1. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Quantum Computers (and Future Technologies)

    Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by T.Trian, Apr 30, 2014.

    So, since I know jack about computers and even less about quantum computers, I wanted to ask those who know a bit more:

    What kind of effects do you think the introduction of quantum computers will have on civilization? When do you think they will first be introduced (into commercial use)? How do you think they will change things like science (esp. medicine, astronomy etc), our daily lives, societies in general etc? The scope could be, say, in the next few decades up to a hundred years or so.

    I added the expansion in parentheses because I'd also like to hear predictions / discussion on brain-computer interfaces (MMIs, DNIs, STIs, BMIs, whatever you want to call it) and how soon do you think they will become a part of our daily lives, how they will change individual lives / societies etc.

    For instances, where do you think they will be used?
    -recreational purposes (controlling cell phones, computers, TVs, cars etc)
    -military purposes (controlling projectiles, vehicles etc)
    -medical purposes
    Other uses?

    The last thing I'd like to learn more about is nanotechnology:
    What kind of an effect do you think it will have on our daily lives when it becomes more common? How soon do you think we'll have nanorobots curing diseases, improving ballistic vests / clothing, removing stains from clothes etc. on a daily basis? What applications do you think will be among the first to be commercialized on a grander scale?

    I put this under "Science Fiction" because so much of it deals with the future and sci-fi, but I think it's best to give the discussion free reins as long as it's related to the subject.
     
  2. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, first and foremost—unless humanity finds another way to earn its living—nanobots doing the work people used to get paid to do will result in mass unemployment, poverty, and the disconnection of real people from the benefits of new technology.

    Technology is fine, but NOT when it's welded to a capitalist system that impoverishes most of the humans on earth. Eventually it will disappear up its own rear end anyway, because there won't be people with enough money to buy the stuff that keeps the enterprise ticking over.

    The economic angle of encroaching technology is its worst, most knotty problem. Simply put, the better technology gets, the more workers it displaces.

    We're already seeing the effects of this. ATMs and 'online banking' have shut so many bank branches that some small communities have NO physical bank at all any more. And when you do go into a branch bank, you'll be lucky to find one teller on duty, and maybe one or two people working in the background. That's all. Even IF all their former employees still have background jobs with the bank—and they don't—I can't imagine they'll be working to the same pay scale as before.

    Other people who used to have good jobs in manufacturing are now reduced to low-paid—often part-time—work in the 'service industry,' etc.

    This situation is just going to get worse. It's one problem technology itself is NOT going to solve.

    I think anybody who writes futuristic sci-fi needs to address this issue.

    I'm not against technology. It can truly make our lives easier in some respects—IF it were universally available and universally affordable. But the issue of who owns what, and who gets paid what, and for doing what, needs to be sorted before we dive into this thing whole-hog.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2014
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  3. AJC
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    AJC Active Member

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    This is my first time breaking up a quote into smaller chunks, so I hope this works. Fingers crossed.

    If some of our assumptions about quantum cryptography are correct, then bank accounts and other sensitive areas will be very hard, if not impossible, to hack into. They will also make high performance computing (HPC) much easier.

    Maybe in another 100 years. However, quantum computers are useless for tasks like web browsing or using Word. They offer no benefit over a regular computer and may even be slower. Companies that require large computational power will be the first to buy them. Among the general public, I can't think of many good reasons why someone would buy one unless they're just showing off. Lol.

    They will be able to simulate complex models of cancer and protein folding. Supercomputers today have a very hard time with protein folding. In astronomy, we will be able to simulate multi-body collisions and interactions. Predicting the trajectories of bodies like asteroids will be much easier. You can also bet that the military will be using them for a variety of reasons.

    Medical and military use sticks out for me. Military personnel will be able to remotely control vehicles. People with severe disabilities or injuries will become more independent. I think this will all take another 100 years to be fully developed.

    I read an article a number of years ago about a bioengineer who was researching the use of nanorobots to fight illnesses inside the human body. As far as I can tell, they have made little progress in terms of applicability. Robots in general are hard to make. Even our best robots now are clumsy. Making them at the nanoscale is even harder because of issues with fabrication and sensors.

    Let me know if there are any other questions you need answered. I'll try to do my best.
     
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  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Isn't that what has been said about other forms of automation? Yet look at the booming employment in the tech field and service industries.

    As for writing the future, however, my son warned me of the same thing, would automation do away with the need for slave labor? And I should be careful describing the working masses to account for automation.
     
  5. HelloThere
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    HelloThere Contributing Member

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    This isn't entirely relevant, but I always find people's reactions and predictions for the future to be rather amusing - it's the hilarity of these predictions that often dissuades me from Sci-Fi because I'm obsessed with accuracy and realism. Here's a few of my favourites after a quick google search:

    “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” — Ken Olson

    “There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television, or radio service inside the United States.” - T.Craven

    “A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.” — New York Times, 1936.

    “There will never be a bigger plane built.” - This was said by a boeing engineer about a plane that could hold TEN people.

    “The cinema is little more than a fad." - Charlie Chaplin

    “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication." - A memo at Western Union

    This one is probably my favourite: “[Television] won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” — Darryl Zanuck, movie producer, 20th Century Fox, 1946.

    What's my point? I'm not entirely sure. I guess it just shows how short sighted even the experts are; so perhaps just a spot of research into the theoretical applications of quantum computers will suffice. Any intelligent predictions we try to make will be rendered stupid anyway.
     
  6. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think military will be at the forefront of all this, in fact, it wouldn't surprise me that some of those you listed are already being used in some form or other. They say that it takes 20 years between miltary starting to use a new technology, and it becoming available for public.

    I have internal ?quantum? computer as an integral part of one of my protagonist's physiology. Question marks because I'll give it a different name, but in my mind, the paired particle principle and internal nanobot 'factory' if you wish, are central to this technology. The network can interface wirelessly with a variety of electronic equipment, it obviously does terminator-style surveillance, internal repair and even taking over internal functions in cases of emergency. I won't go into other specifics, but it's the only thing that sort-of matches vampire physiology, which I also went to town figuring out the actual genetic and anatomical basis for.
     
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  7. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks for your responses, everyone, good stuff. :cool:

    So far we've been very orthodox with the tech we've written into the story. Perhaps the only major sci-fi element is artificial gravity, which we don't explain in detail, but we've researched the subject a lot, and figured it was an acceptable level of willing suspension of disbelief.

    Everything else is basically just somewhat more advanced versions of what we have now: a tad more versatile smart phones, better body armor, better power sources etc. but e.g. firearms are basically the same as are knives and so on 'cause we don't want to veer too far into the realm of pure fantasy.
     
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  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, the only thing you've got to work with for sure is what already exists, so I think you're approaching this sensibly.
     
  9. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    If quantum computing is introduced suddenly (maybe a government organization is secretly building one and succeeds before anyone realizes it... hmmm). It would have the potential to be very disruptive to electronic commerce. The reason is that the encryption algorithms currently used to protect secure connections online can all be easily attacked with quantum algorithms.* Basically the effect would be to invalidate all online security overnight.

    If the technology is introduced more gradually, as would be the case if the commercial or academic sectors are the first to succeed at building a workable quantum computer, alternative encryption technologies will likely be developed in time to take the place of the currently used methods. If you are interested in finding out more do a Google search on "post-quantum cryptography."

    * Actually it's the public key algorithms, RSA and ElGamal that are vulnerable. The symmetric algorithms are not. However, electronic commerce relies on public key algorithms to negotiate secret key material between parties who do not previously know each other. A quantum computer could break that negotiation and learn that secret material.
     
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  10. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with this only under the paradigm that anyone considers Science Fiction to be predictive. I do not believe that to be purpose of the genre. Science Fiction is always actually talking about the now the writer is living as he/she writes. George Orwell's 1984 is actually about 1948, the year in which he wrote that story. That's my take.

    But, to the OP. One thing I have always pondered, and the idea of quantum computers brings it closer to a reality, in the field of medicine, at what point does nanotechnology (nanobots) cross the pharmaceutical line? At what point is the difference between a medical nanobot and a chemical agent a semantic, pedantic difference? With nano-tech made possibly possible by quantum computer, do cures for ailments change hands from the chemist to the code programmer?
     
  11. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    There have been reports that the NSA is working on a quantum computer (probably for spying). They haven't been successful yet, however.
     
  12. Monte Thompson
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    Monte Thompson Member

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    Part of the fun of science fiction is to ask these kind of questions. What does current tech look like in twenty, fifty, a hundred years? The most original answers usually end up being the most memorable science fiction and, oddly enough, can even inspire the next generation of actual tech.
     

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