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Quantum computing, which uses quantum bits (qubits) to build quantum networks instead of the bits (binary digits) used in classical electronic computing, is a rapidly developing subfield of computing and quantum information science.
Quantum Computing—Benefits and Applications
While a practical quantum computer has not yet been developed, the theoretical benefits and potential applications of quantum computing promise to radically alter the way we live: quantum computing will define our future.
Computers using qubits instead of bits will have many advantages over the classical computers we use today. Quantum search (applying Grover’s algorithm) can increase the speed and accuracy of machine searching. This, as well as Shor’s algorithm for factorizing integers at large scales, means that quantum computers will be able to decrypt some of the most robust computer encryption in use today. As well as breaking down cryptography, quantum computers will be able to simulate complex systems on the scale of galaxies, as well as the human brain and DNA.
Underpinning these advantages is the exceptional speed at which quantum computers can process information. While not there yet, rapid advances in quantum computing imply that quantum supremacy (the theoretical state in which quantum computers can be shown to perform any task faster than classical computers) is very close. Using the HHL algorithm to solve linear equations, quantum computers are expected to be significantly faster than their classical electronic counterparts.
The advantages of quantum computing have a bearing on a wide array of computer applications. Forecasting, for example of the weather or financial markets, has drastically improved with the computational power of modern computers and will advance rapidly with the processing speed and quantum simulation ability of quantum computing.
Controlling Complex, Critical Systems
Complex, critical systems such as busy city roads or air traffic can be simulated and controlled effectively by quantum computers. In the future, these systems will become part of a massive global network, the Internet of Things, and quantum computing will be able to control fleets of driverless cars and drones seamlessly.
Machine learning can be substantially advanced through quantum computing power, leading to ever smarter and more useful artificial intelligence in the future. This AI will be able to analyze and understand very large datasets to give us solutions to some of the most pressing problems of today. The theoretical limitations of quantum computing are hard to fathom, as these kinds of computers will be able to study particle physics, continually opening up new possibilities – even creating life.
Quantum Computing Will Redefine the Future
The advantages of quantum computing and its potential applications will radically alter the way we live and will come to define our future. The current focus on quantum decoding could result in a nation or corporation dominating the world until cryptographers can create encryption that even quantum computers cannot break. This will lead to a cat and mouse game of technological advances which could have unforeseen benefits for the rest of the world in much the same way as Alan Turing’s work in the Second World War paved the way for modern electronic computing.
The future world where everything is connected in the Internet of Things will be managed by quantum computers, meaning skies will be full of drones and roads full of driverless cars all working optimally and without risk of collision.
Role of Quantum Simulation
A future in which quantum computing can forecast accurately in large, complex systems will reduce the number of unknowns. This would eliminate motives for risk-taking, especially in financial markets, and reduce the risk of another 2008-style economic crisis in the future. The removal of unknowns through quantum computer-driven forecasting could also mean that flights are never delayed or cancelled due to bad weather in the future, and could also enable public health departments to eradicate health problems like smoking and drastically improve our ability to combat viruses and genetic diseases.
Importantly, through quantum simulation and quantum computing processing, we could answer some of the planet’s biggest problems, such as energy use and climate change.
With all of the biggest companies in science and technology, including Google, Microsoft, IBM and Intel (and the vast budgets of government departments and agencies), racing to realize this theoretical potential, our future defined by quantum computing may begin any day now.