Mankind has been scared to death of the possibility that machines could think ever since the jack-in-the-box was invented. Today we are moving into an era where one might actually become concerned. Australian and American physicists just announced that they have succeeded in building a transistor out of a single atom of phosphorus.
The significance of this isn’t that it’s tiny, but because they say that it makes Quantum computing possible. Quantum mechanics gets complicated, so I’ll just hit the two big highlights. At the subatomic level, a particle exists simultaneously in all possible states, and the speed of light is not the speed limit under certain circumstances. Albert Einstein called this possibility “spooky”, and it is.
Because an subatomic particle has multiple states, you could in theory build a transistor that is much “smarter” than the simple “on and off” kind we have now. This would make them able to do really complex processes using a higher logic more like the human brain, and do it with relatively few transistors. Basically we’re talking a super computer that the size of a pin point, instead of filling a large room.
The really “spooky” part is that subatomic particles can be linked, or what physicists call “entangled”. Once linked in this way, when one particle is made to change its charge, the other one, which doesn’t need to be present, will change its corresponding charge instantaneously. No matter how far apart they are, no limit is know. Basically this is faster than light communication, and not just faster, it’s instant. A computer constructed this way would run really, really fast. It would also be error free, since there isn‘t any mechanical or electrical linkage. Just the spooky kind. This doesn’t violate Einstein’s speed of light rule (according to him, he did the math), but I’m not clear exactly why it doesn‘t.
All those sci fi stories about thinking machines will be possible some time in the future, possibly in the very near future.
Turn the crank and hear the pretty music, it‘s just a harmless box. www.prairie2.com