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Within Holistic Quantum Relativity lies the realm of the human mind
and the observable universe running like Quantum Computers: this technological
synthesis offers the possibility of solving what computer science calls
"NP-complete" problems. Last week D-Wave Systems, a privately-held
Canadian firm Headquartered near Vancouver, BC, demonstrated what it
calls the world's first commercially viable Quantum Computer at the
Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. These are problems
which are impossible or nearly impossible to calculate on a classical
digital computer. Picking out a single pattern from a collection of
patterns, such as one's mother, father, or child, from a photo of people,
is easy for the human mind, but beyond the reach of a conventional desk-top
The key step in quantum computing is to harness the entanglement of
different particles -- what Albert Einstein called the "spooky
action at a distance" -- that allows one particle to affect another
somewhere else. Orion of D-Wave Systems does this by using rings of
current flowing through superconductors. The current can flow clockwise,
counter clockwise or, significantly, both directions at once, allowing
it to hold two values simultaneously due to quantum mechanical strangeness.
Last week, Canadian company D-Wave Systems demonstrated a 16-qubit,
specific-purpose quantum computer to a room packed with observers and
thick with doubt and awe. Reporters watched as the machine solved a
Sudoku puzzle and a seating arrangements problem, and, most impressively,
searched for molecules similar to the drug Prilosec from a database
The machine is programmed by changing the magnetic conditions around
quantum bits, or "qubits," creating relationships between
them that model the physical embodiment of the equation the programmer
is trying to solve. The results are read by detecting the direction
of the current within the qubit when the calculations are complete.
But significant challenges confront D-Wave in building a useful quantum
computer. A key part of making a practical machine will be error correction
-- something Orion doesn't do yet, and which requires many more qubits
than are currently feasible. Right now, Orion runs its calculations
multiple times and determines which answer has the highest probability
of being right.
Moreover, scaling up a quantum computer might cause it to lose "coherence,"
ie the entanglement of a distant particle might fail when you introduce
too many qubits. Nobody's certain. Finally, engineering the whole system
to be fast enough for practical use and modular enough to deploy at
a customer's site remain daunting problems, even if the laws of Quantum
Mechanics decide to play along.
Quantum computing offers the potential to create value in areas where
problems or requirements exceed the capability of digital computing.
But D-Wave notes that its new device is intended as a complement to
conventional computers, not as a replacement for them. The demo aimed
to show how the machine can run commercial applications and solve problems
that severely challenge conventional (digital) computers.
Although many scientists believe that quantum computing may be many
years from reality, D-Wave intends to offer its technology for sale
next year. It's no surprise, then, that D-Wave's event caused quite
a stir and caught the attention of journalists from a wide range of
Primer on Quantum Computing
Quantum computers (QCs) use quantum mechanics (QM), the rules that
underlie the behaviour of matter and energy in the physical world and
observable universe, to accelerate computation. It has been known for
some time that once some simple features of QM are harnessed, machines
will be built capable of outperforming any conceivable conventional
QCs are not just faster than conventional computers. They change what
computer scientists call the computational scaling of many problems.
In 1936, mathematician Alan Turing published a famous paper that addressed
the problem of computability. His thesis was that all computers were
equivalent, and could all be simulated by each other. By extension,
a problem was either computable or not, regardless of what computer
it was run on. This paper led to the concept of the Universal Turing
Machine, an idealized model of a computer to which all computers are
We now know that Turing was only partially correct. Not all computers
are equivalent. His work was based on an assumption - that computation
and information were abstract entities, divorced from the rules of physics
governing the behaviour of the computer itself.
One of the most important developments in modern science is the realization
that information (and computation) can never exist in the abstract.
Information is always tied to the physical stuff upon which it is written.
What is possible to compute is completely determined by the rules of
Turing's work, and conventional computer science, are only valid if
a computer obeys the rules of Newtonian physics - the set of rules that
apply to large and hot things, like baseballs and humans. If elements
of a computer behave according to different rules, such as the rules
of QM, this assumption fails and many very interesting possibilities
As an example, consider the modelling of a nanosized structure, such
as a drug molecule, using conventional (ie, non-quantum) computers.
Solving the Schrödinger Equation (SE), the fundamental description
of matter at the QM level, more than doubles in difficulty for every
electron in the molecule. This is called exponential scaling, and prohibits
solution of the SE for systems greater than about 30 electrons. A single
caffeine molecule has more than 100 electrons, making it roughly 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000 times harder to solve than a 30-electron system,
which itself makes even high-end supercomputers choke.
This restriction makes first-principles modelling of molecular structures
impossible, and has historically defined the boundary between physics
(where the SE can be solved by brute force) and chemistry (where it
cannot, and empirical modelling and human creativity must take over).
Quantum computers are capable of solving the SE with linear scaling
exponentially faster and with exponentially less hardware than conventional
computers. For a QC, the difficulty in solving the SE increases by a
small, fixed amount for every electron in a system. Even very primitive
QCs will be able to outperform supercomputers in simulating nature.
Even more significant, as QC technology matures, systems containing
hundreds, thousands, even millions of electrons will be able to be modelled
by the direct, brute force solution of the SE. This means that the fundamental
equations of nature will be solvable for all nanoscale systems, with
no approximations and no fudge factors. Results of these virtual reality
simulations will be indistinguishable from what is seen in the real
world, assuming that QM is an accurate picture of nature.
This type of simulation, by direct solution of the fundamental laws
of nature, will become the backbone of engineering design in the nanotech
regime where quantum mechanics reigns.
Does Quantum Computing have a future?
Excerpts of Interview with Prof David Deutsch, Father of QC, by
To cut through the fog, Wired News sought out the father of Quantum
Computing, Oxford University theoretical physicist Prof David Deutsch.
Prof Deutsch is a leading proponent of the theory of Quantum Computing.
Wired News pulled him away from dinner to talk about what a quantum
computer really is, what it's good for and what D-Wave's announcement
might mean for the future.
Wired News (WN): D-Wave announced 16 qubits, and they want people to
play with them, so they're talking about having a web API where people
can try to port their own applications and see how it works. Do you
think that's a good approach to gaining some acceptability and mind
share for the idea of quantum computing?
David Deutsch: I think the field doesn't need acceptability. The idea
will either be valid, or not. The claim will either be true, or not.
I think that the normal processes of scientific criticism, peer review
and just general discussion in the scientific community is going to
test this idea -- provided enough information is given of what this
idea is. That will be quite independent of what kind of access they
provide to the public.
However, I think the idea of providing an interface such as you describe
is a very good one. I think it's a wonderful idea....
WN: Can you give a couple of examples of what kind of things can be
done with quantum computing that either can't be done, or can't be done
practically, with classical computing?
Deutsch: The most important application of quantum computing in the
future is likely to be a computer simulation of quantum systems, because
that's an application where we know for sure that quantum systems in
general cannot be efficiently simulated on a classical computer. This
is an application where the quantum computer is ideally suited.
Perhaps in the long run, as nanotechnology becomes quantum technology,
that will be a very important generic application.
Another thing I should say is, that application is the only one of
the major applications -- apart from quantum cryptography, by the way,
which is already implemented and is really in a different category --
that might be amenable to a non-general purpose quantum computer. That
is to say, a special-purpose quantum computer.
WN: Can you talk a little about the importance of simulating quantum
systems, and give an example?
Deutsch: Yes. Whenever we design a complex piece of technology we need
to simulate it, either in theory by working out the equations that govern
it, or as a computer simulation, by running a program on the computer
whose motion mimics that of the real system.
But when we come to designing quantum systems, we're going to have
to simulate the behaviour of quantum super positions, which is, in Many
Universes terms, when an object is doing different things in different
universes. On a classical computer you'd have to work out what every
single one of those was, and then combine them in the end with the equations
governing quantum interference.
WN: And that becomes computationally impossible?
Deutsch: That becomes infeasible very, very quickly, once you've got
more than three, four, five particles involved, whereas a quantum computer
could mimic such a process directly by itself doing that number of computations
simultaneously in different universes. So it is naturally adapted to
that kind of simulation, if we wanted to work out, let's say, the exactly
properties of a given molecule.
Some people have suggested this might be useful for designing new drugs,
but we don't know if that's the case or not. Although quantum processes
are needed in general for atomic and molecular scale properties, not
all of them (need quantum processes). An example of that is we've been
able to do a lot of biotechnology without having any quantum simulators.
WN: Do you think a quantum computer could eventually build a slightly
more macro simulation, something like an immune system, in order to
see how it interacts with a drug?
Deutsch: No, that's not what it would be used for. It would be used
for smaller things, not things on a larger scale than a molecule, but
things on a smaller scale. Small molecules and interactions within an
atom, subtle differences between different isotopes, that sort of thing.
And of course things on an even smaller scale than that. Nuclear physics,
and also artificial, atomic-sized things which will be used in nanotechnology.
Of which at the moment the only ones planned are quantum computers.
Of course quantum computer designing other quantum computers is undoubtedly
going to be one of the applications.
WN: The other field I can see ... this revolutionizing is materials
Deutsch: Yes, yes. Again we don't know how revolutionary it will be,
but certainly on the small scale, it will be indispensable.
WN: What would you like to see the field trying to do?
Deutsch: I'm probably the wrong person to ask that because my own interest
in this field is not really technological. To me quantum computation
is a new and deeper and better way to understand the laws of physics,
and hence understanding physical reality as a whole. We are really only
scratching the surface of what it is telling us about the nature of
the laws of physics. That's the kind of direction that I'm pursuing.
The pleasant thing about that is that can be done before one even makes
a quantum computer. The theoretical conclusions are already there, and
we can work on them already. It's not that I don't think technological
applications are important, but I watch them as an eager spectator rather
WN: For your purposes, the importance of quantum computing is in the
general case more than in the specific-use case.
Deutsch: Yes. The fact that the laws of physics permit themselves to
be simulated by a quantum computer is a deep fact about the nature of
the universe that we will have to understand more deeply in the future.
WN: How do you think using quantum computers will change how people
think about computing, and consequently the universe and nature?
Deutsch: "How they will think about it" is the relevant phrase
here. This is a philosophical and psychological question you're asking.
You're not asking a question about the physics or the logic of the situation.
I think that when universal quantum computers are finally achieved
technologically, and when they are routinely performing computations
where there is simply more going on there than a classical computer
or even the whole universe acting as a computer could possibly achieve,
then people will get very impatient and bored, I think, with attempts
to say that those computations don't really happen, and that the equations
of quantum mechanics are merely ways of expressing what the answer would
be but not how it was obtained.
The programmers will know perfectly well how it was obtained, and they
will have programmed the steps that will have obtained it. The fact
that answers are obtained from a quantum computer that couldn't be obtained
any other way will make people take seriously that the process that
obtained them was objectively real.
Nothing more than that is needed to lead to the conclusion that there
are parallel universes, because that is specifically how quantum computers
WN: So what prompted you to start thinking about quantum computing?
Deutsch: This goes back a long way before I even thought of general
purpose quantum computing. I was thinking about the relationship between
computing and physics.... This was back in the 1970s....
It had been said, ever since the parallel universes theory had been
invented by Everett in the 1950s, that there's no experimental difference
between it and the various (theories), like the Copenhagen interpretation,
that try to deny that all but one of the universes exist.
Although it had been taken for granted that there was no experimental
difference, in fact, there is -- provided the observer can be analyzed
as part of the quantum system. But you can only do that if the observer
is implemented on quantum hardware, so I postulated this quantum hardware
that was running an artificial intelligence program, and as a result
was able to concoct an experiment which would give one output from an
observer's point of view if the parallel universes theory was true,
and a different outcome if only a single universe existed.
This device that I postulated is what we would now call a quantum computer,
but because I wasn't particularly thinking about computers, I didn't
call it that, and I didn't really start thinking about quantum computation
as a process until several years later. That lead to my suggesting the
universal quantum computer and proving its properties in the mid-'80s.
WN: How many qubits (does it take) to make the general-purpose quantum
Deutsch: I think the watershed moment with quantum computer technology
will be when a quantum computer -- a universal quantum computer -- exceeds
about 100 to 200 qubits.
Now when I say qubits, I have to stress that the term qubit hasn't
got a very precise definition at the moment, and I've been arguing for
a long time that the physics community ought to get together and decide
on some criteria for different senses for the word qubit. What I mean
here is a qubit which is capable of being in any quantum state, and
is capable of undergoing any kind of entanglement with another qubit
of the same technology, and all those conditions are actually necessary
to make a fully fledged quantum computer.
If you relax any one of the those conditions it's much easier to implement
in physics. For instance, if you call something a qubit but it can only
be entangled with qubits of a different technology, then it's much easier
to build. But of course a thing like that can't be made part of a computer
memory. (With) computer memory you need lots of identical ones.
There's also the question of error correction. The one physical qubit
is probably not enough to act as a qubit in genuine quantum computation,
because of the problem of errors and decoherence. So you need to implement
quantum error correction, and quantum error correction is going to require
several physical qubits for every logical qubit of the computer. When
I said you need 100 to 200, that probably means several hundred, or
perhaps 1,000 or more, physical qubits.
WN: To get an effective 100 or 200 qubits.
Deutsch: Yes, and that is what would have to count as the watershed
for quantum computation, for being a distinctive new technology with
its own genuine uses.
WN: That's actually D-Wave's stated goal as well: essentially 1,000
qubits in two years. Do you think engineering-wise, and this is not
completely within your realm, they will be able to maintain enough coherence
at that level to create a practical computer.
Deutsch: As you said that really isn't my field. Maintaining coherence
itself isn't quite enough. They've got to maintain coherence in the
operation that I spoke of; that is, the arbitrary superposition, the
arbitrary entanglement, and so on....
I don't know. The technologies I've seen so far have got way fewer
than 1,000. They've got way fewer than 16. I always have to ask whether
the claimed number of qubits are qubits that I would count as qubits
by these stringent criteria, or whether it's merely two-state systems
that can in some sense act in a quantum way. Because that's a much more
WN: I don't have the sophistication to answer that, for D-Wave at least.
If I were to ask you to cast your mind forward, saying everything goes
well, what does a world that combines ubiquitous quantum computing and
classical computing look like? And you've said that quantum computing
would never replace classical computing.
Deutsch: It's not anywhere near as big a revolution as, say, the internet,
or the introduction of computers in the first place. The practical application,
from a ordinary consumer's point of view, are just quantitative.
One field that will be revolutionized is cryptography. All, or nearly
all, existing cryptographic systems will be rendered insecure, and even
retrospectively insecure, in that messages sent today, if somebody keeps
them, will be possible to decipher ... with a quantum computer as soon
as one is built.
Most fields won't be revolutionized in that way.
Fortunately, the already existing technology of quantum cryptography
is not only more secure than any existing classical system, but it's
invulnerable to attack by a quantum computer. Anyone who cares sufficiently
much about security ought to be instituting quantum cryptography wherever
it's technically feasible.
Apart from that, as I said, mathematical operations will become easier.
Algorithmic search is the most important one, I think. Computers will
become a little bit faster, especially in certain applications. Simulating
quantum systems will become important because quantum technology will
become important generally, in the form of nanotechnology.
WN: If we have practical nanotechnology, I imagine that's a huge change.
Deutsch: Nanotechnology has the potential of making a huge change.
But the only involvement of quantum computers is that it will make it
easier to design nanotechnological devices. Apart from that I don't
think it's a big technological revolution.
What it is though, philosophically, is taking a quantum world view.
That is rather a revolution, but that could happen today and the only
reason it has been sluggish in happening is psychological, and maybe
quantum computers will help with this psychological process. That's
a very indirect phenomenon.
WN: It does allow people to play with it, and they often get things
better when they play with them.
Deutsch: That's true.
WN: I wanted to ask you to describe your book a bit.
Deutsch: You'll remember I said for me the most important thing about
quantum computation is the way it shows us the deep connections between
physics on the one hand and computation on the other, which were previously
suspected by only a few pioneers like Rolf Landauer of IBM.
My book [The Fabric of Reality] is about this connection between computation
and fundamental physics, between those two apparently unconnected fields....
To me, (that connection is) part of a wider thing, where there are also
two other strands, the theory of knowledge and the theory of evolution.
The Fabric of Reality is my attempt to say that a world view formed
out of those four strands is the deepest knowledge that we currently
have about the world.
Sceptics point out, though, that D-Wave has not published its work
in peer-reviewed journals yet. So doubts abound concerning whether the
company is demonstrating true quantum computing. Perhaps that is why,
D-Wave's CEO Herb Martin has emphasized that the Orion machine is "not
a true quantum computer and is instead a kind of special-purpose machine
that uses some quantum mechanics to solve problems." Meantime D-Wave
plans to answer doubters by offering a Web-based interface that allows
people to try out the technology on their own applications.
Holistic Quantum Relativity Background
For those who wish to understand the genesis of this Socratic Dialogue
on IntentBlog, which has led to the preliminary efforts towards Holistic
Quantum Relativity (HQR), please visit the following strings in sequence:
Rumi: 2007 is his 800th Anniversary!
Force, Sub-nuclear Physics & Love of Rumi
Embracing Science, Art and Spirituality!
Holistics: Hegel's Logic, Spirit and Mind
Holistics: Hegel Triangles & Unified Pyramid
Pyramid, Sahasrara, Sri Yantra, Creation
Relativity: Spiritual Planes & Consciousness
Quantum Relativity: Spirituality and Science
Quantum Relativity Project: Glossary
Quantum Relativity Evolution on IntentBlog
Tagore Einstein: Science, Spirituality & Music
Albert Einstein Quotes on Spirituality
HH Master Kirpal -- Nature of Thought
HH Master Kirpal -- Indira Gandhi & Quotes
Quantum Physics -- The Holotropic State
Bringing All Together & Another Perspective
Similar information in a more accessible format is available from The
Alliance for a New Humanity's Global Wiki Project
This is presented as an amalgam from a number of sources with attendant
errors and omissions.
We look forward to your further thoughts, observations and views.
For and on behalf of DK Matai, Chairman, Asymmetric Threats Contingency