However, as Malcolm Murdock, machine-learning engineer and author of the 2019 novel The Quantum Price, puts it, “AI doesn’t have to be sentient to kill us all. There are plenty of other scenarios that will wipe us out before sentient AI becomes a problem.”
“We are entering dangerous and uncharted territory with the rise of surveillance and tracking through data, and we have almost no understanding of the potential implications.” —Andrew Lohn, Georgetown University.
In interviews with AI experts, IEEE Spectrum has uncovered six real-world AI worst-case scenarios that are far more mundane than those depicted in the movies. But they’re no less dystopian. And most don’t require a malevolent dictator to bring them to full fruition. Rather, they could simply happen by default, unfolding organically—that is, if nothing is done to stop them. To prevent these worst-case scenarios, we must abandon our pop-culture notions of AI and get serious about its unintended consequences.
Quantum computing is finally making its presence felt among companies around the world. Over the last few years, companies have shown interest in quantum computing but often couldn’t make definitive decisions on using the technology, as there was not enough research on its practical applications beyond the theoretical.
While the US and China continue to compete with each other for supremacy in this evolving branch of computing, other countries and organizations around the world have slowly been playing catch up as well. And now, 2022 is expected to be the year whereby companies can start seeing quantum computing breakthroughs that could result in practical uses.
Here’s a brain teaser for you: scientists are suggesting spacetime may be made out of individual “spacetime pixels,” instead of being smooth and continuous like it seems.
Rana Adhikari, a professor of physics at Caltech, suggested in a new press blurb that these pixels would be “so small that if you were to enlarge things so that it becomes the size of a grain of sand, then atoms would be as large as galaxies.”
Adhikari’s goal is to reconcile the conventional laws of physics, as determined by general relativity, with the more mysterious world of quantum physics.
Sand dunes seen from afar seem smooth and unwrinkled, like silk sheets spread across the desert. But a closer inspection reveals much more. As you approach the dunes, you may notice ripples in the sand. Touch the surface and you would find individual grains. The same is true for digital images: zoom far enough into an apparently perfect portrait and you will discover the distinct pixels that make the picture.
Quantum computers will not be general-purpose machines, though. They will be able to solve some calculations that are completely intractable for current computers and dramatically speed up processing for others. But many of the things they excel at are niche problems, and they will not replace conventional computers for the vast majority of tasks.
That means the ability to benefit from this revolution will be highly uneven, which prompted analysts at McKinsey to investigate who the early winners could be in a new report. They identified the pharmaceutical, chemical, automotive, and financial industries as those with the most promising near-term use cases.
The authors take care to point out that making predictions about quantum computing is hard because many fundamental questions remain unanswered; for instance, the relative importance of the quantity and quality of qubits or whether there can be practical uses for early devices before they achieve fault tolerance.
Warp drive. Site-to-site transporter technology. A vast network of interstellar wormholes that take us to bountiful alien worlds. Beyond a hefty holiday wish-list, the ideas presented to us in sci-fi franchises like Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek” have inspired countless millions to dream of a time when humans have used technology to rise above the everyday limits of nature, and explore the universe.
But to guarantee the shortest path to turning at least some of these ideas into genuine scientific breakthroughs, we need to push ideas like general relativity to the breaking point. Tractor beams, one of the most exotic ideas proposed by the genre that involves manipulating space-time to pull or push objects at a distance, take us beyond the everyday paradigm of science, to the very edge of theoretical physics. And, a team of scientists examined how they might work in a recent study shared on a preprint server.
“In researching sci-fi ideas like tractor beams, the goal is to push and try to find a demarcation point where something more is needed, like quantum gravity,” said Sebastian Schuster, a scientist with a doctorate in mathematical physics from the Charles University of Prague, in an interview with IE. And, in finding out if tractor beams can work, we might also uncover even more exotic forces, like quantum gravity. So strap in.
Over the centuries, we have learned to put information into increasingly durable and useful form, from stone tablets to paper to digital media. Beginning in the 1980s, researchers began theorizing about how to store the information inside a quantum computer, where it is subject to all sorts of atomic-scale errors. By the 1990s they had found a few methods, but these methods fell short of their rivals from classical (regular) computers, which provided an incredible combination of reliability and efficiency.
Now, in a preprint posted on November 5, Pavel Panteleev and Gleb Kalachev of Moscow State University have shown that — at least, in theory — quantum information can be protected from errors just as well as classical information can. They did it by combining two exceptionally compatible classical methods and inventing new techniques to prove their properties.
“It’s a huge achievement by Pavel and Gleb,” said Jens Eberhardt of the University of Wuppertal in Germany.
The world we experience is governed by classical physics. How we move, where we are, and how fast we’re going are all determined by the classical assumption that we can only exist in one place at any one moment in time.
But in the quantum world, the behavior of individual atoms is governed by the eerie principle that a particle’s location is a probability. An atom, for instance, has a certain chance of being in one location and another chance of being at another location, at the same exact time.
When particles interact, purely as a consequence of these quantum effects, a host of odd phenomena should ensue. But observing such purely quantum mechanical behavior of interacting particles amid the overwhelming noise of the classical world is a tricky undertaking.
Scientists have come closer than ever before to creating a laboratory-scale imitation of a black hole that emits Hawking radiation, the particles predicted to escape black holes due to quantum mechanical effects.
The black hole analogue, reported in Nature Physics1, was created by trapping sound waves using an ultra cold fluid. Such objects could one day help resolve the so-called black hole ‘information paradox’ — the question of whether information that falls into a black hole disappears forever.
The physicist Stephen Hawking stunned cosmologists 40 years ago when he announced that black holes are not totally black, calculating that a tiny amount of radiation would be able to escape the pull of a black hole2. This raised the tantalising question of whether information might escape too, encoded within the radiation.
The fundamental forces of physics govern the matter comprising the Universe, yet exactly how these forces work together is still not fully understood. The existence of Hawking radiation — the particle emission from near black holes — indicates that general relativity and quantum mechanics must cooperate. But directly observing Hawking radiation from a black hole is nearly impossible due to the background noise of the Universe, so how can researchers study it to better understand how the forces interact and how they integrate into a “Theory of Everything”?
According to Haruna Katayama, a doctoral student in Hiroshima University’s Graduate School of Advanced Science and Engineering, since researchers cannot go to the Hawking radiation, Hawking radiation must be brought to the researchers. She has proposed a quantum circuit that acts as a black hole laser, providing a lab-bench black hole equivalent with advantages over previously proposed versions. The proposal was published on Sept. 27 Scientific Reports.
“In this study, we devised a quantum-circuit laser theory using an analogue black hole and a white hole as a resonator,” Katayama said.