How quantum computers will shape the future?
The prospect of quantum computers is one that has caused a great deal of discussion recently. Some researchers maintain that these devices have the potential to completely revolutionize the way in which we look at computation. The use of such machines may make certain well established methods obsolete while creating entirely new possibilities for parallel computing and encryption schemes. This article will explore some areas where quantum computers would be useful as well as what it would take to build them.
An overview of quantum computing
For those who are unfamiliar with quantum theory, a brief explanation may be helpful before going any further. In very basic terms, quantum physics is the study of matter and energy on an atomic and subatomic level (as opposed to classical physics on a macroscopic scale). In quantum theory, everything is broken up into atoms and subatomic particles.
Individual electrons have a certain amount of “spin” that determines which direction they are spinning in. An atom may be in multiple states at once, its position can only be described as a probability function, and within the nucleus of an atom there exists pairs of spinning electrons whose positions are entangled – thus what happens to one affects the other even if they are separated by vast distances (quantum nonlocality).
When these properties are applied to computing devices, it becomes difficult to create traditional logical gates like AND or OR because each particle has no definite state until measured. Using standard Boolean logic with waves or particles that do not have a clear state will produce results that are indeterminate. Thus, quantum computing involves the use of devices called quantum algorithms to perform logical operations on superimposed particles in order to extract meaningful information from their wave function.
Quantum computers could theoretically offer vast improvements to processing power because all values would exist simultaneously. This means that there are more possible arrangements of qubits available than for classical bits and thus greater potential for parallelization. According to IBM, one day it may be possible to create a single machine with up to 10^16 individual qubits!
PRACTICALITY OF QUANTUM COMPUTERS
Quantum computers come in two variants: an array of trapped ions (atoms whose electrons have been stripped away) or solid state NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance). The former is simpler to create, but the latter allows for much faster speeds. Unfortunately it seems that no matter which method is used, quantum computers suffer from a peculiar problem: when actually trying to perform computations with them using quantum algorithms, a classical computer must be used as an external “oracle.” In other words, they are useless without outside assistance. Even if you made a machine that had infinite processing power and memory on its own (a so-called Universal Quantum Computer) it could not be used by itself – remember that qubits have no definite value until measured . Thus all calculations must be done externally with standard models like Shor’s algorithm or Grover’s algorithm and then the results retrieved and applied.
Research into quantum computers is still in the early stages. Only a handful of full-function devices exist at this time, and they are very expensive to maintain. There have been some promising demonstrations of their capabilities though, including a calculation that would take 250 steps on a normal computer being completed in 4 on a quantum computer – with another demonstrating how Shor’s algorithm could be used to break RSA encryption.
In spite of these advancements there has been great debate over whether or not Quantum Computers will ever be able to outperform the speed of traditional models across the board for every task imaginable.
Theories that rely on quantum computers being far superior to classical models at certain tasks (like quantum simulation ) are still unproven and a great deal of work remains.
“Quantum computing provides not just the promise of machines with vast processing power, but also new ways of doing very fast factoring or solving other important mathematical problems.”, -IBM
How auantum computers are operated
Use of a quantum computer requires the use of specialized software, which is designed around how these machines work and therefore very different from what we are used to. At present, there’s no way to interface with a quantum computer directly – an issue that will have to be solved before they can be placed into widespread production. Additionally, classical computers must be used as external oracles in order to translate solutions provided by the quantum machine into code for traditional systems – but it remains unclear whether this process of translation will slow down overall processing time so much that it renders Quantum Computers useless when compared with their traditional counterparts.
Quantum computers in the world
The biggest question, of course, is whether or not Quantum Computers will be able to stay competitive with their classical counterparts. Theoretical physicists are nearly unanimous in their belief that this is only a matter of time – but what does that mean for our current computer technology? Will we have to wait until some far-off date to see the results? Or are quantum computers about to change everything we know about computing now? In order for top companies like IBM and Intel (Microsoft’s parent company) to invest so much money, something big is coming – justify now there’s no other explanation.
And if they’re justify then all bets are off: using simple estimates on the processing power required for certain tasks it seems likely that a single quantum computer could out-compute the entire human race in short order. Once built, they will be able to search through massive amounts of data, create tightly secured encryption keys , and solve complex problems which would take an enormous amount of time to complete on our current models.
Industry specific impact
Perhaps the industries that will be most impacted by quantum computing are in the fields of scientific research and encryption. Since quantum computers offer new ways to solve mathematical problems and process information, it is likely that they will be able to speed up work in these areas by orders of magnitude. For this reason, we should expect not only to see short-term advances in already existing fields but also entirely new industries spring up around the use of this technology – each one designed to take advantage of its unique capabilities.
- Quantum Computing in Healthcare
In healthcare and medicine, quantum computers may be able to speed up the process of drug discovery and create new pharmaceuticals which have never before been thought possible. In cryptography, Quantum Computers could allow us to guard our most sensitive data more effectively than ever before – perhaps even rendering current encryption methods obsolete entirely (a possibility that has many governments terrified).
- Quantum Computing in Finance
The impact of quantum computing on finance might be around 1-5 years away from a large-scale product or service. There are some startups working with things like the blockchain , so it is clear that this industry will change drastically once quantum machines start being applied.
The big changes will likely center around those things that don’t scale very well: transactions as low as 10 bits will compete with the best of blockchain’s attempts today (along with a quantum computer, add to that a distributed network like Bitcoin’s and you get something entirely new). A general-purpose computing engine will likely start competing head-to-head against Goldman Sachs in under 5 years.
In the short term, it is possible we will see more advanced forms of machine learning , such as neural nets and algorithmic trading . The long term impact will be significant: moving into financial astrology might not sound like progress – but from our current point of view it certainly would represent an advance over what we have now.
Future promise of quantum computers
Of course, most of the applications that we’ve talked about are still in theory. In the future, however, quantum computers will be able to do things that are currently impossible on traditional machines. Some of the first applications will probably deal with simulation and similar tasks, but eventually we’ll start to see quantum algorithms designed for cryptography as well as more complex operations like weather prediction. It’s even been suggested that they could be used in medical research by simulating molecular interactions in order to speed up the development of new drugs.
Future generations may look back and wonder how we could ever have relied on such outdated technology when it came to performing some of our most important tasks. Like all scientific breakthroughs however, the future is hard to predict – we can’t say whether or not Quantum Computers will make a real impact until they’ve actually been put into use (and we won’t know if they are truly useful until then either.)
Quantum computers will help in getting the solutions of complex mathematical problems like integer factorization, simulating quantum systems and breaking the codes from cipher texts for military communications very quickly as compared to classical computer systems due to their ability to perform parallel operations on a host of data at same time using superposition of states which can encode more information than any other conventional computing system. They also have high potential application in molecular modelling applications
Quantum computers are an amazing achievement that could revolutionize technology and usher in the age of true Artificial Intelligence. They will provide us with devices able to process information far faster than anything we have ever seen before – but they remain very expensive toys at present, their capabilities limited by a host of external factors. Unless some kind of breakthrough is made though (like the discovery of cold fusion), it is fair to assume Quantum Computers will become an important addition to our society within the next 50 years.
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