editing chapter 5.3
well, and i’ve gone over my nanowrimo total tonight, the last day. wee hah. i must say i had a real blast writing this part after i realized the research would get me nowhere and started making it all up.
Kurt texted the others to meet him at the foodcourt, and left his van for the first time in weeks. Standing at the counter choosing his bargain lunch, he saw Nathan eyeing the cellphone velcroed to his wrist.
“Oh wow, what’s that?” Nathan looked at Kurt’s face hopefully. “Did you make…? No, you couldn’t have.”
Kurt raised his arm and showed off his new quantum computer. “Not available in stores.”
During the night, he finished debugging the operating system, adapted it for his android phone and wrote a basic app to show that it worked. Nathan’s admiration made him unbearably pleased with himself. Yes, he was a genius.
Josh and Anomia were waiting for him with half-drunk cups of coffee. Fairy and Snake came in a few minutes later, arguing, having both gone to the other food court by mistake.
They weren’t quiet as impressed as Nathan.
Kurt was supposed to be coming up with a software engine, and they were annoyed when he showed them a klugy wristphone that didn’t actually do anything.
“What do you want from a quantum computer?” he demanded, a bit put out. “I could crack all your passwords,” he offered. They looked dubious. “Look how fast a search works,” he said, getting the results the moment he hit enter. “I’ve written an algorithm. You can tell it the problem you’re trying to solve and it’ll design and implement a search for you.”
“You mean like Siri,” Snake said, his lip curling.
“Well, if you want spectacular, there’s always instant communication and teleportation,” Kurt said sarcastically. They brightened up. “I’d need to construct a receiver. There would be difficulties” Aw. “But really, it’s perfect for exactly what you wanted it for. A quantum computer is best at doing quantum simulations.”
“You’re saying it can really simulate a quantum world? Like, players really would be able to alter game reality with their minds?” Anomia asked.
“Yeah,” he said after thinking for a moment. “No reason why not, and convincingly, too.” He shrugged and went back to his lunch. “With processing power to spare.”
Anomia sat back, happy, tapping her empty cup against the table. “So we’re really making a game where you immerse yourself in a quantum world, and get used to it, and pretty soon you’re using the same techniques at home, and school, and work. The whole world will change.”
Snake and Fairy looked at each other, Fairy to catch Snake scoffing, and Snake to catch Fairy getting teary.
“Where’s the actual chip?” Josh asked. Kurt showed them a little piece of black tape on the back of his phone. “I could have left it back in the van, but I wanted to show you. The quantum part is actually too small to be described.” He indicated a slight lump under the tape, and lifted one edge. “You can see the integrated circuit it’s on, sort of.”
They bent over to peer at it. “It’s a speck,” Snake observed.
“Take a picture with your phone and zoom way in.”<
“It’s a pixelated speck.”
Kurt smoothed the tape down with the back of his thumb. “I wasn’t sure at first, because of course the mobius loop is an infinite sheet of carbon molecules.”
“Duh,” Snake mouthed.
“But I finally counted them, sort of, in one state, and came up with five hundred qubits, which by the way would use up ten terabytes of normal, classical computer storage.”
Kurt needed a smoke, so they all trooped out to emphysema alley, where Fairy bummed a cigarette from Kurt, Josh lit up a little guiltily, Snake looked superior, and Anomia looked a little bit pissed off at Josh.
Kurt recounted what he remembered about his endless fabrication and programming sessions, and the antics with Reich and Tesla. Fairy got breathless over Reich, and Josh swooned over Tesla. Anomia was cold and wanted to go back in. Snake made hallucination jokes.
“So how do qubits work?” Fairy asked.
Anomia sighed. “Oh, look it up.”
Kurt ignored the squabble. “I’m still figuring out how to train them.”
“The qubits?” Josh asked.
Snake laughed. “Sparky the Wonder Qubit.”
Kurt lit another cigarette off the stub. “It’s a neural system. It learns.” Fairy nudged him until he offered her a second one. “You should see the machine language I’ve developed. It’s very paradoxical. Like poetry.” He nodded at Snake, “You probably wouldn’t get it.” Snake drew himself up and flipped his hair.
“I’m trying to process a huge number number of complex variables at once, and organize it so that everything flows smoothly thru the system. It’s all trial and error – the wrong rules will kill the buzz entirely. Because it’s Bayesian.” He looked down at Fairy. “The operating system has only a few simple and comprehensive ground rules, and they are above all adaptable.” She beamed at him.
“You should patent it,” Snake suggested.
“I couldn’t possibly document it well enough to fill out a patent application.” Kurt suffered from partial amnesia about the fabrication details, due to the pernicious influence of Tesla and Reich.
“What will you call it?” Fairy asked. She cuddled close to him for warmth.
“Hmm, a name. They’ve built neural networks before. They always name them for some reason. There was the Perceptron in 1958, the Orgasmatron in ’73, the Cognitron in ’75. In 1980 they built the Neocognitron, and the Multilayer Perceptron in ’86. I don’t know, maybe this version should be the called the Groktron.”
Snake made a face.
“Whatever.” He smiled at Fairy. “Why don’t you name it?”
She batted her eyes at him. “Too bad Orgasmatron is taken,” she mused.
“So, what’s next?” Snake said, eager to shut Fairy down.
Kurt turned to him. “I figure you could all use individual quantum computers, rather than trying to network thru a server. It’ll give me an opportunity to tinker. A personal quantum device should make your work easier.” He drew out a much-folded piece of paper with notations scribbled all over it, and tapped at a complex circuit diagram. “It reads your mind, kind of. Minds. Anyway, it’s all drag and drop and tools I borrowed from the gimp. Intelligible design. You basically describe or draw what you want, or find a reference, and the programming happens automatically.”
They were stunned.
“And it’s cheap. With my invention, you can make your indie videogame, and it won’t take a hundred people and cost ten million bucks like it does these days. It’ll just take you guys right here, and about a thousand dollars. Most of that spent on coffee, no doubt.” He checked the time and got up. He was tired of talking and wanted to be back home in his van, now, where he could relax, pop a Xanax, and get back to work. He walked over and dumped his trash in the bins.
“How’re we gonna come up with a dime?” Josh whined.
“I’ll get a job as a stripper,” Anomia suggested jokingly. They looked expectantly at her. “Not,” she bristled.
Kurt turned back and said, “You don’t have to worry about money. A quantum computer can handle something like bank rounding errors in its sleep.”
Snake stared at him. “Could we ask it to figure out the stock market and recommend a few things? Could it do that?”
Kurt shrugged and left for the subway. “Maybe i’ll write an app.”
Anomia and Fairy started to gush, so Snake became the voice of reason. “Maybe you didn’t notice, but Kurt’s really into this woo shit. I hate to pop your bubble because you’re so depending on him for miracles and all. I think he’s just another metaphysical flake who sounds good but doesn’t know what he’s doing.” He spread his hands persuasively. “Else he’d be making the big bucks in a government funded lab.”
The girls defended him, and even Josh thought his physics was sound, but Snake pointed out a dozen basic fallacies and departures from standard quantum physics. “Orgone – please. Tesla fields. Totally unsubstantiated. And what did he show us that was at all quantumagical? Nothing. A search algorithm. Wow.” This dampened their enthusiasm. “We’ll just have to see what he comes up with. A PQfuckingA, huh? Well, I’m sure we can make it sound great, no matter how eyerolling it actually turns out to be.”
Kurt spent several more weeks not answering his phone or emails while he created the game engine and level editor. He modified a bunch of android tablets to run them. He also spent time tweaking his quantum computer. He got to know the quantum kernel like the back of his hand. He did a lot of psychedelics, dissociatives, and deliriants. As well as the usual regimen. He neglected to eat. He had Tesla and Reich over for a party. His dream Airstream took a lot of abuse. He had some trouble with an alien reptilian portal that opened up in the parking deck near his van, and built an orgone generator app to neutralize it. His mood grew lighter, and he slept better and didn’t make as much of a mess when he sleep-programmed. Someone else, Snake maybe, would have marketed it. But Kurt just moved on to something challenging.