The Future of Quantum Computing

16 April, 2021

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Introduction

This report will cover the future of quantum computing. It will explain what quantum computing is. It will cover the battle between companies for quantum supremacy. It will explain the various issues associated with quantum computing. It will review the implications of quantum computing on the field of computer science and consumers. Finally, the report will conclude with a reflection.

What is Quantum Computing

Quantum Computing is a revolution over classical computing when dealing with certain important problems like factoring large equations. Classical computing is the standard foundation that is used by mainly all machines that utilize computing in some way. This style of classical computing depends on something known as a bit for memory which can either have a state of 0 or 1. While this is practical for most computing, it is not very efficient at dealing with probabilities or modelling quantum phenomena. “In the quantum world, we must use the language of probability, rather than certainty.” (HBR, 2020). Quantum Computing utilizes something known as a qubit for memory which unlike classical bits, it can hold more than one state during computation and can be set to the same state regardless of its location in memory. “By tapping into quantum phenomena like “superposition” and “entanglement,” these machines handle information in a fundamentally different way to “classical” computers like smartphones, laptops, or even today’s most powerful supercomputers.” (CBInsights, 2021). Quantum computing would make it possible to compute equations in a few minutes that would take humans over multiple millenniums to compute and would take classical computers over tens of thousands of years to compute.

The Battle for Quantum Supremacy

Quantum Supremacy is a term used to decipher which company has the most powerful quantum computer and/or technology. The battle for Quantum Supremacy has been between some of the biggest tech companies in the world such as Google & IBM. In November 2018, IBM had developed the world’s most powerful supercomputer known as Summit. Summit was capable of computing at 148.6 petaflops and was the first supercomputer to reach exaflop (a quintillion operations per second). Then in October 2020, Google announced that one of their quantum chips (known as Sycamore) had become the first to demonstrate Quantum Supremacy. “With just 53 qubits, Sycamore had completed a calculation in a few minutes that, according to Google, would have taken the world’s most powerful existing supercomputer, Summit, 10,000 years. Google touted this as a major breakthrough, comparing it to the launch of Sputnik or the first flight by the Wright brothers—the threshold of a new era of machines that would make today’s mightiest computer look like an abacus.” (MIT TR, 2020). However, the researcher’s at IBM (One of Google’s biggest rivals) published a paper two days earlier that accused Google’s research team of getting the sums wrong. The Google team never gave a direct answer to IBM’s result. Despite this, even if IBM was right, the Sycamore chip had completed a calculation 1000 times faster than Summit could have. It would only be a matter of time before a new quantum supercomputer would be built utilizing the Sycamore technology.

The Issues with Quantum Computing

Despite how revolutionary quantum computing is, it has various issues and one of those issues is decoherence. Coherence is important as it is the quality of being logical and consistent. ”This loss of coherence (called decoherence), caused by vibrations, temperature fluctuations, electromagnetic waves and other interactions with the outside environment, ultimately destroys the exotic quantum properties of the computer.” (SciAmer, 2019). Isolating a quantum supercomputer computer from decoherence can be very difficult to achieve due to the sheer size of quantum computers and the general forces from the environment. Due to this decoherence, quantum computers are more likely to return incorrect answers to programs. Another issue with quantum computing is the issue of verification. Quantum computing requires a lot of resources and must battle at the temperature of the environment. “Quantum states are fragile, so fabrication must be precise, and bits must often operate at very low temperatures. Unfortunately, the complete state may not be measured precisely, so verification is difficult.” (Franklin, 2004). One of the ways to try and overcome the issues of quantum computing is to use specially designed architecture. Despite all the current computing technologies and architecture from companies such as Google & IBM, there is currently no existing hardware platform that can maintain perfect coherence and provide the robust error correction that is required for large-scale computation.

Implications for the Field of Computer Science & Consumers

Quantum computing could impact many sectors such as healthcare, energy, finance, security and entertainment. However, quantum computing could also implicate the field of computer science and the consumers. Currently, users are safe from most of the dangers on the websites across the internet due to the various encryption systems like RSA which would take thousands of years to crack. “If someone were to build a quantum computer, they can basically break all that security” (TexasUni, 2019). Once practically useful quantum computers exist, the modern methods used to keep the internet secure will no longer work. Therefore, researchers are working on new cryptography systems that won’t be vulnerable to quantum computing. Cryptocurrency is one of these new systems as it utilizes random bits which are obtained from all over the internet. Without these random bits, a quantum computer could easily exploit this system.

Reflection

The future of quantum computing is a promising revolution. The current state of quantum computing makes it possible to compute equations in a few minutes which would have uncertainly been near impossible to do otherwise. It can make it possible to deal with probabilities and the modelling of quantum phenomena. Quantum computing can also have an impact on the security of the web and that is why it is important to develop new systems that aren’t vulnerable. The future of quantum computing will lead to better quantum architecture and technology which will lead to less errors and incorrect answers that are caused by decoherence. And in the future, quantum computing could even advance to where large-scale computing can be performed in mere seconds. 

References

CBInsights. (2021, January 7). What Is Quantum Computing? (Research Report). Retrieved from CBInsights Research: https://www.cbinsights.com/research/report/quantum-computing/

Franklin, D. (2004). Chapter 8 : Challenges in Reliable Quantum Computing. In D. Franklin, Nano, Quantum and Molecular Computing (pp. 247-248). California: University of California.

HBR. (2020, September 17). Are You Ready for the Quantum Computing Revolution? Retrieved from Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2020/09/are-you-ready-for-the-quantum-computing-revolution

MIT TR. (2020, February 26). Inside the race to build the best quantum computer on Earth. Retrieved from MIT Technology Review: https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/02/26/916744/quantum-computer-race-ibm-google/

SciAmer. (2019, June 10). The Problem with Quantum Computers. Retrieved from Scientific American: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-problem-with-quantum-computers/

TexasUni. (2019, January 1). The Implications of Quantum Computing: Internet Security, Random Bits, and More. Retrieved from The University of Texas at Austin: https://www.cs.utexas.edu/news/2019/implications-quantum-computing-internet-security-random-bits-and-more

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