What’s the Difference between Quantum Computers and Turing Machines? Which of the two is the brain more like?
Modern Computers or “Turing Machines” function by computing algorithms through the use of transistors which are switches either turned on or off. Based on which of these switches are on and off, the computer is able to determine numbers, make calculations, form algorithms and solve problems.
Until recently, scientists assumed that the brain functions like such a computer, processing sensory information and producing thoughts based on a function of whether there are electrical impulses in certain neurons or not. However, more recently it has been suggested that the brain may function more like a quantum computer. Quantum computers take from the ideas of Quantum physics and process information in states of probabilities and not just in states of 1 and 0. For example, by using Quantum computing, a switch can be in an indeterminate state of neither 1 or 0 but rather a state where its existence itself is a probability. These new switches called “Qubits” function by maintaining a spin that allows for the Qubit to be in a state where it is neither turned on or off, but rather in a state of where its existence is a probability. Using the ability for computers to process information in a fashion where switches could be set to more than just a binary state, allows for increased possibilities and exponentially faster computations.
Is Consciousness a Quantum Process?
Roger Penrose, a Mathematical Physicist from Oxford prominently theorized that the brain is far too complex to be looked at as a mere Turing Machine. He argued that certain processes such as that of consciousness require a much more complex mechanism that simple electrical firings don’t sufficiently explain. Penrose theorized that consciousness instead originates in microscopic microtubules in the brain in quantum states. (Microtubules are small tubes used to provide support to neurons and help transport materials within them.) Since Microtubules help uphold every single neuron in the brain, it would make sense that their product- consciousness also interacts with the functionalities of those neurons. This theory was later helped by a study that showed that neuronal microtubules do in fact vibrate which indicates the presence of an unknown function and a possible quantum spin. While this theory remains largely unproven, the idea that consciousness could be a process that occurs on the quantum level certainly is intriguing. It also shows how as science advances, there will likely be additional layers to the laws of physics we currently maintain that could explain more everyday phenomena.