The Practical Applications Of Quantum Computing
You’ve probably seen the buzzword “quantum” many times. Here’s what quantum computing is and why we are closer than ever to practical, real-world applications. The word quantum has been put through the wringer, from excitable press releases to dubious sci-fi plots. There has been a decades-long effort to make quantum computing viable for mainstream use. Below we have explained quantum computing in simple terms and listed its primary applications in the real world.
“IBM Q quantum computer” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Lars Plougmann
Classical computers (to make your current hardware sound old) store data in many units, the smallest being the binary bit. These bits have only two states which regulate what data is stored and processed and when.
Quantum computers swap bits out for qubits. Qubits can simultaneously exist within the computer as on and off, 1 and 0, or somewhere in between. It’s the Schrödinger’s Cat of computing, where we benefit from it without needing to open the box.
If a computer uses its bits to store and crunch data, with those bits being occupied at 1 or 0, a laptop with qubits that can do both at once is much faster. That is quantum computing and why it’s such a powerful, often overused, concept in tech spaces.
Quantum computing is possible, and it’s coming. One of its best applications is in the field of probability theory. Randomness is one of those things that exist, hard to capture or replicate. We have random number generators, which are good enough for us, but in the field, they call them “pseudorandom” because they aren’t truly random.
Randomness is essential for many industries. Think of the iGaming sector, where businesses sell games based entirely on randomness. Many use sophisticated RNGs that work because the clientele is human, and the results are entirely unpredictable.
For others, they spin real-world spinning wheels as seen in games like crazy time life. There’s no telling where that wheel will land when it spins, even if you’re a robot. The same principle applies to other giant spinning wheels you may have seen – the Big Wheel from The Price Is Right is an old favorite.
Building off the above, you should know that by coding an algorithm to “be random,” you are giving it marching orders that make its result not random. Unpredictable, yes, but not unexpected.
It is impossible to program the kind of randomness we experience in the real world. Now, that opens the door to debates about anything being random. Things in the real world may be subject to variables beyond our understanding, making them not random. Let’s leave that one for the philosophers.
RNGs are unpredictable to humans, so virtual randomness is good enough for most things. Auto-generated passwords and other authentication methods come under this category – you can’t crack them with your brain. However, other robots can figure them out if given enough time. In the hands of bad actors, RNGs backed by classical computing may not be enough.
That’s why quantum computing will level up encryption, though this has a wrong side too. Quantum computing makes brute force attacks on classical systems easy since they can quickly process so much data.
Naturally, this means we need quantum computing to play on the defensive side, keeping malicious quantum computers at bay. In the meantime, take every precaution to keep your accounts safe.
AI & Machine Learning
That’s right; those AI you keep seeing in the headlines will benefit significantly from mainstream access to quantum computing. If you think AI and other machine learning systems are powerful already, remember that they run from classical computers. What happens when you run the latest reality-bending AI model from a state-of-the-art quantum computer?
We can only ask that question; we don’t know the answer. Quantum computing will change AI forever and vice versa, allowing models to study and adapt from unprecedented amounts of training data in real time. When companies like OpenAI and Google (who already study quantum computing) can use it, expect ChatGPT and Bard to become much smarter.
Others making leaps in the field include IBM and the Chinese government. If it sounds like an arms race, that’s because it is. The first workable quantum computers will be head and shoulders above the competition.
As we build towards quantum-centric supercomputing, we intend to deliver a 100,000-qubit system by 2033. Together with @UTokyo_News_en, @UChicago and our ecosystem, we will work towards this system which could help solve our most complex global challenges. https://t.co/3OuBydoZXd pic.twitter.com/4SWAYVJPPI
— IBM Research (@IBMResearch) May 21, 2023
Battery & Semiconductor Improvements
Last but most simply, the big data management abilities that come with quantum computing will be a godsend for research and development teams around the world. One of the most widely accepted real-world benefits of quantum computing is that it should improve our hardware through battery and semiconductor improvements.
As touched on above, certain corporations study quantum computing right now and have, for decades, with many varying goals. A big one is mapping those little things that impact our lives, like genes or atoms so that chemistry modeling can benefit a lot. In the age of lithium batteries, they should improve greatly and make everything from smartphones to electric vehicles more efficient.
With these four real-world applications of quantum computing, it’s clear that technology will change the world. What isn’t clear is exactly how. With that change will come new challenges, but we will simultaneously be more equipped to deal with them than ever before.
While early innovations will benefit governments and high-level businesses, one-day quantum computers will shrink in size and cost, allowing everyday citizens to own them. Those studying the field hope this will happen as soon as 2050, if not before then.