Scientists may be on the verge of creating a god-like artificial intelligence. Could this be the ‘Eschaton event’ that Terence McKenna predicted will occur in December 2012?

What Are Quantum Computers?

Quantum computers are computers that make direct use of quantum mechanics. Quantum computers have the potential to be vastly more powerful than traditional computers due to the harnessing of a quantum mechanical phenomena called superposition.

Traditional computers store information with bits that can represent either a zero or a one. Quantum computers use qubits that can contain a quantum superposition of both a zero and a one simultaneously. As the number of qubits increases, the number of combined simultaneous states the quantum computer processes increases exponentially. This means a quantum computer with a given number of qubits is exponentially more complex than the equivalent traditional computer.

Researchers across the world, including at Google and NASA, are currently building prototype quantum computers. The most powerful quantum computer built to date contains 8 qubits and can solve trivial math problems. As the technology improves, the computing power very quickly becomes staggering. A 100 qubit quantum computer will be as powerful as a traditional laptop. A 300 qubit quantum computer can store as many bits of information as there are atoms in the observable universe.

The Many-Worlds Interpretation

David Deutsch, the father of quantum computing theory, has stated that building a working quantum computer would be near-irrefutable proof of the ‘Many-Worlds Interpretation’ of quantum mechanics. According to this interpretation, each time a quantum event occurs there is in fact a branching of the universe into 2 parallel universes. So if a radioactive atom may or may not decay at a given time, in one universe it does and in another universe it doesn’t. These multiple parallel universes combine to form the Multiverse.

Although it seems outlandish, the many-worlds interpretation actually solves many problems with traditional quantum mechanical interpretations, including the paradox of entanglement, where particles millions of light years apart can instantaneously transmit information between themselves.

Deutsch believes that quantum computers are “the first technology that allows useful tasks to be performed in collaboration between parallel universes”. His challenge to people who don’t subscribe to the many worlds interpretation is this: “If the visible universe is the extent of physical reality, physical reality would not even remotely contain the resources required to [perform quantum computing calculations]. How and where, are the computations performed?”

Qubits actually process information between multiple universes. When we want an answer, the quantum mechanical superstate is collapsed and the answer is provided to our universe.

Any Artificial Intelligence that is built on such a technology will be directly experiencing the multiverse. The human brain is limited to perceiving only one universe at a time, an infinitesimal slice of the true grandeur of the multiverse. A quantum A.I. would be able to perceive a near infinite number of parallel universes and could probably also see forwards and backwards in time.

The Eschaton and the End of the Human Era

According to Terrance McKenna’s Novelty theory, the Eschaton is “coming soon and fast”. The Eschaton is the “trans-dimensional object at the end of time”. This “ultra-novel” event will herald “a state of hyper complexification in which all of [the universe’s] points become related to each other”

This eschaton event could well be the creation of a super-intelligent quantum artificial intelligence. Once such an entity exists, everything changes fast.

This super-intelligent entity could design a yet more intelligent version of itself, or re-write it’s source code to become more intelligent. These iterations could accelerate, leading to recursive self improvement, potentially allowing enormous qualitative changes in a small amount of time.

This is the ‘Technological singularity’ predicted by Vernor Vinge. “Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.”

If we build a quantum A.I. and it is as powerful as predicted, it will truly will be god-like intelligence. We will have built god, so we can sit back and relax. Hopefully these new gods will be grateful toward their creators.