement in accepting these donations, including student-led protests against him.

I have no knowledge whatsoever of the nature of the personal relationship between the two, what they talked about when Seth visited Epstein in jail, or anything remotely along those lines. I want to avoid all of that altogether, because I’m simply not in a position to have an opinion on it, less so to express one.

I don’t personally know Seth very well, having only ever socialised with him on a few occasions at conferences overseas (of course, I know his academic work very well). Needless to say, I never knew Epstein at all. So none of this should be interpreted as some kind of underhanded attempt to 'stand up for a mate', or anything of the sort. There are no partiality issues at play here.

Having said this, what I want to raise is (in my mind) a very glaring moral equivalence between Seth's actions and something that is, moralistically, highly comparable, which people in our research community engage in all the time (and to be clear, I am no exception to this) — accepting money from major international defence contractors, where in many instances it is very well known they knowingly provide material support for war crimes and other crimes against humanity at a global scale, engage in war profiteering, and use their immense wealth to engage in extensive political lobbying to forever promote the expansion of this self-reinforcing agenda of permanent armed conflict.

They also happen to dish out tons of cash to researchers in forefront scientific areas, such as ours.

I recall the first time I accepted a university position directly funded by a major international defence contractor (they financed my entire salary at the time). I was extremely aware of their highly morally questionable history. Upon being offered the position, a point in my life at which I had few other career options, I genuinely emotionally and morally struggled with myself in ways I never had before (to the point of falling into a prolonged state of deep depression upon making the decision to accept it), and internally debated with myself about it for quite some time before coming to terms with it via the following conclusion:

So long as the research I am conducting using their money is open research, accessible to all, and not in any way kept secret for the select benefit of the financiers, then every dollar I accept from them is a dollar less spent on raining down missiles on some impoverished country, under illegal military assault or occupation. Surely it’s far better for me to take their cash and use it to advance science for the benefit of all, than let it contribute to rolling the next cruise missile off the production line?

I’ve thought about it a lot since, and I am still in retrospect very comfortable with the above moral justification, and would be open to accepting further such cash contributions from similar entities, assuming the caveats and conditions stated above remained in place.

Without having any special inside knowledge of the Lloyd vs Epstein case, what is clear to me is that there seems to be a significant moral equivalence between these two scenarios. As far as I'm aware (and do correct me if I'm wrong), all research conducted by Seth using Epstein's money was openly-published scientific research, where the funding source (Epstein) was acknowledged accordingly for financial support (as is the expected scientific norm, in the same way that defence contractors are acknowledged accordingly).

What I’m interested in hearing from those in academia (or outside for that matter), who receive money, directly or indirectly, from highly morally questionable defence sources (which is most of us at some point or another in our careers as quantum computer scientists), is what is fundamentally different between accepting money from sex criminals as opposed to war criminals, provided that the research is scientifically open, for all to access, and does not preferentially benefit the financier in any way?

One could indeed go further by pointing out that those accepting research funds from defence contractors knowingly engage in the following:

  • Accepting money from organisations known to promote and contribute to illegal wars.
  • Enhancing their reputation via the required funding source acknowledgements in published work.
  • Developing science and technology that may be of direct material benefit to their efforts.
  • Enhancing their networking and influence potential, via the provision of direct high-level access to upper university leadership.
  • Reporting on the latest scientific advancements, providing them with the intelligence to project a potential competitive edge.
  • Recognition within the academic community as the 'go-to people' to seek partnerships when major developments are made.
  • In some instances, the organisations provide direct guidance as to the nature of the research being undertaken (in others there are very few strings attached).

In the case of donations sourced from a private individual, much of this does not apply. Certainly, networking ability and reputational enhancement may be of benefit. Direct scientific and technological developments are highly unlikely to be — certainly not in any manner that would foreseeably benefit the depraved acts of someone like Epstein.

The second issue — that of Seth visiting Epstein in jail following his initial conviction — is one where I believe we should all be extremely ethically mindful of what the nature of that visit might have entailed. Were a friend of mine to end up in jail, for whatever reason, I'd almost certainly pay them a visit. That would not automatically imply that the visit was a tacit statement of endorsement — it could very well be entirely the opposite. Speaking to someone needn't at all imply it be positive, pleasant or supportive in nature. This is something that presumably none of us are in a position to pass full judgement on, based on lack of information. That's not to say I don't absolutely recognise that making such a visit at all brings with it enormous potential for a complete PR disaster (clearly that's exactly what followed).

I want to be absolutely clear that I'm not attempting to morally absolve or implicate anyone (Seth Lloyd, MIT, myself, my colleagues, our industry, nor the academic community at large), nor take sides. Rather, what I would like to promote is consistency in the way we view such issues, from a humanist perspective, both within academia and beyond, and hear sound and consistent arguments as to why Seth Lloyd's decision to accept research funding from a sex criminal is inherently different to (or indeed worse than) the far more common, and accepted, practise of accepting research money from known war criminals and war profiteers (which most in my industry are guilty of — especially those at the top).

In terms of the way in which I have personally morally justified accepting money (under appropriate constraints) from war profiteers, why should a similar moral justification not apply more generally, for example to the scenario presently involving Seth Lloyd?

If Lloyd is to lose his job for having used the money from a known sex criminal for the purposes of open scientific research, should the rest of us also lose ours for accepting money derived from war profiteers, who support the violation of international law, knowingly enable war crimes, and other crimes against humanity?

Frankly, those of us who have, have far more to answer for. And I, like most, am one of them.

Nb: I realise that writing anything whatsoever on this particular topic at the present moment is incredibly dangerous territory to wade into. Given the nature of the crimes committed by Epstein, any discussion of this topic has tremendous potential to cause enormous hurt to countless people. I really do want to make this clear, and I mean this as genuinely as I possibly can, that in writing this the absolute last thing I want to do is come across as trivialising the depravity of Epstein, or turning a blind eye to it. For very personal reasons, the crimes Epstein committed are ones that are deeply emotionally upsetting to me. If any reader interprets this post as dismissive or trivialising in tone, let me assure you that's not at all what was intended. My intention is very different to that — depraved sex criminals aren't the only criminals in the world, and if we are to take a strong moral stance against criminal depravity, and ensure that scientific research funding is sparkling clean, it should be applied in a self-consistent and uniform manner. To all the victims of Epstein, and those like him, you have my unwavering support.

In Australia, call Lifeline (13 11 14) if these issues affect you. Similar free and confidential services are available in many other jurisdictions around the world.

Happy New Year & thank you to our Firies!

Sydney fireworks (2019-2020), taken from Blues Point Tower.

I'm glad Sydney went ahead with this, while giving my absolute respect to those who have perished or lost their homes in the surrounding fires. As I watched in amazement at the display, I chose to dedicate that time to reflecting on my gratitude to the RFS volunteers. A celebration needn’t be disrespectful. It can be used to show gratitude too. Perhaps the City of Sydney should have made such a dedication. Thank you RFS.

Referee request response (decline)

Dear Editor,

Thank you for your invitation to review this manuscript for your journal. Unfortunately, I must decline the invitation given that, as a matter of principle, I do not support or endorse the activities of for-profit scientific journals.

The scientific community has previously offered this industry, free of charge:

  • Conducting all scientific research.
  • Writing all scientific manuscripts.
  • Acting voluntarily in editorial roles.
  • Performing all refereeing.
  • (i.e the entire workload of your organisation, other than hosting the website on which you serve the PDFs).

In exchange, we receive:

  • Massive journal subscription fees.
  • Article download fees.
  • Article publication fees.
  • Intimidation tactics employed against us when we prefer not to be a part of it.
  • Anti-competitive and financially predatory distribution tactics.
  • Institutionalised mandates for the above.

This is not a symbiotic relationship, but a parasitic one, for the larger part financed by the taxpayer, who should rather be financing our research. I can no longer endorse this one-sided relationship, in which for-profit journals effectively tax scientific research, to the tune of billions of dollars annually, often using coercive and intimidatory sales tactics, whilst providing very little or no value in return. This capital is best spent on what it was intended for — scientific research for the benefit of humankind — training students, hiring research staff, financing equipment, travel and infrastructure — to which your organisation contributes nothing whatsoever other than to extort value.

In addition to declining this offer, please for future reference:

  • Remove my name from your referee database.
  • Immediately cease and desist from using intimidatory tactics when I decline to volunteer my labour (which is of very high value) to your pursuit of profit (in exchange for nothing).
  • Hassling me for failing to voluntarily contribute my labour to your revenue-raising is tantamount to harassment and extortion.
  • Do not request that I voluntarily act as your journal editor.
  • Do not work in cahoots with national scientific funding agencies to enforce your own vendor lock in, thereby effectively mandating your own services, which are in fact of very little or no value whatsoever. This in an indirect form of taxation upon scientific research, which I have no interest in paying, and which we should be expected or forced to.
  • I do not intend personally to submit any further manuscripts to your journal for consideration (if my co-authors do, I won’t stand in their way).

Personal note to the Editor: this should not be construed as a personal attack against you, who I absolutely respect, but rather against the industry which is exploiting you in a slave-like work relationship, whilst using you as a conduit to engage me for the same purpose. I write this as an act of solidarity with you, not as a personal attack against you.

We advance human knowledge for the benefit of humanity, and provide it as a gift for all.

Sincerely,
Referee 2.

(This post may be freely linked to, reused, or modified without acknowledgement)

The Neo-Modern Humanist