How small do you want it? Sub Atomic Information Encoding and the Future of Quantum Computing
Imagine your brand spanking new computer, the latest model with all the new bells and whistles and a few features you don’t quite understand yet, but nonetheless are very excited about. Chances are you are looking at a machine with around a terabyte of storage, four to six gigs of RAM and about four processors, all packed into a large oblong box. It’s fast and sleek and exciting, or is it? Despite Moore’s Law, the basic shape and design of your desktop has not changed much over the last twenty years; what has happened is that the existing technology has been refined and improved to increase both the size of data storage and the speed with which it can access information. Silicon based technology has allowed the basic premise of Moore’s Law to hold since the advent of the computer, in that processing power doubles roughly every eighteen months, but there is a limit to what silicon can do and there is a time in the not too distant future where a ceiling will be reached in its ability to provide any increases in speed and utility. Fear not, however, for the next generation of computers is already being created in laboratories around the world which will produce a quantum leap in computing power, literally, as the processor goes sub-atomic.
So called quantum computers are based on the idea that information can be coded at the atomic level and used to run a computer’s functions, but new research from Stamford University has demonstrated that there is a whole other level below the atomic which can be used to encode information. Stamford researchers have encoded two letters, S and U (for Stamford University, show offs that they are) at the sub atomic level. The information is retrieved using hologramatic technology and several pieces of information can be encoded at the same location. This is seriously impressive stuff and what it means is that the clunky bow you have sat on your desk, which is your pride and joy, kick-ass computer, is about as sophisticated as a caveman.
The applications of subatomic computing power are not widely understood by many, and all of the applications have not even been considered yet, but many examples of our wildest science fiction could be rooted in the advances being made today at Stamford. As the technology will allow the power of a Cray super computer in the space roughly the size of a pin head, and needing about a millionth of the power to run its programme, we could be seeing the birth of a number of science fiction-like applications. Anyone remember Data, the android from Star Trek TNG? His brain, an example of true artificial intelligence was a ‘neural net’: a powerful computer which had achieved consciousness. Sub-atomic computing could make this happen within twenty years. Jake 2.0, a man infected with nano robots which can heal him, increase his strength and speed; those robots could be basically quantum computers acting independently to improve the body, and we could be seeing those in the next twenty years. How about computers powerful enough to completely model the weather system of earth, giving us early warnings of serious weather conditions? Or computers which could model the stock market perfectly, effectively destroying capitalism as we know it?
It is no exaggeration that these advances in technology at the quantum level will completely change the way in which we live, work and access with technology. Having the ability to put such power of information into an atom will hasten the long predicted merging of biological and information systems. Imagine being able to access the internet with your mind alone, or being able to turn your heating on twenty minutes before your get home from work with a thought. Imagine telepathic communication; imagine telepathic sex! It is a brave new world we are entering, and as we do the very nature of our humanity will change. We would live longer and in better health. We would be able to perform super-human feats of speed and strength and our bodies would be almost impervious to damage. This is going to really improve the WWE Wrestling matches. Also we are going to have to come up with some more challenging games at the Olympics, perhaps the very high jump, or building lifting.
On a more serious note one of the things which worry a lot of futurists is the access to the technology. In our modern societies the world is split roughly into people who enjoy the access to technological advances and those who for all intents and purposes still live in a pre-industrial society. The former are the western powers and the latter are usually highly exploited. With the advent of these startling technologies will humanity split into two different evolutionary factions, one with the ability to merge with this new technology and one who remains human? And with this split will we see the creation of a whole new broca divide? Nothing is certain and we are as a species getting better at applying our science in a socially acceptable way. One can only hope that this will continue to be the case.