Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Some Quantum Computing Musings

The above video details Marvin  (The Paranoid Android). It's an example imagination of a future time when humankind has developed Artificial Intelligence sufficient to create a robot than can meaningfully (if rather grumpily) interact with us.

This post talks about Quantum Computing and Artificial Intelligence.  Today these two topics are often lumped together; because there is a notion that given an infinite amount of Computing power, that some say Quantum computing could provide, we could then be in a position to write computer programs that would simulate human behaviour and so transform the world.    So what exactly is Quantum Computing?   Read On.

Old Fart Credentials
I spent over a full year of my time on a Masters level Engineering course on a project focused on Artificial Intelligence  (AI) .  In those days  (and without explicitly dating it, because the Languages I disclose will) the push in Europe was to try and compete with the Japanese 5th Generation Computer Project.  In Essence the idea was that massive parallel computers and software constructions like Expert Systems might one day lead towards thinking machines. My 'Expert System' had some Lisp language underpinnings but was finally developed in Prolog.   The system was to react to failures in the UK Electrical Power Distribution system and advise Operations Departments so that they could take further action.

And when I left it, all was going well.  But the Japanese initiative fizzled out and the moniker of Expert systems too.  

So when I hear about Quantum Computing and links to AI believe me I am bloody sceptical!

Bottom Up Analysis
To give my judgement on a current Computer Paradigm I like to understand things from the base up.   The fact that the rate of increase in computer power based on traditional Von Neumann is slowing slowing, and that that Quantum Cubit powers are advancing don't mean much:  unless I actually understand what a Cubit is, what is Superposition, and also how exactly a Quantum computer is built and programmed.

So in this short post I'll cover that 

Some Philosophy

Computerphile: Turing Test

The Alan Turing test was a test whereby a human person is interacting with a remote computer using a series of written questions and answers.  The idea is that if the entity at the remote end is able to have a meaningful conversation with you, indistinguishable from a real human, the mindful enquirer for an extended period then it  (the thing, say a remote computer would pass the Turing test).

Alexa, Google Home, and maybe Siri & Cortana

In the last 2 years Marcus and Agata have seen and used and become part of the Community that uses and relies on Digital Assistants.   Every light in our new UK home is controlled via Alexa.  We have cameras and locks and motorised Blinds.  But, there is a big but.

- Although Alexa responds to my voice and answers questions, and controls hardware, this is impressive but not intelligence, and certainly not consciousness

- You can perform a thought experiment quite easily

- Alexa2 has perfect understanding of what I say and access to all the worlds information without error, plus some means to physically interact with the world

- Can we reasonably ask Alexa2 to 

Find a a cure to Cancer or Alzheimer?  No

Perform a complex medical Operation?  Yes

Solve our UK Energy Crisis?  No

Design new Electric Cars?  No

Neural Networks & Deep Learning

Here are 2 Educational videos that will actually explain something:

Deep Learning

Convolutional Neural Networks

At the end of this viewing I hope you understand that computers with access to enough data can analyse it to come to certain truths and perhaps then make decisions based on them.

Hands On

A good summary video including links to getting started yourself for free. Please also refer to this related web page

Artificial Intelligence (AI) including Philosophy

As an AI practitioner in 1984 I still remember and would point Quantum computing fanboys and fangirls to the 6 programs forming the

Reeth Lecture 1984 

This is 6, 30 minute lectures, i.e. 3 hours.  Not such a big ask right?  Please listen and discuss with a friend.

So What EXACTLY is a Quantum Computer

First you need to watch the entire video.  Then  start again and focus on

04.00 Explaining Superposition

07.20 What it is actually made from

From the above video:

The quantum computer is simulating an atom

It is controlled via Microwaves

It has to be supercooled to work.

It is extremely space inefficient.  How large would a 2 billion cubit Computer be.  Because a 2 billion transister computer chip can fit on my fingernail.

Existing Parallel Computer Architectures

Pi Parallel Compute at Cornell

750 Pi Parallel

Is there a Quantum / AI Future?

To Marcus here are the constant limiting factors that I have not seen any change in since 1980's

- Nobody has devised a computer program which by any reasonable definition thinks and learns and forms a sentient intelligence.

Until such time as programmer-kind does so it's irrelevant how much faster any computer Von Neumann or Quantum becomes

- I see that Qubit Architectures mean the number of parallel operations that are performed.  I can quite literally do that in software!   How many hundred or thousand program forks or a processes do you want me to run, on a single (non Quantum) computer?

- To me the Quantum computer current Achilles heel is that it is not miniaturised.    Even a small cubit computer takes up the size of an office.  A single complex Digital CPU can already contain 10 billion transistors.  Now there is the difference in packaging!

- Quantum computers need their internals to be  cooled to 0.015Kelvin, colder than Outer Space.   This design limits large scale implementation, oh, and also cost effectiveness

- Quantum  Computing advocates can project a bright future as the number of Qubits increases at the current exponential rate.  By why wouldn't it plateau just like for traditional Neumann computing?  Indeed if its based on Supercooled environments, then practically we'd have to put these computers in Space, and that's gone practically nowhere [In 1977 we experienced Star Wars and thought that this could be a near future. 40 years later we didn't even establish a base on our closest moon.  Pathetic!]

I give the current state, the Quantum State :-) of computing a low 1/10.  Must try harder [and deliver results within next 5 years] or you will join the Japanese 5th Gen Computing Project in the /did not go anywhere/ bin

Regarding AI: Today, as in 1980 Computer Power is not the issue.  It is the programming or design of a computer system with Consciousness.

Further Listening
Making Sense: Consciousness

John Searle: Minds and Brains
Quantum Programming

Some Algorithms