By Chet Yarbrough
By David Deutsch
Narrated by Walter Dixon
“Wired” titled an article naming David Deutsch “The Father of Quantum Computing”–Deutsch is a British physicist and information’ scientist at the University of Oxford.
“The Beginning of Infinity” is Deutsch’s most recent publication. Deutsch argues that history shows that all problems are solvable. By inference, Deutsch assures humanity’s survival.
Deutsch believes Darwin’s theory of natural selection extends to immortal memes. Like Dawkin’s, in “The Selfish Gene”, he believes memes (both good and bad) preserve themselves through a survival instinct carried by generations of carbon based life forms. Deutsch believes search-for-knowledge is a heritable meme in humanity. Deutsch explains that “The Beginning of Infinity” is an inherent human search for knowledge first exhibited in ancient cultures. In a Socratic dialog, Deutsch explains why Greek’ culture is superior to Spartan’ culture.
Fundamentally, the difference is in the Greek pursuit of knowledge versus the Spartan pursuit of conquest. Greeks focused on education while the Spartans focused on war. Greeks questioned authority while Spartans demanded obedience. Greeks questioned “why” while Spartans said–because I said so. Deutsch reveals why Greek rather than Spartan culture is “the cradle of western civilization”.
Knowledge is accelerated in the enlightenment of the 18th century because science (aka philosophy) displaced mythology as the beginning of knowledge. Deutsch argues that all problems known to humanity are, or will be, solved in humankind’s purposeful pursuit of knowledge. “The Beginning of Infinity”, in Deutsch’s hypothesis, is a relentless human effort to understand everything.
Deutsch argues that memes are a part of biological evolution. He believes humankind’s pursuit of knowledge is an inherited behavior. Memes, though not the same as genetic inheritance, are culturally based habits carried through generations of human observation, mimicry, and adjustment. Meme’s evolve based on human use and utility through natural selection. They become an ingrained human tool for solving civilization’s problems.
However, Deutsch acknowledges that memes may be good or bad. They may either advance or retard civilization. Deutsch offers an apocryphal tale (a hypothesis) of Easter Island’s monuments as an example of a negative meme. He speculates that the face statues of Easter Island were an ancient civilization’s gods, a mythical meme that explained everything about everything. The culture that followed these gods harvested the natural wealth of Easter Island without considering replenishment. They believed they were being taken care of by their gods, the face statues. When the natural wealth of Easter Island was consumed, the civilization died and only the face statues remain. The inhabitants of Easter Island followed the meme of “because I said so” rather than the meme of human pursuit of knowledge.
The principle behind the “Wired” magazine article is that Deutsch designed a quantum computer, called a D Wave machine. The machine is intended to solve unsolvable problems by simultaneously calculating physics phenomena like “spooky action at a distance” (aka entanglement). Entanglement is a quantum physics theory proven to show sub-atomic particles become entangled. One sub-atomic particle affects another in a particular way. Though they may be separated by immense distances, they simultaneously move in relation to, and as a consequence of, each other.
Part of the difficulty for computing a result for the phenomena of entanglement is that there is uncertainty. The results of entanglement can be different; monumentally increasing required calculation.
Entanglement is like a butterfly’s wing flap causing movement in some remote corner of the world. The complex nature of entanglement requires a new method of simultaneous computer calculation, which the D Wave machine is intended to offer. The D Wave Quantum computer is a step toward artificial intelligence.
The scientific process: asking a question, doing background research, hypothesizing, testing and analyzing; then concluding and communicating results, is the engine of infinite human life. Results lead to falsity or refined truth; which in turn, leads to further hypothesis and more searches for truth. This continual search is Deutsch’s infinity and his optimistic view of humanity’s survival.
This is no panacea. Humanity will still suffer plagues, storms, death, and destruction but Deutsch believes that all problems have answers. Plagues will be cured, storms will be contained, death will be survived by birth, and destruction will be replaced by construction. Humankind will be sustained; maybe not on this earth but in some universe.
Deutsch refuses to accept the parental guide of- Because I said so – because it clogs the human minds’ efforts to refine its search for knowledge. It is better to give a wrong explanation rather than clog the machine with dead-end pronouncements. A wrong answer leads to further questions that lead to discovery of truth. Skeptic refusal to accept “Because I said so” encourages the human machines’ search engine.
There is a perverse implication in Deutsch’s hypothesis. The persistence and precision of computers will likely replace the human brain. With the advent of artificial intelligence, the human mind’s role in discovery becomes less potent, if not impotent, in the face of tireless computers and infinite computer power. The new meme will be “What does the computer say is the truth”. The danger is that the computer is saying “Because I said so”.