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Swiss researcher proposes brain model for future computers

A quantum computer should have no trouble recognising a blurry image of the former Swiss government minister, Adolf Ogi

(Keystone Archive)

A Geneva researcher says memories for future computers should be designed to work like the human brain. Carlo Trugenberger of InfoCodex says quantum computers' potential capacities would be vastly increased if information was stored as patterns.

Quantum computers - often considered the next step forward in information processing - is still in its infancy, but this type of machine holds great promise, potentially offering far greater speed to the user.

"Quantum computing represents a paradigm shift from traditional computers," Trugenberger told swissinfo.

Quantum computing has its roots in physics theory from early in the 20th century. German physicist Max Planck was the first to put forward the theory that energy was made up of small packets, which he called quanta.

Research since then has shown that quantum objects can exist in several different states simultaneously. Scientists attempting to design the new generation of computers are trying to take advantage of this knowledge.

Traditional computers use ones and zeros to carry information. By using the different states of quanta, far more information could be processed.

The researchers are looking for a way to hold the quantum bits of information together in their different - but mutually dependent - states at the same time.

This dependence, also known as entanglement, gives the information coherence. Without it, the information has no value.

The problem is that scientists have failed to stabilise more than two or three entangled quanta, while hundreds are needed to build a fully functional quantum computer.

This early stage research has shown, however, that the theory behind quantum computing is valid, with simple machines carrying out complex operations, said Trugenberger.

But Trugenberger believes scientists should not limit their research to just improving computational speed, but also consider radical new approaches to the way information is processed. "Speed is not the only advantage of quantum computers," said Trugenberger.

Current computer memories store information at precise locations, and without the exact address there is no way of retrieving the data. On the other hand, quantum devices could mimic the human brain, according to the Geneva researcher.

The brain can get by using partial information, something that is known as associative memory. For example, a person can recognise a face in a blurred or partially obscured picture.

A quantum computer would be able to provide a complete picture even if it was fed a partial set of data.

"The advantage of quantum computer memory over other computer memories is its vast capacity to store patterns", Trugenberger told swissinfo. "Other memories are limited by their storage capacity."

by Scott Capper


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