Fundamentally Flawed

Your rating: None
0
No votes yet
QUANTUM SHORTS 2015: SHORTLISTED, YOUTH CATEGORY
 
The rather plain office building was an ant mound. On the exterior it was nothing more than an ordinary and unassuming structure. On the inside it was filled with workers accomplishing tasks exponentially greater than their statures. Except ants usually aren’t intoxicated with power.
 
My first day on the job coincided with the initial snow of the year. I had finally made it. I had the chance to be one of them.
 
I remember being greeted by one of the higher-ups. She was very friendly and had perfectly veneered teeth. She showed me around the office building and pointed out restrooms, computer labs, file rooms and the like. Then she led me into a room with a machine that changed my outlook on human society forever.
 
“This is what you will be helping to operate.” 
 
Had I known the true gravity of those words I would have had goose bumps everywhere. “It certainly looks impressive,” I stupidly replied because I felt the need to fill the silence.
 
“You don’t know what this does, do you?” She accompanied her words with a grin I didn’t think was humanly possible.
 
 I sheepishly shook my head. 
 
“This, my dear, is how we govern. This is how we rule the world.”
 
“Oh,” I said with intrigue, eyes wide open.
 
“As you know, you have been called upon to become a member of this oligarchy. No, it’s more of a technocracy. That’s also incorrect. Geniocracy? Anyway, labels aren’t important, correct?”
 
“No, madam.” 
 
She nodded with approval. “Let me continue. Democracy is an integral component to the modern world. The average citizen in a democratic country enjoys the right to have power and control over who their leaders are. Unfortunately, they almost never choose the best people for the job. Likewise, despots and leaders with regimes are rarely the proper people to have in control. This is where we and this dandy device step in. With this machine we can control the decisions and actions of almost every world leader with amazing precision.” She was overflowing with pride.
 
“If I may ask, madam, how?”
 
“Sure, not an issue. This machine contains many particles that are entangled with other particles that are inside world leader’s bodies. Let’s say we wanted to change a certain prime minister’s mind on an issue. We would have to influence the certain particles in this device that are entangled with the particles in his or her body to convey the information we want, which can be read at a cellular or neuronal level. It’s incredibly accurate. We can be as subtle as changing a gut feeling towards a subject. Of course, we can also spoon-feed thoughts and motivations to the person. The process is remarkably fine-tuned. Thus, we can manipulate whoever’s in power to do the proper thing.”
 
“Oh, my. Well, how do we get the entangled particles in the bodies? How do they stay there?”
 
“It’s quite simple. You know freezing at a dental procedure, anesthetic shots at the plastic surgeon’s, flu vaccines? We have people who are in on this everywhere. We wouldn’t be able to function otherwise. Typically the particles enter the bloodstream from the injection site and find a secure place to lodge and do their job for a long time. That’s how the particles enter, and they, like environmental toxins, stay put and build up in the body.”
 
“Wow.” My mind was trying to process the possibilities.
 
“It’s a beautiful system. Spooky action at a distance harnessed to perfection. Civilians think they are in control. Leaders think they are in control. Even cabinet members, people in congress and viziers think they wield their own power. People who know better can make the tough decisions. People like you. You were chosen for your high intelligence regarding compassion. You see, we employ all different types of intelligences here in order to take proper action.”
 
I nodded. Then I started to think. The implications of her previous statements made a chill crawl up my spine. Her words meant that many conflicts were manufactured, because one leader’s actions and another leader’s reactions were both being controlled right here. “So, with all the conflict over natural resources and wars going on right now…”
 
“Yes, there’s no extreme effort to stop them right now. I’m still reading through reports, but I believe we made this decision to help promote overall economic growth and technological improvements. A world without conflict tends to stagnate progress.”
 
“ People are dying,” I spouted.
 
“And we do weigh many factors before making decisions. See? You’ll be great at your job. You’ll provide the argument that appeals to compassion. You’re very bright in that regard, and we have high expectations!”
 
The world leaders were my puppets. Did I dare pull the strings? Did I dare destroy the only extraordinary intelligence I had? Unfortunately, humans are fundamentally flawed.
Share this fiction

Quantum Theories: A to Z

S is for ...
Superposition

Quantum objects can exist in two or more states at once: an electron in superposition, for example, can simultaneously move clockwise and anticlockwise around a ring-shaped conductor.

K is for ...
Key

Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) is a way to create secure cryptographic keys, allowing for more secure communication.

Y is for ...
Young's Double Slit Experiment

In 1801, Thomas Young proved light was a wave, and overthrew Newton’s idea that light was a “corpuscle”.

Q is for ...
Quantum biology

A new and growing field that explores whether many biological processes depend on uniquely quantum processes to work. Under particular scrutiny at the moment are photosynthesis, smell and the navigation of migratory birds.

W is for ...
Wavefunction

The mathematics of quantum theory associates each quantum object with a wavefunction that appears in the Schrödinger equation and gives the probability of finding it in any given state.

S is for ...
Schrödinger’s Cat

A hypothetical experiment in which a cat kept in a closed box can be alive and dead at the same time – as long as nobody lifts the lid to take a look.

F is for ...
Free Will

Ideas at the heart of quantum theory, to do with randomness and the character of the molecules that make up the physical matter of our brains, lead some researchers to suggest humans can’t have free will.

G is for ...
Gravity

Our best theory of gravity no longer belongs to Isaac Newton. It’s Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. There’s just one problem: it is incompatible with quantum theory. The effort to tie the two together provides the greatest challenge to physics in the 21st century.

J is for ...
Josephson Junction

This is a narrow constriction in a ring of superconductor. Current can only move around the ring because of quantum laws; the apparatus provides a neat way to investigate the properties of quantum mechanics and is a technology to build qubits for quantum computers.

K is for ...
Kaon

These are particles that carry a quantum property called strangeness. Some fundamental particles have the property known as charm!

C is for ...
Computing

The rules of the quantum world mean that we can process information much faster than is possible using the computers we use now.

R is for ...
Radioactivity

The atoms of a radioactive substance break apart, emitting particles. It is impossible to predict when the next particle will be emitted as it happens at random. All we can do is give the probability that any particular atom will have decayed by a given time.

Z is for ...
Zero-point energy

Even at absolute zero, the lowest temperature possible, nothing has zero energy. In these conditions, particles and fields are in their lowest energy state, with an energy proportional to Planck’s constant.

A is for ...
Atom

This is the basic building block of matter that creates the world of chemical elements – although it is made up of more fundamental particles.

O is for ...
Objective reality

Niels Bohr, one of the founding fathers of quantum physics, said there is no such thing as objective reality. All we can talk about, he said, is the results of measurements we make.

S is for ...
Schrödinger Equation

This is the central equation of quantum theory, and describes how any quantum system will behave, and how its observable qualities are likely to manifest in an experiment.

V is for ...
Virtual particles

Quantum theory’s uncertainty principle says that since not even empty space can have zero energy, the universe is fizzing with particle-antiparticle pairs that pop in and out of existence. These “virtual” particles are the source of Hawking radiation.

T is for ...
Teleportation

Quantum tricks allow a particle to be transported from one location to another without passing through the intervening space – or that’s how it appears. The reality is that the process is more like faxing, where the information held by one particle is written onto a distant particle.

L is for ...
Light

We used to believe light was a wave, then we discovered it had the properties of a particle that we call a photon. Now we know it, like all elementary quantum objects, is both a wave and a particle!

L is for ...
Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

At CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, this machine is smashing apart particles in order to discover their constituent parts and the quantum laws that govern their behaviour.

R is for ...
Reality

Since the predictions of quantum theory have been right in every experiment ever done, many researchers think it is the best guide we have to the nature of reality. Unfortunately, that still leaves room for plenty of ideas about what reality really is!

B is for ...
Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC)

At extremely low temperatures, quantum rules mean that atoms can come together and behave as if they are one giant super-atom.

Q is for ...
Qubit

One quantum bit of information is known as a qubit (pronounced Q-bit). The ability of quantum particles to exist in many different states at once means a single quantum object can represent multiple qubits at once, opening up the possibility of extremely fast information processing.

A is for ...
Alice and Bob

In quantum experiments, these are the names traditionally given to the people transmitting and receiving information. In quantum cryptography, an eavesdropper called Eve tries to intercept the information.

P is for ...
Probability

Quantum mechanics is a probabilistic theory: it does not give definite answers, but only the probability that an experiment will come up with a particular answer. This was the source of Einstein’s objection that God “does not play dice” with the universe.

I is for ...
Interferometer

Some of the strangest characteristics of quantum theory can be demonstrated by firing a photon into an interferometer: the device’s output is a pattern that can only be explained by the photon passing simultaneously through two widely-separated slits.

U is for ...
Universe

To many researchers, the universe behaves like a gigantic quantum computer that is busy processing all the information it contains.

T is for ...
Tunnelling

This happens when quantum objects “borrow” energy in order to bypass an obstacle such as a gap in an electrical circuit. It is possible thanks to the uncertainty principle, and enables quantum particles to do things other particles can’t.

W is for ...
Wave-particle duality

It is possible to describe an atom, an electron, or a photon as either a wave or a particle. In reality, they are both: a wave and a particle.

N is for ...
Nonlocality

When two quantum particles are entangled, it can also be said they are “nonlocal”: their physical proximity does not affect the way their quantum states are linked.

H is for ...
Hidden Variables

One school of thought says that the strangeness of quantum theory can be put down to a lack of information; if we could find the “hidden variables” the mysteries would all go away.

M is for ...
Many Worlds Theory

Some researchers think the best way to explain the strange characteristics of the quantum world is to allow that each quantum event creates a new universe.

R is for ...
Randomness

Unpredictability lies at the heart of quantum mechanics. It bothered Einstein, but it also bothers the Dalai Lama.

B is for ...
Bell's Theorem

In 1964, John Bell came up with a way of testing whether quantum theory was a true reflection of reality. In 1982, the results came in – and the world has never been the same since!

X is for ...
X-ray

In 1923 Arthur Compton shone X-rays onto a block of graphite and found that they bounced off with their energy reduced exactly as would be expected if they were composed of particles colliding with electrons in the graphite. This was the first indication of radiation’s particle-like nature.

C is for ...
Cryptography

People have been hiding information in messages for millennia, but the quantum world provides a whole new way to do it.

D is for ...
Dice

Albert Einstein decided quantum theory couldn’t be right because its reliance on probability means everything is a result of chance. “God doesn’t play dice with the world,” he said.

A is for ...
Act of observation

Some people believe this changes everything in the quantum world, even bringing things into existence.

I is for ...
Information

Many researchers working in quantum theory believe that information is the most fundamental building block of reality.

U is for ...
Uncertainty Principle

One of the most famous ideas in science, this declares that it is impossible to know all the physical attributes of a quantum particle or system simultaneously.

M is for ...
Multiverse

Our most successful theories of cosmology suggest that our universe is one of many universes that bubble off from one another. It’s not clear whether it will ever be possible to detect these other universes.

E is for ...
Entanglement

When two quantum objects interact, the information they contain becomes shared. This can result in a kind of link between them, where an action performed on one will affect the outcome of an action performed on the other. This “entanglement” applies even if the two particles are half a universe apart.

G is for ...
Gluon

These elementary particles hold together the quarks that lie at the heart of matter.

P is for ...
Planck's Constant

This is one of the universal constants of nature, and relates the energy of a single quantum of radiation to its frequency. It is central to quantum theory and appears in many important formulae, including the Schrödinger Equation.

D is for ...
Decoherence

Unless it is carefully isolated, a quantum system will “leak” information into its surroundings. This can destroy delicate states such as superposition and entanglement.

H is for ...
Hawking Radiation

In 1975, Stephen Hawking showed that the principles of quantum mechanics would mean that a black hole emits a slow stream of particles and would eventually evaporate.

Copyright © 2018 Centre for Quantum Technologies. All rights reserved.