A quantum computer would be able to store more bits of information in its memory than there are particles in the universe. Image Credit: Alengo/iStockPhoto
It’s fairly easy to surmise how quantum computing will evolve in the future if/when it becomes a reality. Devices that are currently based around a system of electronic circuits would eventually die off. Quantum devices would ultimately become the new standard in computing. While Peter Shor’s research showed how quantum algorithms would speed up advanced calculations, they never really demonstrated why people would want to do this.
Today we have plenty of areas where quantum computing would certainly shine. Speed usually isn’t important when it comes to data storage and retrieval systems. Entertainment devices, however, are getting increasingly complex. This shouldn’t be taken as a suggestion that quantum computing would only be useful for a new generation of video game consoles, however.
Society would eventually start to merge all forms of media into one. Whether this would be the trigger to bring on the singularity is hard to say, but it’s easy to imagine that it would certainly usher in a very different form of art. Like the interactive media movement, quantum art would fundamentally change the way that people interact with the world.
Storage systems could still see a boost from the field of quantum computing as well. Electronic quantum holography also looks pretty promising. Holograms loaded with data could be projected onto a small mass. A piece of software could then reconstruct information from these holograms in the same way that software currently reconstructs data from magnetic or electrical impulses.
Some amount of energy would need to be expended to ensure that the holograms remain in a viable state. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Battery backup memory has worked that way for years. Even flash memory has to maintain a small amount of voltage to ensure that it works as desired. Electronic quantum holography could be viewed as the natural extension of these already proven examples of information technology.
Interestingly enough, no one has really been able to demonstrate the reason that quantum circuits would be superior to their regular electronic contemporaries. Most of what researchers believe is based wholly on assumptions/theory. While some people feel that quantum devices will never really replace microprocessors, it’s easy to imagine the microchip going the way of the vacuum tube. While transistors have almost completely replaced electronic valves, there remains few niche industries that continue to use them today.
On the totally other side of the spectrum, some people feel that quantum computers will someday be able to violate the basic theories of cognitive science. The idea of a self-aware machine has been bandied about for quite some time. When talking about the possibilities, it’s important to remember a few things. What currently defines a computer is at least in part based on the old Church-Turing thesis.
When this is violated, the whole idea of computational notions cease to be individual, autonomous units. Since quantum computers could solve equations that modern computers have found impossible, they force researchers to redefine the abstracts of efficient algorithms.
Superposition principles tell us that the bit is the smallest unit a machine can handle. A regular bit can only exhibit the features of one of two states. This is where the basic rules of binary math come from. Any single bit can be classified as 1 or 0. However, quantum computing defies these rules. By definition, a quantum computer is one that can handle bits assigned a third state. This state is somewhere between the two. Currently, computers can only tell if a circuit is switched on or not. A quantum computer would probably sense different voltages to ascribe values to some fraction of power. Some researchers use creative names like qubits to describe the components of quantum logic gates.
Quantum logic doesn’t even need to rely on electronics, however. Unconventional designs will probably evolve in the near future. Chemical computer systems, which are sometimes derisively referred to as gooware, would assign values to different chemical reactions. While it might seem weird to leave a tub of chemicals on a desk, practical designs might be closer to a dry cell battery. They could be quite small and portable.
Other logic systems have been proposed as well. Logic gates built around photons would allow nonlinear calculations. Photonic controlled gates would allow quantum computers to be built around electromagnetic models. Even with these types of advances however, future consumers would probably be more apt to buy something close to what they already know – at least in the early years of quantum computing. That makes photonic logic a good option for companies who want to pursue something they could actually market early on.
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