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 What Living In A Quantum Era Might Look Like - The Future Of Computing

The quantum computing revolution is at its peak. But what does that mean for you - or your organization? Although a completely viable quantum computer has not yet been built, understanding the implications is crucial (and interesting). The impacts it could have on cybersecurity, articulate problem solving, the drug industry, and even customized medicines - here's what you need to understand what a future with quantum computing might be.

To understand where we are headed, we need to realize where we have been. For classical computing devices, this is the same place for almost the last 70 years. It's called a transistor and has been the staple of any computer since the 1950s. Engineering and Manufacturing have obviously improved since then, but rudimentary functions have not.

A transistor is like a light switch, and the combination of several controls allows us to make logic gates and computers. You can increase your computing power by adding extra transistors or switches. Let's look at an example.

Image via PluralSight

With 2 transistors or switches, you can get 4 distinct states, but you can maintain only one state at a time. What if you want to demonstrate all 4 distinct states at once? You need 8 transistors.

Image via PluralSight

Classic computers enhance their computing power by increasing the number of transistors. Because a transistor can have only one state at a time, more and more transistors must be used to calculate all possible states. That's why the world's most robust chips are crowding billions of transistors on a single chip - it's the only method to achieve greater computing power.

Limitations of Classical Computing

As super as our classic computers are, they have certain limitations. Richard Feynman, probably one of the greatest physicist since Albert Einstein, asked a simple question in one of his famous lectures: "Can a quantum model be simulated by a classical universal computer?"

Now you may believe that classic computers will eventually be powerful enough as long as they continued to grow in power. Unfortunately, Feynman disagrees with you:

"This is called the problem of hidden variables: it is impossible to demonstrate quantum mechanics' results with a classical universal gadget."

Another limitation is directly connected to the previous one. The method to increase computing power is to increase the number of transistors, and today's top chips have an almost unfathomable number of transistors on a single chip. So can we keep accommodating more and more transistors on a chip? The answer is No! Today's smallest transistors are only a dozen atoms, and this exceeds the limit of how little you can go before quantum impacts, and therefore unpredictability comes in. So far, we have been smart engineers in seeking new ways to avoid this challenge. But the day will come when the transistors will not be able to become smaller any longer.

Exploring quantum computing

If a transistor is similar to a light switch (on or off), a qubit is like a dimmer light switch in the sense that it can be turned off, on, or both. Let's take a look at another example.

Image via PluralSight

As before, we have 2 qubits, but unlike transistors, these 2 qubits can simultaneously represent and simulate all 4 possible states.

And this continues to grow. If you desired to classically demonstrate all 16 possible states of 4 transistors or bits, it would require 64 transistors, but to show the same states, it requires only 4 qubits.

But a more comparable amount to today's computers? If you had a quantum computer of only 300 qubits, how many transistors would that result to? This quantum computer could simultaneously represent approximately 2 x 10 ^ 90 bits. This is a 2 with 90 zeros in the back and is higher than the number of known atoms in the universe.

Quantum computers will “perhaps” take over the world

With excellent knowledge of how both conventional and quantum computers work, the question now is: what will a quantum device be able to do that a classic computer will not be able to do? Although there are several theories, the simple answer is that we do not know yet. A completely viable quantum computer has not yet been developed. However, there are some good theories.

One of the most discussed applications of a quantum computer is that it wreaks havoc on our cybersecurity friends. Many, but not all, key public-private standards are based on factoring the entire hard math. Consider prime numbers over 300 digits multiplied together. Classic computers cannot solve this problem reasonably, but a quantum computer large enough could - effectively opening a substantial amount of internet traffic.

Brace yourself for a quantum era

We are about to understand what a quantum computer could do in the future. We have seen that quantum computers have exponential potential compared to classic computers. Still, it is important to remember that quantum computers will most likely be a specific area in the problems they solve. Today, we can predict a world that includes the use of both quantum and classical computers in our daily lives.

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