A computer that sees the future is the key to time travel … at least in the science fiction series, The Shadows of Time,
But it’s not as crazy as it sounds.
In a way, a forecasting computer that sees the future already exists.
Before we look at this forecasting computer, we must understand a little about superposition—at least in its definition for modern and not classical physics. A good explanation for quantum superposition goes way beyond the scope of this blog. To keep it simple, let’s just say the state of a subatomic particle is not set until it’s measured. The measurement itself sets the state.
Until the particle is measured, the particle is in an indeterminate state we call a wave function, a set of possibilities that collapses when observed.
For a better explanation of it in layman’s terms, check out Quantum Superposition, Explained Without Woo Woo – Science Asylum, Nick Lucid.
In the science fiction series, The Shadows of Time, the future is viewed in the same way as a set of possibilities that collapses when observed. Until the future is observed in the present, we can view it as a wave function. Well, not us. I mean, we’re not smart enough to create a wave function in real time. That would take a computer so advanced that only pan-dimensional beings with whiskers and tails could create it.
Seeing the Future
So, how would we create a forecasting computer?
In quantum computing, the state of a qubit exists as a superposition of all possible states. The computer assigns each state with a probability of it being of 0 or 1. Until the qubit is measured, it is both 0 and 1, but with a certain likelihood of collapsing to 0 versus 1. The act of measuring the qubit causes the quantum superposition to collapse.
In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers discussed how they accurately predicted the decay of a quantum system. They even prevented this breakdown from occurring.
What’s the big deal about a computer than can tell you the position, direction, and speed of a particle at the same time? I want the winning lottery numbers.
I’m glad you asked. In The Shadows of Time series, you can use this computer to:
- Seed a wormhole,
- Hold it open long enough for your safe passage, and
- Make sure you end up in the right time and place.
In my novels, they call that forecasting computer the Ox Shalay.
Telling the Future
Great. Your Ox Shalay computer is a fancy flux-capacitor. It makes time travel possible. Can I get it to do one more thing for me? Can it tell me the winning lottery numbers? I want the 2052 edition of the Grays Sports Almanac without running into Biff.
How would this super intelligent computer tell me the future if all it sees is a bunch of collapsing probabilities?
The future is not written in stone, at least from our perspective. So, if all the Ox Shalay sees is a bunch of possibilities that collapse in the present, how would it communicate those possibilities? One way is through poetic verse that adds uncertainty to the same degree of the probability rating.
In other words, if there is a 100% chance the light is on in a room I’m going into, then the Ox Shalay would report that the room is bright. If there’s a 50% chance the light will be on, the Ox Shalay will report something like, “the way before you will be unclear.” Whoever reads the Ox Shalay’s predictions will have the same level of uncertainty that the computer has.
Either way, I’m hoping there’s a computer like the Ox Shalay wrapped under a tree with my name on it this Christmas.
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