NOTA BENE! Quantum computing is already here! ... in 2017!... far far sooner than anyone had ever speculated or had even dreamed it could come into being! And it has staggering implications for huge advances in all branches of technology and the sciences! Dwave: the Quantum Computing Company (Click here): right here in Canada, no less, has just invented the first truly functional quantum computer. And the implications for the near, let alone the more distant, future of every branch of technology and for all of the sciences mankind is cognizant of are nothing short of staggering, indeed, dare I say, earth-shattering. What is a quantum computer? ALL ITALICS MINE To quote verbatim the D-Wave company's definition of quantum computing: A quantum computer taps directly into the fundamental fabric of reality — the strange and counter-intuitive world of quantum mechanics — to speed computation. Quantum Computation: Rather than store information as 0s or 1s as conventional computers do, a quantum computer uses qubits – which can be a 1 or a 0 or both at the same time. This “quantum superposition”, along with the quantum effects of entanglement and quantum tunnelling, enable quantum computers to consider and manipulate all combinations of bits simultaneously, making quantum computation powerful and fast. How D-Wave Systems Work: Quantum computing uses an entirely different approach than (sic: i.e. from) classical computing. A useful analogy is to think of a landscape with mountains and valleys. Solving optimization problems can be thought of as trying to find the lowest point on this landscape. (In quantum computers), every possible solution is mapped to coordinates on the landscape (all at the same time) , and the altitude of the landscape is the “energy’” or “cost” of the solution at that point. The aim is to find the lowest point on the map and read the coordinates, as this gives the lowest energy, or optimal solution to the problem. Classical computers running classical algorithms can only “walk over this landscape”. Quantum computers can tunnel through the landscape making it faster to find the lowest point. The D-Wave processor considers all the possibilities simultaneously to determine the lowest energy required to form those relationships. The computer returns many very good answers in a short amount of time - 10,000 answers in one second. This gives the user not only the optimal solution or a single answer, but also other alternatives to choose from. D-Wave systems use “quantum annealing” to solve problems. Quantum annealing “tunes” qubits from their superposition state to a classical state to return the set of answers scored to show the best solution. Programming D-Wave: To program the system a user maps their problem into this search for the lowest point. A user interfaces with the quantum computer by connecting to it over a network, as you would with a traditional computer (Comment by myself: This is one of the vital factors in the practical usefulness of the quantum computer). The user’s problems are sent to a server interface, which turns the optimization program into machine code to be programmed onto the chip. The system then executes a “quantum machine instruction” and the results are returned to the user. D-Wave systems are designed to be used in conjunction with classical computers, as a “quantum co-processor”. D-Wave’s flagship product, the 1000-qubit D-Wave 2X quantum computer, is the most advanced quantum computer in the world. It is based on a novel type of superconducting processor that uses quantum mechanics to massively accelerate computation. It is best suited to tackling complex optimization problems that exist across many domains such as: Optimization Machine Learning Pattern Recognition and Anomaly Detection Financial Analysis Software/Hardware Verification and Validation For the massive capabilities and the astounding specs of the D-Wave computer, Click on this link: Comment by myself: Apparently, the severest limitation of the quantum computer (at least the first generation represented by D-Wave) is that it can only function at the temperature of – 273 celsius, i.e. a mere 0.015 degrees celsius above absolute zero, 180 X colder than the coldest temperature in the universe. But this limitation is merely apparent. Some will have it that this severe restriction makes the machine impractical, since, as they believe, it cannot be networkeed. But nothing could be further from the truth. It can be networked, and it is networked. All that is required is an external link from the near-absolute zero internal configuration of a quantum computer to the external wiring or wireless communication at room temperature at its peripheral to connect it directly to one or more digital computer consoles, thereby allowing the user(s) to connect the quantum computer indirectly to, you got it, the world wide web. The implications of this real-world connectivity are simply staggering. Since the quantum computer, which is millions of times faster than the faster supercomputer in the world, it can directly feed its answers to any technological or scientific problem it can tackle at super-lightning speed to even personal computers, let alone the fastest supercomputers in existence! It instantly feeds its super-lightning calculations to the “terminal” computer and network (i.e. the Internet), thereby effectively making the latter (digital) system(s) virtually much more rapid than they actually are in reality, if you can wrap that one around your head. MORE ON THE NATURE OF QUANTUM COMPUTING: From this site: I quote, again verbatim: Whereas classical computers encode information as bits that can be in one of two states, 0 or 1, the ‘qubits’ that comprise quantum computers can be in ‘superpositions’ of both at once. This, together with qubits’ ability to share a quantum state called entanglement, should enable the computers to essentially perform many calculations at once (i.e. simultaneously). And the number of such calculations should, in principle, double for each additional qubit, leading to an exponential speed-up. This rapidity should allow quantum computers to perform certain tasks, such as searching large databases or factoring large numbers, which would be unfeasible for slower, classical computers. The machines could also be transformational as a research tool, performing quantum simulations that would enable chemists to understand reactions in unprecedented detail, or physicists to design materials that superconduct at room temperature. The team plans to achieve this using a ‘chaotic’ quantum algorithm that produces what looks like a random output. If the algorithm is run on a quantum computer made of relatively few qubits, a classical machine can predict its output. But once the quantum machine gets close to about 50 qubits, even the largest classical supercomputers will fail to keep pace, the team predicts. And yet again, from another major site: “Spooky action at a distance” is how Albert Einstein described one of the key principles of quantum mechanics: entanglement. Entanglement occurs when two particles become related such that they can coordinate their properties instantly even across a galaxy. Think of wormholes in space or Star Trek transporters that beam atoms to distant locations. Quantum mechanics posits other spooky things too: particles with a mysterious property called superposition, which allows them to have a value of one and zero at the same time; and particles’ ability to tunnel through barriers as if they were walking through a wall. All of this seems crazy, but it is how things operate at the atomic level: the laws of physics are different. Einstein was so skeptical about quantum entanglement that he wrote a paper in 1935 titled “Can quantum-mechanical description of physical reality be considered complete?” He argued that it was not possible. In this, Einstein has been proven wrong. Researchers recently accessed entangled information over a distance of 15 miles. They are making substantial progress in harnessing the power of quantum mechanics. Einstein was right, though, about the spookiness of all this. D-Wave says it has created the first scalable quantum computer. (D-Wave): Quantum mechanics is now being used to construct a new generation of computers that can solve the most complex scientific problems—and unlock every digital vault in the world. These will perform in seconds computations that would have taken conventional computers millions of years. They will enable better weather forecasting, financial analysis, logistical planning, search for Earth-like planets, and drug discovery. And they will compromise every bank record, private communication, and password on every computer in the world — because modern cryptography is based on encoding data in large combinations of numbers, and quantum computers can guess these numbers almost instantaneously. There is a race to build quantum computers, and (as far as we know) it isn’t the NSA that is in the lead. Competing are big tech companies such as IBM, Google, and Microsoft; start-ups; defence contractors; and universities. One Canadian start-up says that it has already developed a first version of a quantum computer. A physicist at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, Ronald Hanson, told Scientific American that he will be able to make the building blocks of a universal quantum computer in just five years, and a fully-functional demonstration machine in a little more than a decade. These will change the balance of power in business and cyber-warfare. They have profound national security implications, because they are the technology equivalent of a nuclear weapon. Let me first explain what a quantum computer is and where we are. In a classical computer, information is represented in bits, binary digits, each of which can be a 0 or 1. Because they only have only two values, long sequences of 0s and 1s are necessary to form a number or to do a calculation. A quantum bit (called a qubit), however, can hold a value of 0 or 1 or both values at the same time — a superposition denoted as “0+1.” The power of a quantum computer increases exponentially with the number of qubits. Rather than doing computations sequentially as classical computers do, quantum computers can solve problems by laying out all of the possibilities simultaneously and measuring the results. Imagine being able to open a combination lock by trying every possible number and sequence at the same time. Though the analogy isn’t perfect — because of the complexities in measuring the results of a quantum calculation — it gives you an idea of what is possible. Most researchers I have spoken to say that it is a matter of when — not whether — quantum computing will be practical. Some believe that this will be as soon as five years; others say 20 years. (ADDDENDUM by myself. WRONG! Not in 20 years, but right now. We have already invented the first functional quantum computer, the D-Wave (see above)). One Canada-based startup, D-Wave, says it has already has done it. Its chief executive, Vern Brownell, said to me in an e-mail that D-Wave Systems has created the first scalable quantum computer, with proven entanglement, and is now working on producing the best results possible for increasingly complex problems. He qualified this claim by stressing that their approach, called “adiabatic computing,” may not be able to solve every problem but has a broad variety of uses in optimizing computations; sampling; machine learning; and constraint satisfaction for commerce, national defence, and science. He says that the D-Wave is complementary to digital computers; a special-purpose computing resource designed for certain classes of problems. The D-Wave Two computer has 512 qubits and can, in theory, perform 2 raised to 512 operations simultaneously. That’s more calculations than there are atoms in the universe — by many orders of magnitude. Brownell says the company will soon be releasing a quantum processor with more than 1,000 qubits. He says that his computer won’t run Shor’s algorithm, an algorithm necessary for cryptography, but it has potential uses in image detection, logistics, protein mapping and folding, Monte Carlo simulations and financial modeling, oil exploration, and finding exoplanets (and allow me to add, in breaking the entire genome!) So quantum computers are already here in a limited form, and fully functional versions are on the way. They will be as transformative for mankind as were the mainframe computers, personal computers, and smartphones that we all use. As do all advancing technologies, they will also create new nightmares. The most worrisome development will be in cryptography. Developing new standards for protecting data won’t be easy. The RSA standards that are in common use each took five years to develop. Ralph Merkle, a pioneer of public-key cryptography, points out that the technology of public-key systems, because it is less well-known, will take longer to update than these — optimistically, ten years. And then there is a matter of implementation so that computer systems worldwide are protected. Without a particular sense of urgency or shortcuts, Merkle says, it could easily be 20 years before we’ve replaced all of the Internet’s present security-critical infrastructure. (ADDENDUM: I think not! It will happen far, far sooner than that! I predict possibly as early as 2020.) It is past time we began preparing for the spooky technology future we are rapidly heading into. Quantum computing represents the most staggering and the swiftest advancement of human hyperintelligence in the history of humankind, with the potential for unlocking some of the most arcane secrets of the universe itself. It signifies, not just a giant, but literally a quantum leap in human intelligence way, way beyond the pale. If we thought the Singularity was near before the advent of the quantum computer, what about now? Think about this, even for the merest split second, and you will blow your own mind! It certainly blew mine! Think of this too. What if one were to directly tap the human mind into a room temperature digital peripheral of a quantum computer? What then? I pretty much have a very good idea of what then! The staggering implications of quantum computing for the potential total decipherment of, not only Minoan Linear A, but of every other as yet undeciphered, unknown ancient language: In the next post, I shall expostulate the profound implications the advent of the quantum computer is bound to have on the decipherment of not only Minoan Linear A, but of every other as-yet unknown, and undeciphered, ancient language. I strongly suspect that we will now soon be able to crack Minoan Linear A, and several other unknown ancient languages to boot. And, trust me, I shall be one of the first historical linguists at the forefront of this now potentially attainable goal, which is now tantalizingly within our reach.