Tiny Virtual “Living” Individuals Experience Real Life
Jeffrey Heimgartner posted on December 06, 2018 |

An organism in a life system has clear biological attributes such as self-replication, mutation, interaction, birth and death. While these are readily apparent in humans, animals and microbes, just how small of a system can demonstrate these behaviors? Currently, there isn’t a lone technology that can make that determination.

Researchers from UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country’s Quantum Technologies for Information Sciences (QUTIS) still wanted answers, so they combined two areas of study—artificial intelligence and quantum computing—to create virtual tiny life forms that can experience various phases of life just like real-world life forms.

“Our research connects two previously unrelated areas as are artificial life and quantum computing,” said researcher Lucas Lamata. “The former is an extensive research field where the aim is to reproduce biological behaviors in artificial systems, while the latter is an area that [has been] growing fast in the past few years and could revolutionize computation and communication.”

An artificial life protocol that encodes quantum behaviors belonging to living systems has been created on an IBM QX4 cloud quantum computer. (Image courtesy of IBM.)
An artificial life protocol that encodes quantum behaviors belonging to living systems has been created on an IBM QX4 cloud quantum computer. (Image courtesy of IBM.)

Using an IBM QX4 quantum computer, the team set out to determine whether life behaviors occur at the macroscopic level of a DNA module or at the few-atom level where quantum physics dominates. Their research has resulted in the first experimental realization of a quantum algorithm of artificial life following Darwin’s laws of evolution.

Their established system adheres to a biomimetic protocol that encodes quantum behaviors with the same behaviors of living systems. Their simulated individuals, coined as a group as quantum life, are represented by two quantum bits, or qubits, that act as a genotype and phenotype. The genotype holds the information that determines the type of living unit, which is transmitted from generation to generation. The phenotype are the characteristics displayed by individuals. In addition to being determined by genetic information, these characteristics are also determined by interaction with other individuals and the environment.

“The bases have been established for addressing different levels of classical and quantum complexity,” said Enrique Solano, QUTIS director. “For example, one could consider the growth of populations of quantum individuals with gender criteria, their life aims both as individuals and as groups, automated behaviors without external controls, quantum robotics processes, intelligent quantum systems—until the threshold of quantum supremacy that could only be reached by a quantum computer can be overcome. What would emerge after that would be terribly risky questions, such as guessing the microscopic origin of life itself, the intelligent development of individuals and societies, or addressing the origin of awareness and animal and human creativity.”

While their experiment cements their theoretical framework in the real world, the team knows that this is only the beginning. This research is perhaps the start to answering the mysteries of life, as well as setting humanity on a new path moving forward.

“We may easily find several applications, still to be developed, around quantum game theory and optimization problems,” Solano said. “The latter are commonplace for applications in econom[ic], design, aerodynamics and complex biological systems. The natural merge of this research with artificial intelligence methods will create a novel paradigm for exploring the growth of complexity, an important asset of present and future studies from molecular systems to astrophysical objects and social behaviors.”

Interested in more ways the quantum computing is edging the world closer to a fourth industrial revolution? Check out Micius Satellite Enables Intercontinental Quantum Communication and What Is Quantum Cryptography and How Exactly Can It Benefit IoT?

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