The consensus within the scientific community is that the first fully-functional quantum computer will be ready in roughly ten years—an event so significant that many experts are calling for a countdown to Y2Q: “years to quantum.”
Most people at least somewhat familiar with the basic ideas of quantum mechanics identify the field with a general “weirdness” that even the most seasoned quantum physicists find baffling. The mind boggles with visions of people walking through walls, time travel, and general uncertainty that threatens to uproot our most ingrained perceptions of truth and reality. Standard measurements become meaningless.
Given the enormous potential power of quantum technology, it should go without saying that those who possess this technology in the future will have a major advantage over those who do not—in the realms of politics, finance, security, and more. Companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Intel are anxiously looking towards implementing “quantum-safe cryptography,” since these companies (not to mention national governments) are concerned that hackers utilizing quantum power could spell the downfall of their firms.
And since we can say with a great deal of certainty that quantum computing will soon be here to stay, it is worth understanding what exactly this means for the future, and what incredible new (and sometimes frightening) possibilities quantum technology will bring.
Here are ten incredible implications of quantum technology.
10. An Exponential Increase in Computational Speed
First, a (very) brief introduction: The computer on which you are reading this operates on the same fundamental technology that practically every computer in the world currently uses. It is a finite, binary world, in which data is encoded into bits—commonly referred to as 0s or 1s—which can only exist in one of two finite states (on or off). Quantum computation, on the other hand, utilizes “qubits,” which can exist in a practically limitless number of states simultaneously. (Generally speaking, n qubits can exist in 2^ndifferent states simultaneously.)
If a “regular” computer is fed a sequence of thirty 0s and 1s, there are roughly one billion possible values of that sequence—and a computer using regular bits would have to go through each combination individually, requiring a great deal of time and memory. A quantum computer, on the other hand, would be able to “see” all one billion sequences at once—drastically reducing computational time and effort.
In fact, quantum computers will be able to complete in a matter of seconds, calculations that would take today’s best supercomputers thousands of years.
9. Discovering New and More Effective Drugs
DNA sequencing came about thanks in part to sharp increases in computational power, as predicted by Moore’s Law. Now, we are about to enter an entirely new era of healthcare thanks to quantum computing.
While there is an astonishingly large number of impressive drugs on the market, the rate at which they can be produced, as well as their effectiveness in treating specific ailments, is surprisingly limited. Even with recent increases in speed and accuracy, these gains are purely incremental due to the limitations of standard computers.
With an organism as complex as the human body, there are countless ways in which a drug can react to its environment. Add to that the limitlessness of genetic diversity at a molecular level, and potential outcomes for non-specific drug treatments skyrocket into the billions.
Only quantum computers will have the ability to examine every possible scenario regarding drug interaction and present not only the best possible plan of action but also an individual’s chances of success with a particular drug—through a combination of more accurate and expedited DNA sequencing and a more rigorous understanding of protein folding.
These same innovations—especially regarding protein folding—will also inevitably lead to a better understanding of how life functions in general, which will subsequently lead to far more precise treatments, better drugs, and better outcomes.