Garland views Amaya as a typical Silicon Valley success story. In the world of Devs, it’s the first company that manages to mass produce quantum computers, allowing them to corner that market. (Think of what happened to search engines after Google debuted.) Quantum computing has been positioned as a potentially revolutionary technology for things like healthcare and encryption, since it can tackle complex scenarios and data sets more effectively than traditional binary computers. Instead of just processing inputs one at a time, a quantum machine would theoretically be able to tackle an input in multiple states, or superpositions, at once.
By mastering this technology, Amaya unlocks a completely new view of reality: The world is a system that can be decoded and predicted. It proves to them that the world is deterministic. Our choices don’t matter; we’re all just moving along predetermined paths until the end of time. Garland is quick to point out that you don’t need anything high-tech to start asking questions about determinism. Indeed, it’s something that’s been explored since Plato’s allegory of the cave.
“What I did think, though, was that if a quantum computer was as good at modeling quantum reality as it might be, then it would be able to prove in a definitive way whether we lived in a deterministic state,” Garland said. “(Proving that) would completely change the way we look at ourselves, the way we look at society, the way society functions, the way relationships unfold and develop. And it would change the world in some ways, but then it would restructure itself quickly.”
The sheer difficulty of coming up with something — anything — that’s truly spontaneous and isn’t causally related to something else in the universe is the strongest argument in favor of determinism. And it’s something Garland aligns with personally — though that doesn’t change how he perceives the world.
“Whether or not you or I have free will, both of us could identify lots of things that we care about,” he said. “There are lots of things that we enjoy or don’t enjoy. Or things that we’re scared of, or we anticipate. And all of that remains. It’s not remotely affected by whether we’ve got free will or not. What might be affected is, I think, our capacity to be forgiving in some respects. And so, certain kinds of anti-social or criminal behavior, you would start to think about in terms of rehabilitation, rather than punishment. Because then, in a way, there’s no point punishing someone for something they didn’t decide to do.”
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