Just hearing the words “quantum computing” or “quantum computers” can be daunting for some people. It can lead to people questioning their intelligence, wondering why they’ve heard so much about it, but still don’t understand what it is. It can also bore people, thinking that it is too complicated to understand so why even bother trying. Advancements in computing have been exponential over the past quarter century. We are doing things daily with our smartphones that even the most prolific computer engineering schools of the 1980’s couldn’t dream of accomplishing. Quantum computing is something to be admired, understood and appreciated because it is going to change the very landscape of the technological world.
To describe quantum computing colloquially it is a reorganized and rethought system based completely on the standard binary system of normal computers we use every day. The use of 1’s and 0’s (called “bits”) to create computer language in order to perform any of the multitude of daily tasks, such as; playing games online or checking your emails, is finite. Meaning this language can only perform so much, even if up until now the amount of things the binary computer language can accomplish seemed unlimited, this is not the case. Quantum computing is the process of putting electrons into super-positions where they can simultaneously be 1’s and 0’s or anything in between. Quantum computers use “q-bits”, these q-bits spin differently, and it is in the way they spin that creates the ability to be more than a 1 or a 0.
That is all well and good, however you may be asking; “what does it all mean?” Bits and q-bits mean as little as a 1 and a 0 to the average computer-user. Putting it plainly, quantum computers can solve bigger problems, faster. The computer you are currently using has a graphics card and a sound card, quantum computers also have a quantum card. The quantum card will solve problems using logic – looking at all possible configurations of the problem at the same time. Simultaneously creating and solving the problem, eventually settling on the configuration that is a solution to the problem. This sort of “logical thinking” is impossible and unmanageable for normal computers.
Quantum computers transfer information using atoms, rather than silicon. This is the first step in creating artificially intelligent man-made machines. American theoretical physicist Michio Kaku says our current robotic technology has the collective intelligence of a “lobotomized, mentally-challenged cockroach.” He explains it this way in order for the listener to visualize a robot taking 6 hours to walk across a room. An “AI” robot may enter a room and see squares, rectangles, triangles etc. but they do not recognize these objects as people, chairs and tables. Robots may “hear” a conversation but they do not understand the language, or the point people are trying to get across.
This is similar to the philosophical argument thought of by the American philosopher John Searle known as “The Chinese Room”. His argument challenges artificial intelligence as it was known before quantum computing. He imagines himself locked in a room with Chinese figures he cannot understand, as well as with a book of instructions for Chinese lettering, which he can understand. A Chinese person outside of the room slips him messages underneath the door. Though he can’t understand what the note says, Searle reads the message, looks through his instructions, and slips his response back under the door. This would give the impression a Chinese person is on the other side of the door, even though it is a non-Cantonese speaking American. This situation replicates AI before quantum computing because though it may seem a computer understands us, it is only simulating that understanding through its coded ‘knowledge’.
Computers are doubling in power every 18 months, states Michio Kaku, but this will not go on forever. He predicts the silicon revolution to be over within the next 15 years. That is why quantum computing is the future of technological advancements. The problem right now with logically thinking computers, available to transform beyond 1’s and 0’s is the very reason we are able to have quantum computers in the first place. Using atoms instead of silicon means it is an organic machine. The atoms will react not only to the computing code, but also to what is going on in the environment around the computer. Anything from a large truck rumbling the road outside to an earthquake shaking the Earth’s floor will interfere with the quantum computers “thinking” process, because the q-bits are already spinning.
Until the problem of interference is solved, quantum computing will remain in existence only for those who happen to be developing it. Today, the record for quantum computing problem solving is 5×3=15. This was completed by 5 atoms. Most adults don’t need an artificially intelligent computer to solve basic math, however this is only the beginning. Whomever the genius may be, who is able to solve the problem facing quantum discovery will be recognized as the next Thomas Edison, and will be the founding mother or father of real artificial intelligence and sentient machines.