Blake Im

[Last updated Oct 2021]Co-founder of Next Chapter. 🚀Come say hello on LinkedIn!


An Antidote To Comparing Yourself With Others

The most toxic trait of our generation, and an antidote.

Introduction to Quantum Computing

Non-technical guide to quantum computing.

An Antidote To Comparing Yourself With Others

September 2021

I don’t tell people about this, but I used to compare myself with others an awful lot.This is arguably one of the most toxic and common traits that plagues students and young professionals today.That sense of being the worst person in a group, and the feeling of being years behind others isn’t uncommon.Although I can’t say that I’m completely free from this, I’ve come up with 3 practices I use to ground myself that have worked magnificently over the years.I’ll be sharing them with you today, and I hope you find them useful.

1. Understanding Your Source Of Emotions

Whenever I catch myself feeling an emotion I’m not proud of, I try to link it back to some sort of an scientific explanation behind it.There are aspects of our brains that are far outdated for the modern world.A standard example is how our brain craves sugar from when food was scarce, driving a ridiculous phenomenon where more people die from obesity than hunger.Once I’ve made that connection, it becomes a whole lot easier to separate my emotions from reality.Here is my hypothesis: the emotion of imposter syndrome and jealousy deeply is rooted in the fact that for the entire history of humanity until the last 100 or so years, everyone was competing over a limited range of options, and your survival and status in society depended on it.But this is not the case anymore.With the rise of globalisation, civil movements and technology, there are unique opportunities for everyone.Paraphrasing Naval:

Wanting what others have corners you to a zero-sum game, while sticking to your own strengths and curiosities will liberate you to a positive-sum game.

When you find yourself comparing yourself with others, it’s not because you are a bad or jealous person. It’s just an outdated psychological mechanism.Rationally speaking, being surrounded by trustworthy friends who are ahead of you in life is a blessing.

2. We Only Focus On The Result, Not The Process

Today, it has become too easy to “want” what everyone else has.But there is a cost for everything.If your friend has built a successful business that they sold, you better assume they spent countless nights and weekends working on it.If your friend has a ridiculously high grade, you better assume they spent up to 40 hours a week studying.If your friend landed a job through cold emails, you better assume they spent weeks preparing their pre-interview projects and perfecting their messaging through countless failures.Of course, there are elements of pure luck in our world, but they are rarer than you think and in the long term, honest work prevails.Now, what you need to ask yourself is:

Do I want what they have enough to trade how I currently spend my time for it?

Maybe instead of mindlessly hustling, you should spend time on what you enjoy, have great relationships with those around you and maintain your physical and mental wellbeing.On the other hand, if your answer to the earlier question is still yes, then great — you just answered one of the most difficult dilemmas in life: “What should I aim at?”All there is left to do now is make those sacrifices and get at it.But I’m willing to bet 99/100 times the answer is no. This is a good heuristic to separate true needs vs superficial desires.It’s easy to want everything in a store when you assume it's all free.But in reality, we all have the same limited money to shop with, and it’s called “time”.

3. But Do You Really Want To Be Them?

If you still find it difficult not to be jealous of others, try this.Picture the person that you think is the happiest, the most rich and the most admired.Now ask yourself the question: “Would I ever switch my life with them?”Read that question again, and think about it really carefully.Despite asking this to many of my friends over the years who always compared themselves with others, I’m yet to come across anyone that said yes.This is because when you seriously consider the question, the first things that pop into your mind aren’t the things you will gain, but are the precious things in your own life that you are afraid of losing.You can’t just decide to have the best parts of everyone else’s lives, even though that is what the outdated aspects of our brains demand.Set your own honest standards for a successful life, and focus on them relentlessly.Life is too short to live otherwise.


Introduction to Quantum Computing

October 2021

Even if you do not have a background in physics or mathematics, I have conviction that quantum computing will be one of the most exciting technologies of the future.Why? Because quantum computers will enable:

  • Better stock portfolio construction (Maximising mean return while minimising the variance)

  • Quantum machine learning (Either using quantum algorithms to speed up classical learning or learning from quantum data)

  • More precise medicine (Allowing simulations that are not currently feasible)

And many more things.However, despite its wonderful and interesting use cases, it is less understood by the majority.I’m not an expert in quantum computing, or even physics or computer science myself.But even if you aren’t an expert, having a foundational understanding of the emerging technologies that will fundamentally shift many different industries is important.And I hope to do just that for you.

Classical Computers

Before we get into quantum computers, it is useful to recap how a classical computer works.In the device you are using to read this writing right now, every information is stored in binary form, which means all information is broken into 0s and 1s. In classical computers, each bit stores either a 0 or 1.For example, in binary, numbers are represented as the following.

0: 0
1: 1
2: 01
3: 10
4: 11
5: 100
6: 101
7: 111
8: 1000
9: 1001

But why would we do this? This looks like an inefficient way of representing numbers.We do this because our computers are made up of electronic components in discrete current, that can only either be on or off at any given time (like a lightbulb).In fact, you can think of the classical computer as a device with countless “lightbulbs” that turn on and off in different combinations to represent information.In the old days, people used to physically turn big switches on and off in massive computers to do just that.

Fun fact, computer errors are called “bugs” because there was once a problem caused by a moth literally getting stuck in these large machines!

Problems that involve a lot of computations, especially the ones that scale quickly with the problem size, often cannot be solved on classical computers.A famous example of such problems is the traveling salesman problem:Is there a path with a maximum of x km that visits n number of cities and return to the origin?At first glance an innocent looking problem, there is no feasible algorithm to reliably solve this problem as the number of cities increase.The simplest approach given 5 cities could take 120 different tries to solve. Not too bad.But if given just 15 more cities, it could require 2.43 x 10^18 attempts.To put that into perspective, that is:

2.43 x 1,000,000,000,000,000,000.

Even more clever algorithms developed by computer scientists could take 4.19 x 10^8 different tries. And don’t even bother start thinking about 100s of cities.And the examples of quantum computer use cases I mentioned, such as simulating our response to new drugs and constructing portfolios of stocks run into similar problems.So how can quantum computers help?

Quantum Computers

Imagine a coin with a head and a tail. If you flip it, it will be either at a state of head or tail.But if you spun the coin?You can think of it as being in different probabilities of ending up in a head or a tail. If you spun the coin fair and square, it is in 50% chance of ending in a head and 50% chance of ending in a tail.Maybe as the coin starts to topple towards one side, one outcome will be more likely than the other until it finally stops either in a head or tail for us to observe.This is the analogy for qubits (quantum bits, instead of bits in classical computers). While classical computers can only be in 0s and 1s, qubits are in a superposition of 0s and 1s, like the spinning coin.Superposition is a jargon for the ability for something to be in multiple states simultaneously. In a sense, the spinning coin is simultaneously a head and a tail at the same time.In physical implementations, qubits are represented by things that are in superposition between two distinct states, like photons, electrons and many others.Why is this useful?Consider a computer with one classical bit. It can only represent 1 or 0 at a given time.But a qubit can represent both 1 and 0 at the same time since it is in a superposition of those states.Take this to 2 bits and 2 qubits. Regardless of the number of bits, classical bits can only represent one state at a time.Meanwhile, 2 qubits mean they can be in superposition between:

00
01
10
11

So representing 4 different states simultaneously.As you might have noticed by now, given N many qubits, quantum computers can represent 2^N states and process all of them in parallel.Having as many as 50 qubits will already allow you to process 1.13 x 10^15 different states simultaneously!For the example of portfolio optimisation, given a number of stocks, you can consider all possible combinations of those stocks at the same time.Given a large number of stocks, classical computers would not be able to do this in a practical timeframe.This is the main strength of quantum computers over classical computers.

Current State Of Quantum Computers

Quantum computers are still a work in progress, still in heavy research and development stage rather than practical everyday usage.Until June 2021, IBM’s 65-qubit quantum computer was the largest in the world.As of August 2021, that is now beat by China’s Zuchongzhi which has 66 qubits.It demonstrated the advantage of quantum computers by completing a sampling task that would take a classical computer about 8 years to complete in just over an hour.Some other well-known researchers in the space are Google, Microsoft and Honeywell.Currently, the biggest challenge with quantum computers are on the hardware side. Controlling sub-atomic qubits in a reliable manner is a huge engineering task (especially as the number of qubits in the system scales), and even the state-of-art quantum computers today are prone to some level of random errors.Despite this, the developments in quantum computers are accelerating, and the next decade will likely see some very exciting use cases that will shift many different industries.

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