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Minds, Machines, and the Multiverse by Julian Brown

This article was inspired by Julian Brown's Minds, Machines, and the Multiverse . If you enjoy this article then consider purchasing or borrowing the book.

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How Quantum Computing Will Change the World

“The idea that one can compute using no energy at all may sound too good to be true, but remarkably enough, it seems that it is possible, in theory at any rate.”

According to “Moore’s Law,” created by Intel’s co-founder Gordon Moore, the chip density of microprocessors should double every 18 months. His theory has proven true, but it also demonstrates that our species will soon be unable to meet computing needs, unless we adapt. Quantum mechanics may be the answer to our current predicament, as parallel universes will provide us with untold computing power.

What is quantum mechanics? This branch of study determines the behavior of particles at the atomic scale, which also has implications for the macro scale (all matter is composed of atoms). In 1957, scientist Hugh Everett III suggested a theory that initially sounds ludicrous, but it may actually prove true. According to this physicist, our universe is part of a larger entity, also known as the “multiverse.”

Composing the multiverse, numerous parallel universes contain copies of our own universe, meaning there are infinite copies of you in existence. Some will take slightly different paths than your own, while others will be dramatically different. While reality itself will differ from universe to universe, the capabilities of our instruments will not. Scientist David Deutsch has suggested “quantum parallelism” can give computers unthinkable power, as they calculate concurrently in multiple universes. These “quantum computers” would have a huge advantage over computers limited to calculations in one universe.

Unfortunately, quantum computing also has its limitations. Unlike traditional computers, quantum computers won’t let you check the steps of a calculation without affecting the results of themselves. Quantum computers will have difficulty examining outcomes without affecting their nature. The questions we ask this new breed of computers will have to be very specific, if we wish to receive the desired answers. In other words, quantum computing will outshine classical computers in some areas, like handling massive numbers, while other tasks our current computers handle will present a problem to quantum computers.

In an age where computers have made privacy difficult, quantum computers could provide the security people want, as access to these devices could be limited. They could also handle the large numbers associated with cryptographic systems.

Mathematician John von Neumann’s vision of a “universal constructor” may be realized with the help of quantum mechanics. Since 1996, scientists have investigated the possibility of “nanoassemblers.” Using nanoscale computers and robotic appendages, these devices could move atoms themselves. Since they would be able to construct practically anything by manipulating atoms themselves, these nanoassemblers could become self-replicating. With an army of these devices, the only limit to humanity’s constructive vision would be the availability of materials and the laws of physics.

Organic computers may be possible, as well. DNA replicates itself through a series of biological pathways, and it stores information. Like quantum computers, DNA computers won’t be able to carry out all calculations, but a future of genetic computers may lie ahead.


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