Hardly a day goes by without a scare story about how AI will replace billions of workers and possibly take over the world. Those scenarios may be overwrought, considering that the human brain may be far more powerful than anyone guessed.
One of the great mysteries of AI is that--despite becoming billions of times more powerful =over the past 50 years--computers have only become marginally better at, and complete fail at, many tasks that human brains perform instantly.
Physicists have long speculated that this gulf is because the human brain might be a quantum computer rather than a digital computer. If this is the case, then there may be tasks that digital computers will never do as well as humans.
If this proves true, human beings can defend themselves against the encroachment of AI by developing and honing the characteristics of their brain that make them uniquely human. (Hint: Steve Jobs did this, as I'll explain presently.)
Quantum vs Digital
Quantum computers (which have yet to be built in a laboratory) differ from digital computers because "in theory they can answer questions that weren't asked," according to professor Richard Rothwell. No digital computer ever does that.
Quantum computers (which again exist only in theory) would vastly outperform digital computers in other ways as well. For example, a quantum computer can search through disconnected data set many orders of magnitude faster than even a massively parallel digital computer.
Both those behaviors are characteristic of human intelligence. "Answering questions that aren't asked" is the key characteristic of human creativity. Similarly, human beings instantly sort, recognize, and contextualize everything around them--huge masses of data.
Despite the similarities, though, there's never been a way to prove (or disprove) the idea that the human brain is a quantum computer. Until now, that is.
The New Research
Matthew Fisher, arguably the world's foremost quantum physicist, recently assembled a worldwide team of quantum physicists, molecular biologists, biochemists, colloid scientists and behavioral neuroscientists to "seek explicit experimental evidence to answer whether we might in fact be quantum computers."
This is a huge undertaking because it involves measuring the behavior of molecules inside the human brain while the human brain is actively thinking. Indeed, the difficulty of such testing is why the "brain is quantum" has remained a hypothesis for so many years.
If the hypothesis is proven, "their research could shed new light on how the brain works, which might lead to novel mental health treatment protocols," according to UC Santa Barbara chancellor Henry T. Yang.
Just as important, though, such research would strongly suggest that, rather than worrying about being replaced by AI, humans should instead focus on increasing the brain's inherent ability to do things that digital computers can't, like creating new things and ideas.
Train Your Quantum Brain
According the most recent neuroscientific research, short bouts of meditation can significantly increase your creativity. If the brain is indeed a quantum computer, meditation appears to be a way to make it run more efficiently.
A 2009 study revealed that "Sanyama, an ancient yogic attentional technique embodying both transcendence and integration, provides a unique neuropsychological explanation for extraordinary creativity."
It probably won't surprise you to learn that Steve Jobs was a regular practitioner of IBMT-style meditation. I described this method of meditation in my previous column "How Steve Jobs Trained His Own Brain."
Even if you don't train your quantum brain to be more creative, it's comforting to know that your brain might contain 100 billion q-bits, which would make your own brain arguably more powerful than all the digital computers in the world combined.