The dawn of the quantum age

It’s been a quarter of a century since the first quantum bits, or qubits, were strung together to make a rudimentary quantum computer. With their ability to simultaneously represent both the ones and zeros of conventional computers, qubits are the essential components of systems that can far outperform today’s computers at solving certain types of problems. Since then, progress has relied more on hard science than on applied engineering: creating more stable qubits that can maintain their quantum state for more than a fraction of a second, linking them together into larger systems and coming up with new forms of programming to exploiting the technology’s properties.

This bears comparison to what happened in the early days of traditional computing, after the invention of the transistor in the 1940s and the integrated circuit in 1958. In hindsight, the steady exponential progression in capacitance described by Moore’s Law, which carried computers into the mainstream, seems inexorable.

the Quantitative age It is unlikely to unfold with the same sense of metronomic determinism. It has the ability to present great surprises, both on the positive and negative side. An on-going global race to devise new techniques for controlling and exploiting quantum effects, and to create more efficient algorithms – making sudden performance leaps ever more likely.

This surprise came with publication Chinese search Propose a method to break the most common form of online encryption using a quantum computer similar to the one already available. This feat—a possible “Sputnik moment”—was expected to require more advanced quantum systems many years in the future.

Other cybersecurity experts eventually concluded that this method is unlikely to work in practice. One question is why China would allow it to be published, if it had already shown a way to expose the world’s most secret communications. Yet it still causes shock, and should be a wake-up call for all those, especially in the United States, who worry about the dangers of China developing technological supremacy.

Many companies in industries such as chemicals, banking and automobile manufacturing have invested in learning how to program quantum systems in hopes of being the first Practical uses He could come soon. When modeling complex financial risks, designing new molecules and speeding up data processing in machine learning systems, quantum systems can gain an advantage once they become marginally cheaper or faster than current computers.

That moment of “quantum advantage”—when systems demonstrate a practical, albeit modest, superiority over certain problems—remains, admirably, a long way off. With increased investment and expectations, the scope for short-term disappointment is high, even if the long-term potential remains unchanged.

it’s a It’s still hard To hold qubits in their quantum state long enough to perform useful calculations. The next frontier is the invention of forms of error correction that use some qubits to counteract the “noise” caused by this lack of coherence. Recent research indicates that progress is being made in solving this problem faster than expected.

The potential for breakthroughs in areas such as error correction has increased the chance of a quantum shock — when machines leap from a brilliant science experiment to world-changing technology. Based on China’s seemingly flawed cryptographic paper, it would be rash to predict that this moment is already at hand. But with so many efforts being made around the world to harness the properties of quantum mechanics for computing, it might be quicker to put off serious consideration of the promises — and the risks — until another day.

Leave a Comment