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Computers are ubiquitous in Star Wars. Are they quantum-level in terms of complexity?

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    Why assume that quantum computing is the in-universe end point of computer technology? Look for some evidence, document what you can, and then ask if someone else has more information. – rosesunhill Mar 25 '16 at 16:36
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    The laws of physics are perhaps different in the Star Wars universe than in our own (for example, there's sound in space) so we can't be sure quantum physics would work the same or allow for faster computations. Although in The Force Awakens when Finn first returned to the Star Destroyer, I thought I did here them say some bit of technobabble about "quantum" something over the PA system in the hanger. – Hypnosifl Mar 25 '16 at 16:41
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    Hi, I have edited your question to remove the comments about assuming the computers are quantum. I think it is an ok question, but this is a better way of phrasing it maybe. – The Giant of Lannister Mar 25 '16 at 16:48
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    @Daniel Roseman - "Luke, you switched off your targeting computer. What's wrong?" Other lines from the New Hope script here include "the Death Star plans are not in the main computer" and "It'll take a few moments to get the coordinates from the navi-computer." – Hypnosifl Mar 25 '16 at 17:34
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    Considering the time it takes to calculate a jump to light speed, probably not. – Hatandboots Mar 25 '16 at 21:28
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As a software engineer, my answer would be "probably yes, from a certain point of view".

See, you can't talk about an engineered system's complexity without identifying the context. I can have a complex set of processor chips with a rudimentary console interface, or a complex virtual reality headset run by a simple single-chip, single-thread environment. I can have comparatively more complex RAID memory systems, or overclocking mechanisms while everything else is no different from the common PC.

In this case, I'll answer whether typical Star Wars computers can at least match the level of capabilities quantum computers have.

  • Current conventional computers use a classical binary bit to represent data. Quantum computers use a quantum bit or qubit.
  • The difference can be visualised as follows: Imagine a sphere with each point on the surface representing a different value. One classical bit can only represent the values at the two poles of an axis going through the sphere. One qubit can theoretically represent all values on the sphere's surface.
  • How many classical bits do you need to represent all the points on the sphere's surface, the equivalent of one qubit?

That's the real benefit of quantum computers. The physical space computer memory occupies is exponentially reduced. A computer's instruction set, data representation etc is no longer limited by the number of bits the computer OS is designed for (32/64 bits for example). Any single value can be represented within only one qubit.

There is no direct evidence such computers exist in Star Wars, but consider this - thousands of years of star charts, digitally recorded history, a whole galaxy worth of big data, a planetwide city full of what we today call smarthomes, 6 million languages (and etiquette & diplomatic protocols) in one droid with the capacity to learn more, a law code covering millennia of acts...no matter where you look, that's a lot of data. We already need so many data centres to hold a quarter century of Internet for a single world, How will any one computer or droid ever be able to sift out useful information if classical bits are used to store millennia of Internet from a whole galaxy?

They may not use classical bits, but they need something similar to the quantum bit for computers to be of use at all.

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    What you're describing sounds more like the difference between analog and digital computers than quantum vs. classical--I think quantum computers are designed so you don't need to measure the state of the qubit registers with arbitrarily high precision to retrieve your data, and you only retrieve some fixed number of bits corresponding to the number of qubit registers. The paper quantum analogue computation indicates that the "quantum computers" physicists talk about are digital, an analog computer using quantum physics would be a different beast. – Hypnosifl Mar 29 '16 at 12:20
  • As a software engineer, you have fundamentally misunderstood what a quantum computer is. They are great for solving certain classical problems in reduced time, but they are not, can not and will never be suitable for general purpose use, by definition. Sadly this is a common misconception so at least you're not alone. – Lightness Races in Orbit Apr 4 '16 at 1:02

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