Today, people of all backgrounds can contribute to solving serious scientific problems by playing computer games. A Danish research group has extended the limits of quantum physics calculations and simultaneously blurred the boundaries between man and Mac.
The saying of philosopher René Descartes of what makes humans unique is beginning to sound hollow. 'I think - therefore soon I am obsolete' seems more appropriate. When a computer routinely beats us at chess and we can barely navigate without the help of a GPS, have we outlived our place in the world? Not quite. Welcome to the front line of research in cognitive skills, quantum computers and gaming.
Today there is an on-going battle between man and machine. While genuine machine consciousness is still years into the future, we are beginning to see computers make choices that previously demanded a human's input. Recently, the world held its breath as Google's algorithm AlphaGo beat a professional player in the game Go, an achievement demonstrating the explosive speed of development in machine capabilities.
But we are not beaten yet - human skills are still superior in some areas. This is one of the conclusions of a recent study by Danish physicist Jacob Sherson, published in the prestigious science journal Nature.
"It may sound dramatic, but we are currently in a race with technology and steadily being overtaken in many areas. Features that used to be uniquely human are fully captured by contemporary algorithms. Our results are here to demonstrate that there is still a difference between the abilities of a man and a machine," explained Jacob Sherson.
At the interface between quantum physics and computer games, Sherson and his research group at Aarhus University have identified one of the abilities that still makes us unique compared to a computer's enormous processing power: our skill in approaching problems heuristically and solving them intuitively. The discovery was made at the AU Ideas Centre CODER, where an interdisciplinary team of researchers work to transfer some human traits to the way computer algorithms work.
Quantum physics holds the promise of immense technological advances in areas ranging from computing to high-precision measurements. However, the problems that need to be solved to get there are so complex that even the most powerful supercomputers struggle with them. This is where the core idea behind CODER, combining the processing power of computers with human ingenuity, becomes clear.