It knows what you watch. More than that, it knows how you watch. When you pause a program, your TV is taking notes. When you rewind or fast-forward, the machine jots that down too.
But here's maybe the scariest part of all: Your TV knows what you want, maybe even before you do.
This is where technology has led us. The algorithms that spit out online recommendations for television series, movies and more are taking artificial intelligence to a new level. Top providers such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon — which tens of millions of Americans get either through set-top boxes such as Roku or via personal computers — employ large engineering teams dedicated to cracking the code of what users want and guiding them to it.
Nothing less than the future of the entertainment business is at stake, as the industry continues its landmark shift from broadcasting to time-shifting and niche programming.
Topological quantum computing (TQC) is a newer type of quantum computing that uses "braids" of particle tracks, rather than actual particles such as ions and electrons, as the qubits to implement computations. Using braids has one important advantage: it makes TQCs practically immune to the small perturbations in the environment that cause decoherence in particle-based qubits and often lead to high error rates.
Ever since TQC was first proposed in 1997, experimentally realizing the appropriate braids has been extremely difficult. For one thing, the braids are formed not by the trajectories of ordinary particles, but by the trajectories of exotic quasiparticles (particle-like excitations) called anyons. Also, movements of the anyons must be non-Abelian, a property similar to the non-commutative property in which changing the order of the anyons' movements changes their final tracks. In most proposals of TQC so far, the non-Abelian statistics of the anyons has not been powerful enough, even in theory, for universal TQC.
Now in a new study published in Physical Review Letters, physicists Abolhassan Vaezi at Cornell University and Maissam Barkeshli at Microsoft's research lab Station Q have theoretically shown that anyons tunneling in a double-layer system can transition to an exotic non-Abelian state that contains "Fibonacci" anyons that are powerful enough for universal TQC.
"Our work suggests that some existing experimental setups are rich enough to yield a phase capable of performing 'universal' TQC, i.e., all of the required logical gates for the performance of a quantum computer can be made through the braiding of anyons only," Vaezi told Phys.org. "Since braiding is a topological operation and does not perturb the low-energy physics, the resulting quantum computer is fault-tolerant."
These days, you can hardly have a technology conversation without talking about the Internet of Things (IoT). And when that conversation shifts its focus to the industrial sector, including energy, Oil & Gas, Power & Utilities, and petrochemicals, among others, the discussion changes to what is being called the “Industrial Internet of Things” (IIoT). So…
The AI on the horizon looks more like Amazon Web Services—cheap, reliable, industrial-grade digital smartness running behind everything, and almost invisible except when it blinks off. This is a big deal, and now it's here.
Physicists have teleported a light particle 15 miles (25 kilometers), making it the farthest quantum teleportation yet.
Advances in quantum teleportation could lead to better Internet and communication security, and get scientists closer to developing quantum computers. About five years ago, researchers could only teleport quantum information, such as which direction a particle is spinning, across a few meters. Now, they can beam that information across several miles.
Physicists can't instantly transport matter, but they can instantly transport information through quantum teleportation. This works thanks to a bizarre quantum mechanics property called entanglement. Quantum entanglement happens when two subatomic particles stay connected no matter how far apart they are. When one particle is disturbed, it instantly affects the entangled partner. It's impossible to tell the state of either particle until one is directly measured, but measuring one particle instantly determines the state of its partner.
In the new, record-breaking experiment, researchers from the University of Geneva, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the National Institute of Standards and Technology used a superfast laser to pump out photons. Every once in a while, two photons would become entangled. Once the researchers had an entangled pair, they sent one down the optical fiber and stored the other in a crystal at the end of the cable. Then, the researchers shot a third particle of light at the photon traveling down the cable. When the two collided, they obliterated each other.
Quantum information has already been transferred dozens of miles, but this is the farthest it's been transported using an optical fiber, and then recorded and stored at the other end. Other quantum teleportation experiments that beamed photons farther used lasers instead of optical fibers to send the information. But unlike the laser method, the optical-fiber method could eventually be used to develop technology like quantum computers that are capable of extremely fast computing, or quantum cryptography that could make secure communication possible.
Computers might soon become more intelligent than us. Some of the best brains in Silicon Valley are now trying to work out what happens next.
Nate Soares, a former Google engineer, is weighing up the chances of success for the project he is working on. He puts them at only about 5 per cent. But the odds he is calculating aren’t for some new smartphone app. Instead, Soares is talking about something much more arresting: whether programmers like him will be able to save mankind from extinction at the hands of its own most powerful creation.
The object of concern – both for him and the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (Miri), whose ofﬁces these are – is artiﬁcial intelligence (AI). Super-smart machines with malicious intent are a staple of science ﬁction, from the soft-spoken Hal 9000 to the scarily violent Skynet. But the AI that people like Soares believe is coming mankind’s way, very probably before the end of this century, would be much worse.
Besides Soares, there are probably only four computer scientists in the world currently working on how to programme the super-smart machines of the not-too-distant future to make sure AI remains “friendly”, says Luke Muehlhauser, Miri’s director. It isn’t unusual to hear people express big thoughts about the future in Silicon Valley these days – though most of the technology visions are much more benign. It sometimes sounds as if every entrepreneur, however trivial the start-up, has taken a leaf from Google’s mission statement and is out to “make the world a better place”.
Warnings have lately grown louder. Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, writing earlier this year, said that AI would be “the biggest event in human history”. But he added: “Unfortunately, it might also be the last.”
Elon Musk – whose successes with electric cars (through Tesla Motors) and private space flight (SpaceX) have elevated him to almost superhero status in Silicon Valley – has also spoken up. Several weeks ago, he advised his nearly 1.2 million Twitter followers to read Superintelligence, a book about the dangers of AI, which has made him think the technology is “potentially more dangerous than nukes”. Mankind, as Musk sees it, might be like a computer program whose usefulness ends once it has started up a more complex piece of software. “Hope we’re not just the biological boot loader for digital superintelligence,” he tweeted. “Unfortunately, that is increasingly probable.”