Here comes another bit of the future-it could be scary

It is easy to laugh at nostalgia addicts, who bury themselves in the past because the present is bewildering and the future fearsome. Well, we think they are absolutely right. Because coming down the tracks is a piece of future so awesome that it puts the invention of bronze tools on about the same level of significance as the June 1973 edition of Smash Hits. It’s called quantum computing and it could give us computing abilities millions of times faster than today’s supercomputers.

We assume most of you will know the basics. It’s all based on everyday run of the mill quantum mechanical phenomena like superposition and entanglement, which will let us solve those tricky little problems like integer factorization and RSA encryption. Alright, we haven’t got a clue either, so here’s a link to a splendid Wikipedia article which does*

Writing in El Pais (attention all Brits, Catalans, Basques and Galicians- you’ll need your translator) Patricia Fernandez de Lis* describes how the heat is on. In Santa Barbara, Google have actually got one to work, if only foe three minutes and twenty seconds. But hey, wasn’t that longer than the Wright brothers? While over in New York, IBM are hard at it too. Governments are also being busy bees-the usual suspects are China, the USA and the EU via CERN. So we get faster downloads of your favourite movies like Footloose and Ice Age XXVI. What’s not to like?

Well, up to now, we, that is to say Homo sapiens, have been the cleverest thing on the planet. We come out top on IQ tests, not those smelly chimps and cuddly killer whales. Remember the one about the stupid farmer, the sack of grain and the goose, or something? No parrot could solve that! And what about adding the next three negative integers in a fibonnacci sequence- can you see an eagle handling that? No we’re Homo sapiens, buddy, the wise ones. Look at us, and admire. Please?

In his rather readable book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century *Israeli futurologist Yural Noah Harari gives many pages to his disquiet about the arrival of artificial intelligence. It’s quicker than us. It knows more. It learns better. Governments can use it to spy on you in the toilet. Combine that with the new superpower of quantum computing, and we could start to look very past it indeed.

Anyone for a return to nostalgia?

Yual Noah Harari 21 Lessons for the 21st Century Vintage

#quantumcomputing #artificialintelligence #nostalgia #encryption

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