Last year, Samsung developed the world’s first smartphone with quantum technology, installed as a security package. This year, Korean technology company KT launched its own “scrambler-free quantum smartphone” enabler. Quantum scrambling and quantum generation of randomness are vast improvements on conventional cryptography. In its basic sense, cryptography encrypts data by “converting plain text into scrambled text” readable only by a key. But quantum cryptography uses the randomness of quantum mechanics, through the medium of quantum computing, to transmit data in a way that is so radically random it can’t be predicted to the degree required to hack it.
This is astounding in and of itself, but I want more. The only thing quantum about your quantum phone, for practical purposes, is cryptography. Granted, there is an additional sense in which smartphones “use” quantum mechanics — they are designed with quantum theory in mind to control the “billions of transistors and other semiconductor elements” inside the things. But the data processed by these transistors are quite traditional and subject to the limitations thereof.
But if I can be greedy for a second, I want quantum communication on my quantum phone. Unless I have friends traveling to other planets, delays in cell communication on Terra are pretty innocuous. But it’s the principle of the thing. Ever wonder why the Star Trek universe gets faster-than-light communication and we don’t? It’s “subspace” and its theory seems unachievable, reliant on loopholes humans aren’t likely to be able to create or control anytime soon. “As a very rough approximation,” BBC Future reported a few years ago, “you would need the energy the sun produces over 100 million years to make a wormhole about the size of a grapefruit.” And who would we trust with that kind of power over energy production, given who produces our energy now? There must be a better way.
Quantum physics has a different approach: communication can be instantaneous because we’re already there. That’s an oversimplification, but not by much. According to Astronomy Magazine as cited by the QuantumXChange blog, “quantum entanglement occurs ‘when two particles are inextricably linked together no matter their separation from one another . . .'” Einstein described all this as “spooky action at a distance.” It would make communication instant because it would activate that part of the universe where two particles are essentially existing as one. And we haven’t figured out how to do that; but if we have a theory, that’s a start.
And, if we can achieve instantaneous communication via the quantum field, can’t we reverse part of that field and thus communicate into our own past? That’s the basic thesis of the movie Primer, which relies on a theory expressed in the “Feynman Diagrams.” It illustrates how a quantum-based cycle can flow both forward and backward in time. If I could call backwards in time, I could call myself, for example, and warn me not to do something stupid. I could also call myself with sports scores and stock tips, of course, but you should watch the movie to see why that’s a bad idea.
Richard Bach’s anarchist morality fable Jonathan Livingston Seagull presciently created a metaphor for the “perfect speed” we seek and which quantum theory may fulfill. A mentor magic gull-being tells the main character: “You will begin to touch heaven, Jonathan, in the moment that you touch perfect speed. And that isn’t flying a thousand miles an hour, or a million, or flying at the speed of light. Because any number is a limit, and perfection doesn’t have limits. Perfect speed […] is being there.” That’s what we want — to just be there. Is that too much to ask?