Is Quantum Computing Going To See General Use?
What Exactly Is Quantum Computing?
To put it simply, quantum computing is the exploitation of the quirky rules of quantum mechanics to create machines that can exponentially speed up operations that would take traditional computers *literally* forever. Traditional computers use strings of bits that can be either a one or a zero- the catch with quantum computing is that it uses qubits, which can be a one, a zero, or a one and a zero simultaneously. Using laws like superposition and entanglement, scientists can use qubits to do things that are well beyond the range of traditional computers, which we'll go over later.
Superposition? Entanglement? What??
Quantum particles are quirky by nature, and it seems truly miraculous when we witness how they behave. One of these extraordinary properties is called "superposition." Superposition is truly hard to wrap your mind around- it states that a quantum particle can be in one state, another state, or in both states at once as long as you don't observe it. Another way of thinking about is like being here, being there, or here and there at the same time. As Schrodinger famously said, "The cat in the box can be alive and dead at the same time as long as you don't look at it."
Our second property, entanglement, is equally amazing and extraordinary as superposition. The property of entanglement states that when two quantum particles, usually photons, are entangled any change that one experiences will instantaneously happen to the other one. So, if both are experiencing superposition by being in two different states, the other will also experience superposition. However, when one is observed, the quantum particle will immediately freeze into one state. This change will instantaneously be reflected in the other particle, no matter how great the distance is between them. This defies the principle of locality, which states that some kind of communication must happen between two "things" to communcate changes. Radio waves provide wireless communication, rapid fire electronic signals through wires give you Internet access, and sound is used to communicate to another individual. The point is, there must be a middle man to get your message across- but this isn't the case for entanglement. There is no middle man in entanglement, which is exactly what scientists are baffled about. Einstein himself thought there was some hidden form of locality locaed in entanglement that we haven't discovered yet that makes entanglement possible. If this is so, we haven't discovered it yet.
What Are the Capabilities Of Quantum Computers?
Coupled with the super-powerful algorithms specially designed for quantu computers and their sheer computive power, quantum computers are capable of doing things well beyond the reach of traditional computers. As I aforementioned, quantum computers could be used to factor large numbers. For the general public, this does not mean much, but for every financial and security firm on the planet, it means a whole heck of a lot. Encryption of data is purely reliant on modern cryptography and prime number theory. Encryption is achieved by using the product of two very large prime numbers - hackers can only break the encryption by factoring this number and getting those factors. Fortunately, this would take traditional computers *literally* ages to decipher.
On the other hand, for quantum computers, it wouldn't be much of a stretch. Because of their ability for qubits to be either a one or a zero or both at the same time, it could use this state duality to complete calculations exponentially faster. Instead of millenniums, quantum computers could possible crack encryptions in minutes, if not hours. This would allow unrestricted access to millions of users' data, and resources that are protected by encryption would no longer be secure. Whoever owned a quantum computer could feasibly rule the world.
Quantum computers can also be used for the forces of good. Molecular and quantum simulations are very resource demanding, due to the complicated ways in which these "things" behave. Using actual quantum physics to simulate quantum physics would allow for unprecedented accuracy and would allow for major breakthroughs in quantum and particle physics, not to mention the medical benefits when we simulate how DNA behaves. Learning how DNA behaves could solve errors in cell replication that cause cancer and other debilitating diseases. For extra clarity, view this video by the incredibly hard to pronounce but intellectually strong channel Kurzgesagt:
So Is Quantum Computing Going To See General Use?
To give you an honest answer, probably. Quantum computers are still a long way off from being used for general purposes. So, we probably won't see them in our near future, but the way technology is advancing, who knows? You may need to be brushing up on your calculus and number theory soon! And as always, don't forget to comment and share this article with your friends!
Quantum Computers - Limits of Human Technology
© 2018 Alex Pennington