Google Workshop on Quantum Biology: Welcome and Introduction

Posted in Companies, Science, Conferences on June 04, 2012

Google Workshop on Quantum Biology
Welcome and Introduction
Presented by Hartmut Neven
October 22, 2010


Surprisingly robust quantum effects have been observed in warm biological systems. At the same time quantum information technology has moved closer to physical realization. This one day workshop will examine the significance of mesoscopic quantum coherence, tunneling and entanglement in biomolecular membranes, proteins, DNA and cytoskeleton, with particular attention to recently discovered megahertz ballistic conductance in microtubules. Potential utilization of biomolecular quantum information in regulation of cellular activities will be addressed, along with implications for disease and therapy as well as the future development of quantum computation and artificial intelligence.

You may ask why Google should pay attention to developments in quantum biology?

Many of us at Google are in the business of developing artificial intelligent systems. Hence it is important to remind ourselves of the fact that we work with an underlying hardware substrate that quantum physicists would characterize as "hyper classical" which is a system that shuts out quantum mechanical effects such as coherence, entanglement or tunneling. Or to say it with a line I picked up in a recent UX meeting "today's computers are prisons for pixels".

Incorporating quantum resources into the design of synthetic intelligence offers a plethora of game changing engineering methods ranging from reduced energy consumption, secure communication channels, hyper acute sensing or searches in sublinear time to the tantalizing perspective of obtaining high quality solutions to hard optimization problems.

Looking at the philosophical side; the structure of reality as depicted by quantum theory has fascinated philosophers since its inception. Its implications in the context of the human mind may enable us to restate some of its most persistent riddles. Is free will just an illusion or is it rather a property innate in all matter? Is conscious experience a property confined to the complex nervous systems of higher mammals or is it a feature of the fabric of reality as basic as spin or charge?

However the workshop will not attempt to address philosophical questions whose full answers may well lie outside of what is accessible to the scientific method. Rather it will focus on experimental results that establish that non-trivial quantum phenomena persist in warm biological matter. This possibility was outright disputed by a majority of physicists only a few short years ago. New results will be presented on the role of quantum mechanics in sensing, photosynthesis, microtubules and DNA replication as well as new ideas on the pharmacology of drugs and applications in learning from examples.

In a time of rivalry between people centric and algorithm centric approaches to designing internet services it may be inspiring to contemplate whether a very large server center can at least in principle mimic human thought or whether fundamental differences in hardware currently prevent this and whether we ought to increase our investment in harnessing quantum effects to engineer technical systems that have a chance at rivaling the ingenuity of human thought.

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Tags: Google, tech, Talk, quantum, Biology, artificial, intelligence, computation, GoogleTechTalks