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Research - Super-Computing

June 15, 2017

 

From the abacus to the modern computer human kind has always realized that our brains are not well suited for computing large scale numbers in an efficient manner (our brains do outperform modern computers in many other aspects though), thus we relied on machines to help us with these tasks. As technology continued to advance our lives became more and more reliant on our ability to process large quantities of data in the most efficient manner possible. Some of the fastest supercomputers boost more than 10million processor units and are at least one million times faster than your typical laptop! We’ve certainly come a far way since the abacus, but we still have further to go if we want to push the limitation of computing and science in general.

 

When it comes to storage we’ve also come quite far, we’ve been able to cram over one thousand times more data into the same space. However, one unsolved problem with data storage is that the devices used to store the data degrade over time as they’re used. These problems have recently been tackled by researchers using a novel device to store data, our DNA. However farfetched it may sound we’ve have actually been able to store data into one of the basic building blocks of life, the surprising part was that the storage density of our DNA is unmatched by any other method. To give an example, the entirety of human history, everything written, taped and otherwise recorded can be stored into a DNA container the size of a large commercial truck! That’s incredible! The best part is that unlike other storage methods, DNA will not degrade overtime, so we can finally have a library of all our history that is guaranteed to stand the test of time.  If we can make this method commercial it will certainly have a tremendous impact on modern supercomputers as well.

 

One other component that is crucial to supercomputing and computing in general is the safety of the data. When it comes to safeguarding our data communications, entire articles could be written (and have been) on the topic alone, but the most relevant topic to computing is the role of Quantum Mechanics. At very very small length scales (~1nm, or 100,000 times smaller than the thickness of your hair) things start to follow a very different set of rules in physics, these rules are governed by the world of Quantum Mechanics. In particular there’s a rule called “Quantum Entanglement” where by two small particles are forever entangled through a mysterious force. When one of them changes its state so does the other regardless of how far away they are from each other. For example, say particle A is somewhere in California and particle B is in New York City, if you were to switch particles A’s state from “on” to “off”, then particles B’s state in NYC would also change instantaneously! The process is so fast and secure that it’s completely un-hackable! Researchers are taking advantage of this entanglement to create the most secure communication channels in the world. So if we want to combine security with supercomputing, it seems that a Quantum Super Computer is the way to go.

 

Now that we’ve tackled a few of the essentials that can bring our futuristic super computers to life, let’s ask the most important question, what can be possible with all this computing and why do it? Let’s imagine that all the previous scenarios pan out perfectly and we actually build a Quantum Super Computer based on DNA, this unimaginable mythical machine would an un-hackable, incredibly dense and efficient processor that would never degrade. So what can we do with all that power? Well, there’s one scenario that would be particularly interesting. Imagine that humans are able to truly become a multi-planetary species and we go off to settle colonies on various planets in our neighboring galaxies. If we dedicate one of those planets, yes an entire planet, to building a Quantum Super Computer, we could in principle simulate all human history. All the wars, all the political battles and all the events that have ever occurred could be simulated over and over again in this planetary Super Computer. This would be invaluable to solve many social issues since we could simulate what decisions our intergalactic political leaders should take for the best outcome. 

 

There is a down side to this scenario as well, if we can create a simulation that’s practically indistinguishable from reality then more and more people might become addicted to the simulation rather than real life. This addiction may lead to a scenario where large portions of the population are secluded in their own simulated worlds contributing nothing to the real society. I some manners, this is analogous to what has happened with the youths addiction to the internet. For good or bad computing at this level would literally change the course of human history, it would empower to make smarter social decisions, conquer new worlds and go beyond earth, but until then, we’ll have to settle for our current laptops that sometimes unexpectedly crash and don’t let you fini#$%^@!!2...

 

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