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"I think we're still on that topic, still trying to figure out what computers are, how they change us, why we use them."
- Neal Stephenson

Quantum Logic Thinker (QL)  
  A computer system that thinks about problems in unusual ways.  

Large parts of this novel are dedicated to the idea that computers can be used for other than strictly linear thinking (or simple computation). The novel uses technical terms to describe how a computer system that is capable of original solutions to problems might be as difficult as a human genius is to communicate with.

"The QL is a monster to work with," he said…"It has no priorities, no real sense of needs or goals. It thinks, but it may not solve. Quantum logic can outline the center of a problem before it understands the principles and questions, and then, from our point of view, everything ends in confusion. More often than not, it comes up with a solution to a problem that is not stated. It does virtually everything but linear, time's arrow ratiocination. Half of its efforts are meaningless to goal-oriented beings like ourselves, but I can't prune those efforts, because somewhere in them lies the solution to my problems, even if I haven't stated the problem or am not aware that I have a problem.
From Heads, by Greg Bear.
Published by St. Martin's Press in 1990
Additional resources -

This computer system requires another system just to mediate between itself (the QL) and human beings. The QL spends a lot of its time working through material that seems totally irrelevant, unlike the classical use of large mainframe systems, in which computational time was metered out in thousandths of a second. No wasted time in those systems!

Bear's Moving Mars (published by Tor in 1993) repeatedly mentioned computer systems called thinkers, and a QL was essential for the novel's climax.

"Quantum Logic reflected the way the universe operated at a deep level. Human logic--and the mathematical neural logic of most thinkers--worked best on the slippery surface of reality." (page 95, mass market paperback) A thinker (a self-aware computer system with a personality more like a human might have) usually mediates between humans and a QL.

However, in Moving Mars, a human scientist must forgo the thinker and interact directly with a QL to prevent the QL from exploring "answers" that can kill the scientist's team during their experiments. Immersion in the QL takes a mental toll on the scientist so that he can barely speak after long sessions, but without his guidance, the QL is distracted by dangerous possibilities. "It could not know the effect on human observers. It can't even model us effectively." (page 443)

This artifical intelligence exists beyond the realms of the human mind, and that is where it can benefit humans the most. "I saw more clearly now the value of the QL's contribution. That it was in fact self-aware, despite these distortions, gave me a chill. What sort of self-awareness could function when consciousness has no shape, no specified purpose? "Who could have _designed_ such a mind? Humans had--famous and less famous; and QL thinkers had played a small role in human affairs for a century and a half--but no human, not even the designers, could encompass the QL mentality. It was not superior--in some repsects, it operated much more simply than any human or thinker mind--but what it did, it did superbly--and unpredictably..." (page 480) .

Larry Niven wrote a group of stories centered around the Draco Tavern; one of them is called The Schumann Computer - see the entry for chirpsithra supercomputer for a truly unique look at artificial intelligence.

Special thanks to Ann M. Lynn for her contributions to this entry.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Heads
  More Ideas and Technology by Greg Bear
  Tech news articles related to Heads
  Tech news articles related to works by Greg Bear

Quantum Logic Thinker (QL)-related news articles:
  - The Latest In Quantum-Dot Switches

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