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Quantum computing concept with qubit icon 3d rendering
Quantum computing concept with qubit icon 3d rendering

Will Quantum Mechanics Produce the True Thinking Computer?

Quantum computers come with real world problems of their own

Some hope that quantum mechanics can explain human consciousness.

Maybe we are all quantum computers but don’t know it? Maybe quantum computers could think like people?

There is an odd relationship between the human mind and quantum mechanics, the science of entities like electrons that are too small to be governed by ordinary physics.

Some aspects of consciousness appear to be mediated by such elementary particles. Science writer Philip Ball explains,

Nobody understands what consciousness is or how it works. Nobody understands quantum mechanics either. Could that be more than coincidence?

Quantum mechanics is the best theory we have for describing the world at the nuts-and-bolts level of atoms and subatomic particles. Perhaps the most renowned of its mysteries is the fact that the outcome of a quantum experiment can change depending on whether or not we choose to measure some property of the particles involved…

To this day, physicists do not agree on the best way to interpret these quantum experiments, and to some extent what you make of them is (at the moment) up to you. But one way or another, it is hard to avoid the implication that consciousness and quantum mechanics are somehow linked.

Philip Ball, “The strange link between the human mind and quantum physics” at BBC (February 16, 2017)

This might, of course, be at least one part of the reason that consciousness remains a mystery.

But now, is a quantum computer smarter than the conventional machine that just computes numbers?

In Gaming AI, tech philosopher George Gilder notes that the resourceful AI geniuses “believe that they can effect an astronomical speedup by changing the ordinary 1 or 0 bit to the quantum bit, or “qubit”:

The qubit is one of the most enigmatic tangles of matter and ghost in the entire armament of physics. Like a binary digit, it can register 0 or 1; what makes it quantum is that it can also register a nonbinary “superposition” of 0 and 1.

George Gilder, Gaming AI, p. 40

But before we get carried away by the possibilities, Gilder goes on to say that there’s a hitch. An endless superposition works fine for Schrodinger’s cat. But, to be useful in the real world, the quantum computer must settle on either 0 or 1. If the needed number is your paycheck, to be cashed, it must be a number, not an infinite debate.

In any event, quantum computers come with real world problems that conventional computers don’t have:

… the chip can no longer function as a determinist logical device. For example, today the key problem in microchips is to avoid spontaneous quantum tunneling, where electrons can find themselves on the other side of a barrier that by the laws of classical physics would have been insurmountable and impenetrable. In digital memory chips or processors, spontaneous tunneling can mean leakage and loss.

George Gilder, Gaming AI, p. 40

Quantum computing has advantages and disadvantages. In any event, consciousness is still a mystery and it’s not clear at this point how quantum computers help us understand much. But stay tuned!

Note: You can download Gaming AI for free here.

You may also wish to look at:

Quantum supremacy isn’t the Big Fix. If human thought is Turing’s halting oracle, as seems likely, then even quantum computing will not allow us to replicate human intelligence (Eric Holloway)

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Will Quantum Mechanics Produce the True Thinking Computer?