With all due respect to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his sudden fascination with quantum computing is about as real as Al Gore having discovered the Internet.
Trudeau surprised Canadians last week when he spoke about the subject during a media conference at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ont. How could the leader of our country, who struggles at times to string several sentences together, have the type of knowledge and understanding about this particular niche area?
Well, it’s simple. In spite of his apparent display of knowledge, he doesn’t. In my opinion, this entire episode was clearly staged.
Canadian blogger/cartoonist J.J. McCullough, to his credit, noticed some unusual patterns in the lead-up to Trudeau’s out-of-the-box statement. Let’s quickly expand on them.
First, the PM planted a very visible seed before the media had even asked him a single question. He said, “You don’t have to be a geek like me to appreciate how important this work is. Although I have to tell you, when we get to the media questions later I’m really hoping people ask me how quantum computing works because I was excited to deepen my knowledge of that this morning.”
Second, the PM excitedly answered a question on quantum computing that actually had nothing with, you guessed it, quantum computing.
Here’s the entire exchange:
Reporter: I was going to ask you to explain quantum computing, but . . . [mild audience laughter] . . . when do you expect Canada’s ISIL mission to begin again, and are we not doing anything in the interim while we prepare?
Trudeau: ‘Kay, very simply, normal computers work by . . . [audience laughter and clapping] . . . No, no, no. Don’t interrupt me. When you walk out of here, you will know more . . . no, some of you will know far less about quantum computing, but most of you . . . normal computers work, either there’s power going through a wire or not. It’s one or a zero, they’re binary systems. What quantum states allow for is much more complex information to be encoded into a single bit. Regular computer bit is either a one or a zero. On or off. A quantum state can be much more complex than that because as we know, things can be both particle and wave at the same times [sic], and the uncertainty around quantum states allows us to encode more information into a much smaller computer. So, that’s what’s exciting about quantum computing and that’s where we’re going . . . [applause from audience] . . . Don’t get me going on this or we’ll be here all day. Trust me.”
Don’t believe me? All of this information from the press conference has been posted on YouTube. It’s easy to find.
The PM’s press secretary, Cameron Ahmad, went on the defensive and told the U.S. website Gawker on April 18 that it “was not staged. I was there. The question was impromptu, the answer was impromptu as well.”
Look, there was nothing wrong with Trudeau’s answer. The question obviously wasn’t fed to a reporter. I’d even be willing to go as far as to say that he might have some mild interest in the subject.
But let’s not skirt around the issue. Of course it was staged.
In a nutshell, the prime minister said he wanted a question on quantum computing. Hence, the media had a massive hint of what he really wanted to talk about. When an important question by Canadian Press reporter Colin Perkel about Canada’s ISIL mission contained a small throw-away mention of quantum computing, Trudeau grabbed the brass ring and ran with it.
It’s not a unique communications strategy. Politicians, political parties and governments of all stripes have done similar things in the past, and will do them long after Trudeau is out of office.
What made it newsworthy is how defensive the Liberals became when it was painfully obvious what had happened. Their leader, a former drama teacher, doesn’t have a good poker face. And they know it.
Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.
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