5.19.2009

I'll See Your Superpositioned Particles, and Raise You Two Entangled Photons

This look in The New Scientist is focused on the same findings--quantum entanglement and quantum superposition--from which some minds infer biocentrism. But this article is about the implications of these phenomena on game theory. Specifically, Portland State University Mathematician Steve Bleiler (also a professional poker player) is exploring what will happen to online poker, "where the referee is a computer program that deals the cards, mediates the players' actions and spits back the results," once today's personal computers are superceded by those that employ quantum computing technology.
Bleiler's calculations suggest that when the game of poker is played by the rules of the quantum world, it undergoes a radical transformation. New strategies open up that simply didn't exist before and any gamers ready to exploit them stand to make a tidy profit - at the expense of those who are not. Players with quantum computers but with no access to "quantised strategies" will be at a terminal disadvantage, he says. "I can't wait."

These startling predictions come from recasting poker within the framework of a branch of mathematics called quantum game theory. The most basic version of game theory arose in the 1920s as a way to evaluate the different strategies available to the players in any kind of competitive game, from poker to military campaigns.

When the playing pieces in your game are everyday-scale objects that obey the laws of classical physics, this is relatively straightforward. But at the scale of subatomic particles, physics is governed by the counter-intuitive rules of quantum theory.

Quantum particles do bizarre things, like being in different positions at the same time, a phenomenon called quantum superposition. They can also stay connected to other particles even when they are separated by vast distances, a property known as entanglement.

This means that when you play games in the quantum realm, actions like betting or not betting are suddenly replaced by complex superpositions of the two. This opens up new strategies by allowing players to both bet and not bet, and to do so in varying proportions simultaneously. Not only that, but thanks to entanglement, the decisions you take instantly affect your competitors' options.

No comments: