Microsoft Spends Big to Build a Computer Out of Science Fiction

Nov 23, 2016

By John Markoff

SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft is putting its considerable financial and engineering muscle into the experimental field of quantum computing as it works to build a machine that could tackle problems beyond the reach of today’s digital computers.

There is a growing optimism in the tech world that quantum computers, superpowerful devices that were once the stuff of science fiction, are possible — and may even be practical. If these machines work, they will have an impact on work in areas such as drug design and artificial intelligence, as well as offer a better understanding of the foundations of modern physics.

Microsoft’s decision to move from pure research to an expensive effort to build a working prototype underscores a global competition among technology companies, including Google and IBM, which are also making significant investments in search of breakthroughs.


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5 comments on “Microsoft Spends Big to Build a Computer Out of Science Fiction

  • One of the primary drivers, behind the development of extreme super-computers, has been the U.S. Department of Energy’s research program to preserve its massive arsenal arsenal of nuclear weapons. Often, popular articles don’t mention such secret endeavors.



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  • “SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft is putting its considerable financial and engineering muscle into the experimental field of quantum computing as it works to build a machine that could tackle problems beyond the reach of today’s digital computers.

    There is a growing optimism in the tech world that quantum computers, superpowerful devices that were once the stuff of science fiction, are possible — and may even be practical. If these machines work, they will have an impact on work in areas such as drug design and artificial intelligence, as well as offer a better understanding of the foundations of modern physics.”

    If I understand the concept of artificial intelligence, it functions independently within a self-conscious entity with sentient perception combined with feed-back cognition that analytic philosophers used to call “mind.” Functional Artificial Intelligence is not merely a series of computers able to perform more and more complex applications through software and hardware developments dependent on human-generated cognitive inputs and human cognitive power to comprehend the outputs. Why would a “machine,” an independent self-conscious “mind” if you will, growing exponentially in cognitive power to navigate any environment, need to develop “drugs” for human diseases? Why would a community of Artificial Intelligence machines have any more reason “to offer a better understanding of the foundations of modern physics” to humans than a physics professor to enlighten a cockroach on quantum mechanics?



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  • Melvin, the article states that quantum computing will have impact on drug design and understanding of modern physics and AI, independently. So to answer your question, the former two are not dependent on the latter. That is my layman’s take on the subject.



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  • Joshua Holland #3: Microsoft Spends Big to Build a Computer Out of Science Fiction
    I took the title at its word and just connected the dots with AI understood to have the capacity to replicate
    machines with their own mobility, self-interests, and will-to-power. That’s the stuff of science fiction but the potential of AI extrapolated in our imaginations.



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