Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Why I don't think that Quantum Computers will work, ever

I have just made a bet that quantum computers will not turn out to be better than classical computers within the next fifteen years. I would rather want to bet on "ever", but how could I win such a bet? We could also do a lifetime thing: if you die before the first superclassically fast quantum computer is built, I inherit all your stuff, but that might set the wrong incentives for me. So, 15 years it is. Now let me go out on a limb and explain my intuition that quantum computation will turn out to not really be a thing, ever.

Cat: Do you expect me to compute?
Evil quantum computer scientist: No, Mr Cat, I expect you to die, and to not die, in simultaneous superposition.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Four Gods

When I follow discussions between atheists and enlightened catholics, I notice that they often talk past each other, due to entirely different ideas about what is meant by 'God'. After I found God for myself (not a religious one, but an Aristotelian one), I discovered that there are at least four different aspects of the God concept, which involve quite different assumptions. (This is not exhaustive in any way, of course.)

These are the Four Gods:

1. The God of a religious, institutional narrative. This is a (often personalized) entity with distinct properties and duties that are documented in canonical teachings. Typically, this entity holds strong opinions about the morality of individuals, metes out rewards and punishments, and his prescriptions tend to be aligned with certain political and societal goals. 

2. The God of the spiritual experience. This god is the principle of a universe that is intentional, is conscious, and usually partial towards the individual, but reveals itself independently of allegiance to any religious institution. You will often find that this principle is benevolent and loving, and its interests are well-aligned with your values (see Deepak Chopra), but that is not necessarily the case (Philipp K. Dick's god of 'Valis' comes to mind).

3. The principle of transcendental meaning: God is the question that the universe answers. In the weakest sense, this god is the reason why there is something rather than nothing (an ontological duty that hardly conflicts with any expected future results of scientific inquiry). However, it implies a telos, i.e. the universe inherits a purpose. I think this is the god of Thomas of Aquinas, as apparent in his Fourth and Fifth Proofs for the existence of God.

4. The Prime Mover: rather than assuming that physics is entirely self-contained or that the universe is essentially static (and only appears to be moving due to the way we observe it), there must be something that moves things along. This first mover (primum movens) is arguably the god of Aristotle.