Reading articles about quantum computing this week made me think back to what started me on the theme of Mind Candy. It actually comes from a story I wrote and had published in Pirate Writings back in 1997 "Just Mind". It explored the idea of advanced technology, training, memories, and personal feelings all interacting. If things go well and I get to produce a Mind Candy vol 3 down the road, I plan to add it as a bonus story.
But back to quantum computing. From what I have read the way a Qbit works is a major step in computing that will change many things about computing, but from a Mind Candy perspective it changes the potential for if AI (Artificial Intelligence) is obtainable and how soon it might be. Of course AI doesn't mean, or isn't used in the same context now as it was when first introduced. The meaning has changed. It seems it was to indicate a constructed intelligence that has gain consciousness, and now it is often used as a term for a processor that mimics the human thought process. Perhaps because the term was not quite right to start with, so I will use it no further.
From my point of view I am talking about a probably constructed, non-self evolved system that has gained sentience. I will refer to as ESI (Electronic Sentient Intelligence). And I suppose even the E is somewhat fluid. ESI has been part of science fiction for as long as I can remember. Much of the thought process we all have of ESI comes from one of my favorite authors, Isaac Asimov. His first story to make us think (what if computers (robots) could think for themselves?), and where the "The Three Laws of Robotics" came from was in 1942, "Runaround". It was included in his 1950 collection "I Robot". Not to be confused with the Will Smith movie of the same name. There have been many ESIs in science fiction, maybe the most notable the beloved Data in Star Trek.
While the "I Robot" movie used many of the ideas from Asimov's work, it decided the ultimate result was bad for humanity, and was a cautionary tale extolling the danger of creating machines that can think. That is a common theme through out science fiction. The 1960 novel "Collossus", 1968 "2001: A Space Odyssey" 1974 "Deathloc", 1987 "Robocop", all warn of the dangers of computers that can think. Albeit, in most cases the the thinking computer was not the bad guy.
As far as Asimov and his vision, for the very distant future, it was just the opposite. The thinking computer was the salvation of the human race. Starting with "The Caves of Steel" and the character R. Daneel Olivaw in 1953 through "The Robots of Dawn" in 1984 and "Robots and Empire" in 1986, Asimov's thinking machines were helping mankind. They did develop the Zeroth Law. (which was stated correctly in the movie) A robot may not harm humanity, or through inaction allow humanity to come to harm. I'm not sure how Hollywood saw that this could be interpreted to mean, robots would round up and imprison all humans, and kill those that didn't comply, and consider they were actually helping humanity.
No in "Robots and Empire" Asimov tied the Robot series with his Empire series and we found that the Zeroth law had forced the robots to hide, remove themselves from humanity's notice and control humanity from the shadows to help humans become a better version of themselves. Obviously we don't have and ESI's doing this for us now. But, even that thought is a bit scary, if they were working behind the scenes, how would we be sure they were benevolent?
I have never worried too much about this as I have believed that ESI was not obtainable in the near future, as binary computing is so different than the way the human synapse works, I doubt it could ever simulate a real thought process. To start with binary is, well binary, 0=off 1=on. Human synapse has 0=off, 1SM=on small molecule neurotransmitter, 2N=on Neuropeptide, 3O=on other small molecule transmitters. It would take a minimum of two, but realistically three bits of binary to even image one synapse, But with the idea that it is really not just on/off in the synapse, there is an analog component to the amount of chemical, it is not just on or off. And that in reality in each classification of neurotransmitter, there are dozens of different chemicals that may cause the transmission to be different, in reality it would take a vast, unattainable number of binary connections to actually recreate the process of even one synapse. And we have around 450 trillion synapse in the human brain.
Now in comes quantum computing and we find that there is a level of gray area in the on/off state of a Qbit, a perceived analog component. Whoa, have we made the step. Do I have to worry about this again? So I did a little research and math. Not saying it is a 100% but I think it is close enough to move forward. So going back and giving the benefit to the doubt, and saying the gray area might compensate for the analog and multiple chemicals of the synapse, and that 2 Qbits may simulate the 4 base states of the synapse, what is the potential for producing a Quantum computer that would have the power to simulate the brain? Well, with current technology they have designed a Quantum computer the size if a foot ball stadium that would have 2 billion Qbits, with a processing speed that is almost unfathomable. Of course the have not built it yet. So it would be like a brain with 1 billion synapses. Brain power between a bumble bee and a coackroach. That's a really big cockroach.
With the human brain having 450 trillion synapses, and with the other theory (which I don't know enough to elaborate on) that thoughts are not created in the synapses, only transmitted there, for now I think I will go back to not worrying. Things could change, but for now it seems to me, the odds are we will destroy ourselves, the planet, get hit by a meteor, or be invaded by aliens before we actually develop ESI. Certainly, with a little luck, I should at least be able to produce 10 or 15 volumes in the Mind Candy Series before the ESI take over.
So I will say, good by Data, as much as I love you, you're not realistic.