As it turns out, the human capacity for randomness might help us further our understanding of quantum mechanics. Read on to find out one way Einstein was wrong, and what that could mean for quantum computing.
Albert Einstein once said that “God does not play dice with the universe,” implying that quantum particles are not strictly randomized. According to his principle of local realism, Einstein believed that each particle needs to have a pre-existing value to be measurable. In other words, if there is no value before a measurement is made, a measurement can’t be made.
For those studying in the field of quantum mechanics, however, local realism just doesn’t pan out, and scientists have been trying to prove it ever since John Stewart Bell first created ‘Bell’s Theorem,’ which states that “No physical theory of local hidden variables can ever reproduce all of the predictions of quantum mechanics.” Basically, if an experiment could be found to violate that theory, then it would simultaneously refute both Bell and Einstein and shed further light on the way that randomness contributes to quantum mechanics.
And believe it or not, scientists have done an experiment that violated Bell’s theory. What’s more, it used input from over 100,000 humans, showing that a little bit of human randomness was exactly what was needed to break through the barrier that is local realism.
The BIG Bell Test
Hailed as “The BIG Bell Test“, the experiment made use of human randomness to test the idea of local realism.
Participants contributed to the study by playing a video game created by the scientists who ran the project. In the game, players independently introduced sequences of 0s and 1s as randomly as they could. Those sequences, in turn, controlled the experiments by determining the measurements of quantum particles in 12 labs.
Each of the bits created by the players gave the scientists millions of unpredictable, independent decisions with which to measure their particles. The independence of the decisions was critical as without it the experiment would not be able to reach a valid conclusion about the Bell theory. Going by that theory, experimenters must do their measurements using human decisions, and when they calculate the “Bell parameter” (or, parameter S), S cannot be greater than 2. If it is, then the inequality has been violated, and an intrinsically quantum phenomenon is present. Translation: if S is greater than 2, then there is an element of randomness within quantum mechanics.
So, local reality may be a big load of bunk as far as quantum mechanics is concerned, and randomness may be necessary to understand quantum mechanics.
Einstein and The Similarly Sized Results
The study only required 30,000 participants to generate reliable data, but over 100,000 participants were gathered.
Upon looking over the data from the experiment, it was determined that Bell’s theory had been violated, confirming the importance of randomness in quantum mechanics and refuting Einstein’s theory of local realism.
Furthermore, since human beings were integral in gathering that data, it follows that understanding our own capacity for randomness may be helpful in understanding how to develop a practical application for quantum mechanics.
Adding in the Human Element
This talk of human randomness brings to mind another study, this one coming from a group in Paris called the Algorithmic Nature Group, LABORES for the Natural and Digital Sciences. This group studied more than 3,400 people from age 4 to 91 years old, and they found that the ‘golden age’ for the ability to mimic randomness or make random choices is 25.
While at first it may seem that the conclusion means that we are at our most unpredictable at age 25, in truth this reflects our ability to comprehend the variables behind a random occurrence, allowing us to effectively hedge our bets against a system to overcome it.
For example, let’s say you are playing a video game and you fight a boss character, dying many times in the process but eventually gaining enough familiarity with the fight to succeed with ease. The boss isn’t doing exactly the same thing every time, but there is enough of a pattern in its movements and attacks for you to react properly no matter what said boss tries to do. When you have mastered that boss, you have effectively memorized each pattern that the boss can present and have gained the ability to expect them simultaneously.
And you’re best at that when you are 25. That being the case, one wonders if the age range of The BIG Bell Test centered around that number, but according to the experiment volunteers of any age were allowed to participate.
Putting it all Together
In recent years, studies in quantum computing have shown that a little bit of intrinsic randomness is “just the right ingredient needed to reduce the memory cost for modeling partially random statistics,” or at least that’s what Dr. Mile Gu of Griffith University says. Therefore, if it can be proven that intrinsic randomness does exist in quantum mechanics, then that knowledge will have a direct effect on our understanding of quantum computing.
It seems that Industry 4.0 has brought us to a place where understanding the next step requires us to look inward rather than outward. First, we realized that learning how we think would help us teach neural networks to learn, and now we are realizing that our ability to produce randomness may be the key to understanding the quantum computer.
We have a natural capacity for randomness, and it surpasses what we can program into a machine, which is good because, at the end of the day, Industry 4.0 challenges us to identify those things that people do better than a machine and find a way to use those skills to make tech work for us (and keep us working, at that).