Quantum device to hold a superposition of possible futures

The research shows how the quantum system could help futuristic AI learn much faster than it can today

Photo: Griffith University A picture of the Experimental Device used for the experiment.

A team of researchers from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and Griffith University in Australia have constructed a prototype quantum device that can generate all possible futures in a simultaneous quantum superposition - similar to Schroedinger's famous cat, which is simultaneously alive and dead.

Together, the team implemented a specially devised photonic quantum information processor in which the potential future outcomes of a decision process are represented by the locations of photons – quantum particles of light. They then demonstrated that the state of the quantum device was a superposition of multiple potential futures, weighted by their probability of occurrence. For now, the quantum computer built by the scientists can hold two superpositions of 16 different possibilities, the research, published last Tuesday in Nature Communications, describes.

"Our approach is to synthesise a quantum superposition of all possible futures for each bias," explains Farzad Ghafari, a member of the experimental team, "By interfering these superpositions with each other, we can completely avoid looking at each possible future individually. In fact, many current artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms learn by seeing how small changes in their behaviour can lead to different future outcomes, so our techniques may enable quantum enhanced AIs to learn the effect of their actions much more efficiently."

Besides its ability measure how much our bias towards a specific choice in the present impacts the future, the device also uses less memory than a classical computer would, suggesting it could outperform classical systems at certain tasks.

"The functioning of this device is inspired by the Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman," says Dr. Jayne Thompson, a member of the Singapore team. "When Feynman started studying quantum physics, he realised that when a particle travels from point A to point B, it does not necessarily follow a single path. Instead, it simultaneously transverses all possible paths connecting the points. Our work extends this phenomenon and harnesses it for modelling statistical futures."

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