Quantum physicists are studying the immense computing power of the human brain. The main takeaway? Feel free to spend less time worrying about being replaced by artificial intelligence, and more time focusing on what humans do best, like creating new things and ideas.
How do we measure the power and potential of the human brain? To answer this question, many scientists have compared our brains to computers. And as computers have gotten smarter, we have even questioned whether they may someday be able to process, question, and create as well as humans can.
Quantum physicists are thinking about this question in a new way. Matthew Fisher, a leading theoretical physicist, has assembled a worldwide team of quantum physicists, molecular biologists, biochemists, colloid scientists and behavioral neuroscientists to "seek explicit experimental evidence to answer whether we might in fact be quantum computers."
If this hypothesis is proven, it means our brains may operate more like a quantum computer than a digital computer—that is, our complex and flexible neural networks are exponentially more complex and capable than the digital computers used today. Quantum computers (which are mostly theoretical and experimental at this time) would vastly outperform digital computers. For example, a quantum computer can search through disconnected datasets many orders of magnitude faster than even a massively parallel digital computer.
How will Fisher's team go about proving this theory? Doing so will require measuring the way molecules inside the human brain behave while the human brain is actively thinking. The complexity of such testing is why the "brain is quantum" hypothesis has remained unproven as of yet.
This research would strongly suggest that, rather than worrying about being replaced by AI, humans should instead focus on increasing the brain's inherent ability to do things that digital computers can't, like creating new things and ideas. Theorists believe your brain might contain 100 billion quantum bits, which would make your own brain more powerful than all the digital computers in the world combined.
If this is true, how do we get the most out of our incredible thinking machines? If the brain indeed functions like a quantum computer, meditation may be a way to make it run more efficiently. A 2009 study revealed that "Sanyama, an ancient yogic attentional technique embodying both transcendence and integration, provides a unique neuropsychological explanation for extraordinary creativity."
Additionally, Fisher's research "could shed new light on how the brain works, which might lead to novel mental health treatment protocols," says UC Santa Barbara chancellor Henry T. Yang.