Technology

Here’s why 100 qubit quantum computers could change everything

At 100 qubits, a single quantum computer processor would, in theory, be more powerful than all the supercomputers on the planet put together. We can be closer to this step than you think and the world is not ready.

Quantum computers are scary devices that do not follow the normal rules of physics. Instead of bits, like conventional computers, they use qubits. You can read our introduction to the subject here .

One of the biggest obstacles to advancing quantum computing hardware is dealing with all the noise generated by these qubits, they are hyperactive compared to regular bits, so it's hard to understand what happens with them.

But a series of advances in error correction and noise-suppression recently led the way. And, if the history is an indicator, we can expect a 100 qubit processor usable this year.

What does this mean?

In terms of gloom, people who shout about killer robots may be wrong. The Washington Post reports "q uantum computers may be more of an imminent threat than AI."

Quantum brute force theoretically renders classical encryption obsolete. And that means we need to prepare the current computers and networks for new encryption methods, which will take a lot of time and money.

So, if you are looking for a new career, consider post-quantum cryptography . It is likely to be a popular and lucrative area sooner than most people think.

The current state of quantum computing is a bit polarizing and it is quite difficult to determine how far we are from this future.

Experts and experts are quick to point out that quantum computers are extremely fragile and require massive amounts of infrastructure to function. And at their level, they are nowhere near as useful as a binary system. In other words: do not hold your breath.

But in the same way that political experts are sometimes mistaken in their predictions, technology experts have also been ignored by cutting-edge research – none of us can predict the future .

In May 2016, a physicist and associate writer for Ars Technica, Chris Lee, reported on IBM then newly announced 5-bit system. In his article he concluded:

In any case, five qubits is still too little to do anything useful. But, if you think you might have a good reason to use quantum computing in the future, I suggest you sign up and play, because IBM has a very tight schedule. ambitious: it should reach between 50 and 100 qubits in the next decade. At 50 qubits, IBM will be able to do some useful things. This means that useful qubit numbers should arrive within five years and toys that do neat tricks a few years later.

Then, 12 months later, IBM unveiled a system with 17 qubits .

If quantum computing technology (in general) followed Moore's law – an observation that conventional computer processors tend to double every 18-24 months – we should expect a system of 30 or 40 bits next year.

Only, IBM created a system running at 50 qubit last year as well. In fact, the company deployed it CES last month and showed it to the world.

Realistically, a functional system of 100 qubit could be announced before you finish reading this sentence. And, again, it can take years, decades, or even never at all. It may not even matter because there is no guarantee that 100 qubits is the magic number that will change everything. It could be 500 or 1000, none of this has ever been done before.

The only thing we can be certain about quantum computers is that they are hard to build and maintain. Conditional requirements such as the need for near perfect zero temperatures mean that the equipment must reside in a laboratory for the time being.

Credits: IBM

But we would also like to point out that companies like IBM have the experience of this sort of thing. Central computer systems occupied entire rooms in the 70s and 80s and consumed less energy and storage than the more modest smart phones today.

Credit: IBM IBM System / 370 Model 145. It had 500 KB of RAM and 233 MB of disk space.

The question is not whether quantum computers will change things or not, because they will . It's a matter of time before it happens.

At this point, it is probably conservative to say that someone will reach 100 qubits in a few years. And, as far as predictions go, it does not seem crazy to think that a company such as IBM, Microsoft or Google will have a useful quantum computer to sell in the next decade.

Quantum computers, in theory, will help us find cures for the disease, to enable future technologies such as intergalactic space travel, and potentially to drive artificial intelligence .

But before these things happen, we will probably have to deal with the complete and complete disruption of computer science as we know it.

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