18 September 2010

Quantum Computing

Now THAT is a blog entry headline bound to drive away everyone whose life doesn't serve as a model for The Big Bang Theory. But quantum computing is in the news. It was on the front page of yesterday's Financial Times, for goodness' sake.

The key, say the scientists involved in the latest push, is a new "photonic chip" that works on light instead of electricity.

This plays out in compare-contrast mode with views expressed by the physicist/mathematician Roger Penrose years ago, in books like this and this.

Penrose's point was that the human mind is itself a quantum computer. He was saying that the ideas of "strong AI" proponents like Alan Turing are wrong, because strong AI advocates believe you can produce consciousness and intelligence with digital computers, which work through a lot of on/off switches.

You need to harnass quantum indeterminacy to get to consciousness, said Penrose, which is what the human brain uniquely does.

It would be a hoot if he turns out to be right vis-a-vis the digital computer, but to be proved right by the creation of a new kind of computer, and AI, to which his objection did not apply.

Penrose is a great mathematicians and physicist, a former close collaborator of Stephen Hawking who fell out with SH over, so far as an idiot like yours truly can understand ... the nature of reality. Heck of a thing to ruin a friendship over.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.