Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Diamond Memories and the Qubit

As I just returned from a Software Open Source/Science Fiction convention, I thought I'd make a post about the future of computers. While at the convention, I didn't have time to attend any of the technology panels, so I regret I can offer nothing from them. Instead, I thought I'd discuss quantum computers. Seems natural. :)

So what is a quantum computer? One quick way to sum it up is to say it is fast (bad pun there). But why it is fast is the key. There are varied reasons, but most important is perhaps the three states of data: on, off, qubit (also known as spin up, spin down, and qubit). That is to say, computer technology we use today is binary (2 states - on/off). But a quantum computer makes use of a strange quantum state of "on and off." For those familiar with Schrodinger's cat, it is the quantum state that is not determined until observed. Meaning the famous cat in the box is dead and alive at the same time until observed. Hmmm. My guess is that I'm not adding to the clarity.

Let's just move along. Quantum computers are fast. And they are fast because they have 3 states, and one state is very confusing to humans and material used for computer memory. This places the problem of making a quantum computer with finding something that can "hold" that 3rd state. "On" and "Off" are easy with low cost technology. But quantum flux states are difficult. And calculation speed is gained with that 3rd state (incredible speed). But this problem may be nearly solved. Diamonds happen to be capable of "remembering" the quantum flux state known as a "qubit" (between 1 and 0 state). This means diamonds could be used as memory for quantum computers, removing the need for super-cooling systems that other memory storage materials require. Better yet, artificial diamonds seem to work nearly as well as real diamonds. So, the present binary state computer that requires around one-million years to crack a encrypted message, will takes less than a minute with a quantum computer. Just imagine the fun the world can have with such a computer.

Not only does this open up the world of computing technology, allowing it to bound over the speed wall that has been encountered by present technology, but it makes quantum computers small, and less costly. I doubt they'll be available online or in stores any time soon, but we are one step closer to having personal super computers.

Perhaps the best example I can give (one that comes close) is the late Arthur C. Clarke's HAL 9000 computer. It used "holographic array logic" for it's super computing memory -a multi-state computer. I wonder if these means we'll have to be all the more careful about turning off our computers.


John Goodrich said...

Excellent. Now let the parade of insane artificial intelligences begin! Welcome, Skynet, AM, GLaDOS, and SHODAN!

Daniel J. Hogan said...

Hey William, thanks a lot for letting me sit at your table in the Dealer's Room, I really appreciated it.

I had fun being on panels with you again--and thanks for putting a link to my site on your blog.


Jeff Edwards said...

I know this is completely irrelevant, but your use of "qubit" immediately made me think of Q-Bert. I miss that little orange guy.


Charles Gramlich said...

What we'll have to be careful about is our computer turning "us" off.

William Jones said...

John - That's quite a range of dangerous AIs!

Daniel - You're welcome. It was nice to see you again and be on a panel again.

Jeff - Qubit does have the ring of "Q-Bert." "Qubit" is pronounced "cubit," from the ancient measurement. I have an idea that the little orange fellow's name came from what he was jumping around on.

Charles - Clever point! Computers that calculate outside of our time and space do seem a bit dangerous for humans to use or be around.

John Goodrich said...

William: Coincidentally, I've just finished playing Portal and am mulling over a story about mad AIs. I think there's something fundamentally wrong with the portrayal of fictional AIs, which will be the basis for the story.