By Lance Eliot, the AI Trends Insider
They say that time always marches forward.
Right now, we assume that time can only flow in one direction, namely forward. Mankind has dreamt forever that it would be nifty if time could be reversed. There are a plethora of science fiction tales including books, short stories, movies, TV shows, poetry, and you name it that have sought to explore what could happen and what might be done if time could flow in reverse.
Time reversibility is undoubtedly a fascinating topic.
Shifting gears, you might be surprised to know that time reversibility has been given some strident attention in the realm of computers and computing machines, doing so in a field of study known as reversible computing.
Most people have never heard of such a thing. Indeed, even those within the computer field are often taken aback to discover that research and attention are being put toward reversible computing. The usual reaction is in three stages. First, amazement that such a field of study exists. Second, a doubtfulness that it makes any sense to study the notion and that it might very well be an utter waste of time (a bit of a pun there). Third, curiosity about what exactly reversible computing is, and how it might be of use.
Generally, there are two major ways to categorize reversible computing facets. One is a means of performing physical reversibility of computational activities, while the other has to do with undertaking a logical semblance of computational reversibility. These two categories tend to work hand-in-hand.
A simple example might suffice to get you started on the topic of reversible computing.
It seems that everyone nowadays knows that there are usually computer bits consisting of the binary values of 1 and 0. We could construct an electronic chip that would take as input a bit, either in the state of 1 or the state of 0, and produce as output the so-called opposite or inversion of the bit (i.e., if the input is a 1 then output a 0, while if the input is a 0 then output a 1). Those of you familiar with such matters would recognize this as the NOT operation (confusing perhaps that this is known as NOT, which might seem like not doing something, when in fact it will produce the outputs as mentioned herein). More commonly, this is referred to as an inverter.
Could you receive the output of a NOT operation and make things go in reverse, returning to whatever you started with? Yes, it would certainly seem straightforward to do so. If the output was a 0, you know that the input must have been a 1, while if the output is 1 then you know that the input must have been a 0 (assuming of course that the operation worked flawlessly). Now, keep in mind that most electronic chips are not made to work in reve
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