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Quantum physics has some spooky, anti-intuitive effects, but it could also be essential to how actual intuition works, at least in regards to artificial intelligence.
In a new study, researcher Vedran Dunjko and co-authors applied a quantum analysis to a field within artificial intelligence called reinforcement learning, which deals with how to program a machine to make appropriate choices to maximize a cumulative reward. The field is surprisingly complex and must take into account everything from game theory to information theory.
Dunjko and his team found that quantum effects, when applied to reinforcement learning in artificial intelligence systems, could provide quadratic improvements in learning efficiency, reports Phys.org. Exponential improvements might even be possible over short-term performance tasks. The study was published in the journal Physical Review Letters.
"This is, to our knowledge, the first work which shows that quantum improvements are possible in more general, interactive learning tasks," explained Dunjko. "Thus, it opens up a new frontier of research in quantum machine learning."
One of the key quantum effects in regards to learning is quantum superposition, which potentially allows a machine to perform many steps simultaneously. Such a system has vastly improved processing power, which allows it to compute more variables when making decisions.
The research is tantalizing, in part because it mirrors some theories about how biological brains might produce higher cognitive states, possibly even being related to consciousness. For instance, some scientists have proposed the idea that our brains pull off their complex calculations by making use of quantum computation.
Your Android phone (or iPhone, if that's how you roll) is an impressive machine, with computing speeds and storage capacities thousands of times those of desktop PCs from only years ago. If Moore's Law holds up, your smart watch may outshine today's phones the way today's phones eclipse old PCs.
But no matter how powerful these machines become, they may never develop true intelligence if we continue to rely on conventional computing technology. According to the authors of a paper published in the journal Physical Review X last July, however, adding a dash of quantum mechanics could do the trick.
That's not to say you'd need to make a full-blown quantum computer to build a truly intelligent machine - only part of an otherwise classical computer would need to be supplemented with a bit of quantum circuitry. That's good because progress toward developing a stand-alone quantum computer has been about as slow as the progress toward artificial intelligence. Combining artificial intelligence systems with quantum circuitry could be the recipe we need to build the HAL 9000s and R. Daneel Olivaws of the future ,