Understanding the potential of Quantum Computing to revolutionize our day-to-day lives.
Having a quantum computer that can simultaneously do calculations on a scale and at a speed we can only dream of, even with rooms full of supercomputers, definitely sounds like science-fiction, but the reality is that research is already underway.
Though still in its infancy, the rise of quantum computing will mean an unprecedented turn to how business can predict and prepare for future outcomes by allowing the ability to analyze Big Data in a manner that current computing technology has limitations towards.
Quantum Computing is definitely going to be a large part of our future, so let’s a have a little look, shall we?
But first, a brief look back
Several months ago now, we talked briefly about Quantum Computing in relation to its potential role in the future of mobile technology.
To give a TL;DR, we suggested that:
- It won’t be likely that every household will own its own quantum computer (we say that knowing full well that that’s exactly what was (allegedly) said about modern computers—now we literally have computers in our pockets).
- Quantum computers, however, could potentially be available on a cloud-based platform to everyone that logs into a service or app.
- Already we’re seeing organizations such as IBM and Google creating quantum computing and opening them up for research purposes.
- Having access to such powerful tools means that Big Data will be even more accessible than ever before for analyzing important data—data that would be invaluable for businesses.
So, what is is Quantum Computing, exactly?
This time, we thought we’d let an actual Quantum Physicist and Computer Engineer do the explaining:
Some qubits and pieces
Quantum theory/mechanics describes a branch of Physics on an entirely different scale: from extremely small to extremely cold, all the way to the opposite end of the “extreme” spectrum.
Put simply, Quantum Mechanics are a completely different set of rules to regular “physics”, but describes the underlying mechanisms of how general/classical physics works (i.e. the physics that describe how our everyday world functions—how buildings stay up, how the sun rises, gravity, etc).
This is the basis for how quantum computing functions:
- Modern computing functions on binary bits, which are alternating states of either 1 or 0 (either ‘on’ or ‘off’ in terms of the basic electronic components that make computers function). They are either one or zero, but not both, and depending on the pattern of ‘on’ and ‘off’, computers can be programmed to do different things with ‘logic gates’.
- Quantum computers approach solving problems in a fundamentally different way, allowing for answering questions that are impossible to be solved with today’s technology—the basis of which are called ‘qubits’ (i.e. quantum bits) which are bits in ‘quantum superposition’.
- If you’ve heard of the ‘Schrödinger’s cat’ thought experiment, this paradox is attempting to describe the basic idea of superposition: if you were to put a poor kitty in a box with a mechanism that could poison it at an unknown and unspecified time—or might not even release the poison at all—until you open the box, the cat it is theoretically both (and neither) alive or dead.
- Quantum superposition is a fundamental principle of describing quantum mechanics, and relates to something called the ‘Heisenberg uncertainty principle’ which, in a nutshell, states that it is impossible to know both the position and the velocity of a quantum particle at the same time—i.e. if you know where it is, then you can’t know how fast it’s going, and vice versa (much like Schrödinger’s zombie kitty). Thus, it is possible to “superimpose” these two qualities to describe the particle, since it must have both of these attributes.
- Qubits are basically “spinning” bits that can be either 1, zero, neither, both or just somewhere in between. All those ‘states’ that a qubit can be at the same time means there are “more” bits to process information.
- Qubits work in ‘quantumly entangled’ pairs, which means that they are fundamentally tied together and can basically be considered the same thing—they will exactly match each other. For example, if you were to have two coins that were entangled, no matter if you took one, boarded a plane (or even a spaceship, for that matter) and went as far away as you could, they would both show the same thing (heads or tails) when you flipped only one.
- Entangled qubits can be used to calculate by using one to ‘spin’ and do the calculating in a machine, while its entangled pair would ‘display’ its state.
Quantum Computing has a long way to go to unlock its true potential. Right now, we’re at the level of vacuum tubes and transistors of its development, as opposed to the microscopic silicon chips we use today in modern computing.
There are some areas that there is no doubt that Quantum Computing can be useful, like trying to model how weather systems and nature functions—such calculations are just too immense for even the most robust supercomputer. But, quantum computers also hold the answers to questions that we don’t even know to ask yet. That is why it is essential for people to start using the technology in whatever capacity they can, to ignite the imagination and unlock even more potential uses for computers of the quantum variety.
Given the serious potential of this technology, it’s always good to be aware of it; to use its existence as a springboard to thinking about ourselves and business in the future, and what it would be like.
While quantum computers might be a massive springboard, it is one for a yet undetermined time in the future. For now, though, we like to see Digital Cabinet as a step up for businesses, using technology to streamline businesses and make them more efficient, while keeping a careful eye on the future.
(Disclaimer: Your humble author of this blog post is neither a scientist nor a physicist, so in an attempt to explain the incredibly complex realm of quantum mechanics, please afford him the luxury of over-simplifying and possibly misunderstanding it – Ed).