Modern computers are reaching their limits. Switching and memory units (transistors) are now almost the size of atoms! Our current pocket computers have the same power as a military computer from 50 years ago, except the military ones were the size of an entire room.
Standard computers have helped us do many amazing things such as the world wide web and were truly an advancement in human progress. But really, current computers are general-purpose number crunching machines that execute a set of prewritten instructions. Computers are still just calculators that use a sequence of bits, values of 0 and 1 to represent two states. Think of these bits working like an on/off light switch.
But now, we are reaching early stages of Quantum Computing (based off quantum physics). Instead of being on or off like a light switch, quantum computing has Qubits, which are more like a sexy dimmer switch. Qubits can be any possible combination of on, off or anywhere in between. Qubits can be simultaneously at 0 and 1.
Because quantum bits can lie in multiple states, quantum computers will be millions of times faster than even the most powerful supercomputers that are in existence today, as they can solve multiple problems simultaneously. For humanity this means solving problems that I thought may not have been possible within our lifetime. This includes creating life saving medicines, real conversation with AI, more energy efficient materials and an array of other issues.
Some problems humanity have faced are still way beyond our reach and there are still some problems that would take longer than the universe has existed to solve. Quantum computers are believed to be able to solve problems in seconds that would take our current computers thousands of years to solve. As the world progresses and the need for data storage increases, there is a need for more ones and zeros with the transistors to process them. We produce 2.5 exabytes of data every day, the equivalent of filling up the storage of 5 million laptops.
How will this affect Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence?
Well, if you were already worried about the rise of robots, don’t read this next bit.
Quantum computers will essentially be able to enhance our current machine learning systems at an incredibly fast rate. Elon Musk was right – we are only going to accelerate the process of super advanced AI (if you have time, watch Elon scare Joe Rogan and smoke a fat boi) . If AI ‘only’ reaches the same level of intelligence as us, it’s ability to operate at a far higher speed means that in 6 months it would have effectively operated for our equivalent of 500,000 years (or 2 years each minute). A computer’s ability to operate computationally is already millions of times quicker than humans are able to comprehend. This could be a huge barrier to our operation alongside them. All the while, this is only with our current computing power.
Quantum Computing means AI will learn at a super fast rate and deep machine learning will be able to accelerate. Deep learning means algorithms structure themselves in layers to create an “artificial neural network” that can learn and make intelligent decisions on its own. Once quantum computers have successfully progressed enough, they could develop what people would rather steer clear of: artificial intelligence, consciousness and emotion. Quantum computing can help us better understand how the mind and brain works, which could result in humanity designing a replica. AI will become less artificial and more versatile. However, this is an extremely long time away. What does this mean for humanity though? No one really knows if super advanced AI will affect us in a positive or negative way.
For now, the early stages of quantum computing is about speeding up the learning systems we already have in place. Machine learning is recognizing patterns within data and with quantum power, this could be recognizing patterns we would have never seen with traditional computers. The early applications of this technology could be a super smart Siri/Alexa or self driving cars becoming the safest vehicle on the road. Further into the future it will be able to solve complex medical problems and climate change plus improve engineering, energy systems and biometrics. There is also speculation that deep learning and other forms of Artificial Intelligence will be used to study problems of chemistry and physics, because simulation is expensive or impractical. Quantum Computers will likely slaughter their classical ancestors.
At this present time, quantum computers are not intended to replace classical computers, they are expected to be a different tool we will use to solve complex problems that are beyond the capabilities of a classical computer. Our phones are sufficient for now. We don’t have to feel guilty quite yet about not being able to solve humanity’s problems.