In the scientific community, a consensus emerged that the first fully functional quantum computer will be ready in about ten years – and this is an event of such magnitude that many experts urge to count the years left before the “quantum”.
Most people who are at least a little familiar with the basic ideas of quantum mechanics consider this region somewhat “strange”, since it sometimes puzzles even experienced quantum physicists. In the head there are pictures of people walking on walls, traveling in time and general uncertainty, which threatens to eradicate our most familiar ideas about truth and reality. Standard measurements become meaningless.
Given the incredible potential of quantum technology, it will be superfluous to say that those who master this technology in the future will have a significant advantage over those who do not master – and it concerns politics, finance, security and many other spheres. Companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Intel are looking forward to the introduction of quantum cryptography, because they fear that hackers will try to get to quantum capabilities and collapse the security systems of these companies.
And since we can say that quantum computations will soon appear, we need to understand what this means for the future and what incredible new (and sometimes frightening) opportunities quantum technology will bring.
Here are ten incredible consequences of the introduction of quantum technology.
Exponential increase in computational speed
For starters, a small short introduction: the computer on which you are reading this, works on the same basic technologies that are used in virtually every computer in the world. This is a finite binary world in which the information is encoded in bits-units and zeros-that can exist only in two states (on and off). Quantum computations, on the other hand, use “qubits”, which can exist in practically innumerable states simultaneously. (Roughly speaking, n qubits can exist in 2n different states simultaneously).
If we feed a normal computer a sequence of thirty 0 and 1, there will be about a billion possible values of this sequence, and a computer using ordinary bits must pass each combination separately, requiring a lot of time and memory. On the other hand, a quantum computer could “see” all the billions of sequences simultaneously, which would significantly reduce the time and computational costs.
In fact, quantum computers will be able to make calculations in seconds, which ordinary computers would take thousands of years to complete.
Search for new effective drugs
Due to the inevitable increase in computational power predicted by Moore’s law, available DNA sequencing has emerged. But now we are about to enter the era of medicine, built on quantum computing.
While there are already a lot of good medicines on the market, the speed with which they are produced, as well as their effectiveness, are surprisingly limited. Even with the latest increase in speed and accuracy, they are quite insignificant due to the limitations of standard computers.
With an organism as complex as the human body, there are countless ways that a medicine can react to the environment. Add to this the immensity of genetic diversity at the molecular level, and the potential outcomes for nonspecific drugs are dramatically beginning to reach billions of numbers.
And only quantum computers will have the opportunity to study every possible scenario of interaction with the drug and to present not only the best possible action plan, but also the person’s chances of successfully taking a particular drug – through a combination of more precise and accelerated DNA sequencing and a more accurate understanding of protein folding.
These same innovations, especially with regards to folding proteins, will also inevitably lead to a better understanding of how life as a whole functions, which will subsequently lead to a much more accurate treatment, improvement of preparations and better results.
In addition to quantum jumps in medicine, quantum technologies also make it possible to create practically unbreakable methods of cybersecurity and ultra-secure data exchange over long distances.
In the world of quantum oddities, there is a phenomenon called “quantum entanglement” in which two or more particles are connected in a mysterious way, regardless of the medium that exists between them, and without any identifiable signaling. This is what Einstein called “an eerie action at a distance.” And since there is no specific environment in which these two particles are connected, signals encoded using entangled particles can not be intercepted. The science needed for this technology is not yet developed enough. However, progress in this direction will have a huge impact on private and national security.
A dramatically increased computational speed will also contribute to the development of cybersecurity, since the exponentially large computing power of quantum computers will allow them to withstand even the most sophisticated methods of hacking, and this by quantum encryption.
“Quantum computing will certainly be used wherever we use machine learning, cloud computing, data analysis,” says Kevin Carran, a cybersecurity researcher at the University of Ulster. “In the field of security, this means finding penetration, finding patterns in data and more complex forms of parallel computation.”
Quantum computers will be able to foresee the “steps” of hackers in millions or billions of possible iterations.
Of course, great responsibility also appears with great force, and quantum power, which will allow for quantum encryption, will also allow hackers to hack-hack seamlessly the most complex security methods that are provided by relatively primitive machines.
Today, the most sophisticated cryptographic methods, as a rule, are based on extremely complex mathematical problems. And although these obstacles are sufficient to contain most binary supercomputers, a quantum computer can easily bypass them. The ability of a quantum computer to find patterns in giant data sets at a tremendous speed will allow it to count huge numbers, while ordinary computers will sort through them one at a time. With qubits and quantum superposition, all possible variants will be checked simultaneously.
It took almost two years for hundreds of computers working simultaneously to unblock one example of the RSA-768 algorithm (which had two main factors and required a key length of seven hundred and sixty-eight bits.) A quantum computer will cope with this task in a second.
Accurate atomic clocks and object detection
Atomic clocks are used not only for daily counting of time. They are an important component of most modern technologies, including GPS-systems and communication technologies.
Usually atomic clocks do not require fine tuning. The most accurate atomic clocks work by using the oscillations of microwaves emitted by electrons as the energy levels change. And the atoms used in the clock are almost cooled for absolute zero, which ensures a long time of microwave sounding and greater accuracy.
The newest atomic clocks will use modern quantum technologies and will soon become so accurate that they will be used as ultra-precise object detectors – they can feel the smallest changes in gravity, magnetic fields, electric fields, movement, force, temperature and other phenomena that in Nature fluctuate in the presence of matter. These changes will be reflected in the changes in time. (Do not forget that time, space, substance are related).
This finely tuned detection will help in identifying and removing underground objects, tracking submarines far below the ocean surface and even making navigation and automatic driving much more accurate as the software can better distinguish cars and other objects.
In the intertwined world of finance, speed is paramount. And the surprisingly large number of problems faced by the financial industry (many of which are associated with a lack of computational speed) remain unresolved. Even the most powerful conventional computers using 0 and 1 can not at least roughly predict future financial and economic events, not to mention the most difficult problems associated with the pricing of options in a rapidly changing market.
For example, many options require complex derivatives that depend on various factors, which means that the option payment is ultimately determined by changing the price of the underlying asset. The attempt to display and provide for all possible “paths” of the option is too complex for modern machines. However, given their speed and maneuverability, quantum computers could theoretically identify an incorrect price option for a stock option and use it for the benefit of their owner before the market takes any meaningful action.
This kind of power could, of course, damage the market and greatly increase the position of small firms owning and managing a supercomputer – at the expense of individual traders and firms unable to acquire such technologies.
Mapping the Human Mind
With all the amazing achievements that have taken place in the field of neuroscience and consciousness over the past few decades, scientists still know surprisingly little about how consciousness works. But we know, however, that the human brain is one of the most complex things in the known universe, and to comprehend it completely, we need a computational force of a new type.
The human brain consists of 86 billion neurons – cells that transmit small bits of information by activating fast electrical charges. And although the electrical part of the brain’s work is understood quite well, the very consciousness remains a mystery. “The problem is,” says neuroscientist Raphael Juste of Columbia University, “to determine how the physical substrate of cells connected within this organ refers to our mental world, our thoughts, memory, sensations.”
And in an attempt to understand the mind, neurophysiologists relied heavily on analogy with the computer, as the brain turns sensory data and inputs into relatively predictable results. And what better way to understand the operation of the computer than the computer itself?
Dr. Ken Hayworth, a neurologist who maps the mouse brain, believes that the compilation of a full brain fly visualization will take about one to two years. But the same idea of comparing the entire human brain will simply be impossible without quantum computation.
Search for distant planets
No one will be surprised that quantum computing will be widely used in space exploration, which often requires the analysis of huge data sets. Using quantum processors cooled to 20 millikelvins (close to absolute zero), NASA engineers plan to use quantum computers to solve the most complicated optimization problems associated with billions of data.
For example, NASA scientists will be able to use tiny oscillations in quantum waves to detect small, subtle heat changes in invisible stars and possibly even black holes.
NASA already uses the general principles of quantum computing to develop safe and effective methods of space travel – especially when it comes to sending robots into space. NASA plans to send robotic missions into space in about ten years, and among its tasks is the use of quantum optimization to create high-precision tools for predicting what can happen during the mission – in order to prevent any possible outcome and create an action plan for each case.
More careful and accurate planning of robotic missions will also lead to more efficient use of batteries, which are one of the main limiting factors when it comes to robotic space missions.
Completion of the human genome project in 2003 led to the emergence of a new era in medicine. Thanks to a deep understanding of the human genome, we can adapt complex procedures specifically for specific human needs.
Despite how much we already know about the intricacies of human DNA, we still do not know very well about proteins that encode DNA.
Let’s add quantum calculations, which in theory will allow us to make a “map of proteins” just as we collect a gene map. In fact, quantum calculations will also allow us to model complex molecular interactions at the atomic level, which will be invaluable when it comes to developing new methods of medical research and pharmaceuticals. We could model 20,000 proteins and their interaction with a myriad of new different drugs (even those that have not been invented yet) with impeccable precision. Analysis of these interactions, again with the help of quantum computations and advanced optimization algorithms, will lead us to the creation of new methods of treating as yet incurable diseases.
The speed of quantum computation will also allow us to analyze “quantum dots” – tiny semiconductor nanocrystals several nanometers in size, which are now used in the forefront for the treatment and detection of cancer. Also, quantum computers could detect mutations in DNA, which so far seem completely random, and their relationship to quantum fluctuations.
Materials Science and Engineering
Needless to say, quantum computing has already led to massive consequences for materials science and engineering, given that quantum calculations are best suited for discoveries at the atomic level.
The power of quantum computing will make it possible to use increasingly complex models that will display how molecules are assembled and crystallized with the formation of new materials. Such discoveries leading to the creation of new materials will subsequently lead to the creation of new structures with consequences in the fields of energy, pollution control and pharmaceuticals.
“When an engineer builds a dam or an airplane, this structure is first projected using computers. This is extremely difficult to do on a molecular or atomic scale, “explains Graham Day, professor of chemical modeling at the University of Southampton. “It is very difficult to design on atomic scales from scratch and the level of failure in the process of discovering new materials is very high. As physicists and chemists try to discover new materials, they often feel like travelers without a reliable map. ”
Quantum calculations can provide a very “reliable map”, allowing scientists to simulate and analyze atomic interactions with incredible accuracy, which in turn leads to the creation of completely new and more efficient materials – without trial and error, inevitably arising when trying to build new materials in a broader Scale. This means that we will be able to find and create better superconductors, more powerful magnets, better sources of energy and much more.