What is quantum computing, is it real and how is it changing things?

Standard computers these days are undoubtedly advanced from what we could muster a few decades ago. However, with the speed and variety of today’s computers, it’s hard to imagine anything even better. Enter quantum computing. This field of science aims to use the laws of the universe to achieve incredible goals.

So what exactly is quantum computing and how will it affect our world in the future?

What is Quantum Computing?

Although the dynamics of quantum computing is still studied today, it originally emerged in the 1980s by physicist Paul Benioff. At this time, Benioff proposed a quantum computer model of the Turing machine. After that, other people helped develop the theory and application of quantum computing, including Isaac Chuang and Neil Gershenfeld.

The definition of quantum computing differs slightly depending on the site you visit. Its most basic form is a kind of computer science that relies on quantum mechanics to function. Where quantum computers were once just a theory on paper, they are now coming to life.

So what kind of quantum computers are we dealing with today?

Quantum computing is still very much in development. It’s an incredibly complex field that has spawned many prototypes, like Google’s Sycamore quantum computer. In 2019, Google announced that Sycamore had taken minutes to solve a calculation that would take a supercomputer 10,000 years. But how are quantum computers different? How can they achieve such enormous feats?

The basics of quantum computing

A typical computer uses units called bits to operate. A bit can and will only ever have one of two values: zero or one. These bits are used to write binary code, an absolute staple in the computing world.

On the other hand, something known as quantum bit (qubit) is the most basic unit of quantum computers. It is these units that quantum computers need to store data and perform functions. A qubit can carry information in a quantum state and can be generated in several ways, for example by the spin of an electron.

Qubits can also take a number of forms, such as a photon or a trapped ion. These are infinitely small particles that form the basis of our universe.

Qubits have a lot of potential. They are currently used in quantum computers to solve multi-dimensional quantum algorithms and run quantum models. What’s pretty amazing about qubits is that they can exist in multiple states simultaneously. This means that they can simultaneously be zero, one, or anything in between.

Because of this property, qubits can consider multiple possibilities at once, giving quantum computers the ability to perform calculations before an object’s state becomes measurable. This allows quantum computers to solve complex problems much faster than ordinary computers.

The advantages of quantum computers

The biggest advantage of quantum computers is the speed at which they can perform calculations. Such technology can provide computational speeds that traditional computers will never be able to achieve. Quantum computers are also much more capable of solving more complex problems than classical computers and can run very complex simulations.

This advanced capability harbored by quantum computers is sometimes referred to as “quantum superiority” because they have potential far beyond what computers, or even advanced supercomputers, could achieve in the next few years or decades. But quantum computers are by no means perfect. These machines have a few drawbacks that may affect their future success.

The disadvantages of quantum computers

As quantum computers are still at the prototype stage, many problems still need to be overcome.

First, quantum computers need extreme environments to operate. In fact, these machines must exist in temperatures around 450 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes it difficult for most companies and the public to access quantum computers. On top of that, quantum computers are very large compared to today’s standard models, similar to the size of the first computer. Although this will probably change in the future, it will contribute to the inaccessibility of this technology for ordinary people in the early stages of development.

Quantum computers are also always faced with error rates that are simply too high. For successful integration into various industries, we need to ensure that these machines have a high success rate so that we can rely on them.

Now that we understand the basics of quantum computing and its pros and cons, let’s see how this technology can be applied in various industries.

The uses of quantum computing

Because quantum computing is still in its infancy, many ideas are floating around about what it might one day do. There are many misconceptions about quantum computers, which are largely due to misunderstandings about the technology. Some people are proposing that quantum computers are used to enter parallel universes or even simulate time travel.

While these possibilities cannot be exactly ruled out, we need to focus on the more realistic applications of quantum computing that could be realized in the coming decades. So let’s move on to the applications of quantum computing.

1. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are two other technologies that seem almost futuristic but are becoming more and more advanced over the years. As these technologies develop, we may have to move away from standard computers. This is where quantum computers could come in, with their vast potential to process functions and solve calculations quickly.

2. Cybersecurity

As cybercriminals become more sophisticated, our need for high levels of cybersecurity increases. Today, cybercrime is worrying and thousands of people are targeted every month.

Thanks to quantum computing, we may one day be able to more easily develop high-level cybersecurity protocols capable of combating even the most sophisticated attacks.

Quantum computing also has the potential to lend a hand in cryptography, especially in a field known as quantum cryptography. This explores the act of leveraging quantum mechanics to perform cryptographic functions.

3. Drug development

The ability of quantum computers to predict the outcome of situations can make them effective in drug development. A quantum computer could one day help predict how certain molecules act in certain scenarios. For example, a quantum computer could predict how a drug would behave in a person’s body.

This high level of research could make the trial and error period of drug development much easier.

Concerns surrounding quantum computing

When a new type of technology develops, it’s natural for people to feel a little apprehensive. So, should quantum computing concern us?

Much has been made of the cybersecurity risks posed by quantum computers. Although quantum computers can help achieve higher levels of digital security, things could go the other way. Although this threat is hypothetical at the moment, it is possible that it will become a problem in the years to come, especially when quantum computers become accessible to the masses. Some companies are already offering “quantum-proof VPN” services in anticipation.

Because quantum computers can solve very complex problems, their potential for cracking passwords and decrypting data more efficiently increases. While even supercomputers struggle to find large decryption keys, quantum computers may one day have the ability to easily decrypt sensitive data, which would be very good news for malicious actors.

Quantum computing will propel us into the future

The possibilities offered by quantum computing are simply amazing and will one day be achievable. Although quantum computing is still in its infancy, continued progress in this field could lead us to enormous technological feats. Only time will tell with this one!

Sherry J. Basler