There’s a reason Google, Microsoft, IBM and governments around the world continue to make significant investments in quantum computing—they are counting on it to change the world by solving problems that are intractable for today’s classical computers.
Quantum computers will disrupt every industry. They will change the way we do business and the security we have in place to safeguard data, how we fight disease and invent new materials, and solve health and climate problems.
As the race to be the first to create a commercially viable quantum computer accelerates, here are just a few ways quantum computing will change our world.
There will be good and bad for online security once there is widespread adoption of quantum computers. The bad? Our current data encryption tactics will become obsolete. Currently, most online security methods count on the fact that it takes an extraordinary amount of time to “crack the code” as computers crunch large numbers. However, quantum computers will be able to process this information quickly leaving our computers, financial institutions and private information vulnerable. The good news is that significant work has been done to develop quantum encryption methods such as quantum key distribution, an ultra-secure communication method that requires a key to decipher a message. Thanks to the peculiar properties of quantum mechanics, if the message gets intercepted, no one else can read it.
The information processing that it critical to improve machine learning is ideally suited to quantum computing. Quantum computers can analyze large quantities of data to provide artificial intelligence machines the feedback required to improve performance. Quantum computers are able to analyze the data to provide feedback much more efficiently than traditional computers and therefore the learning curve for artificial intelligence machines is shortened. Just like humans, artificial intelligence machines powered by the insights from quantum computers can learn from experience and self-correct. Quantum computers will help artificial intelligence expand to more industries and help technology become much more intuitive very quickly.
In order to develop an effective drug, chemists need to evaluate the interactions between molecules, proteins and chemicals to see if medicines will improve certain conditions or cure diseases. Due to the extraordinary amount of combinations that are analyzed, this is time and labor intensive. Since quantum computers can review multiple molecules, proteins and chemicals simultaneously, they make it possible for chemists to determine viable drug options quicker. Additionally, some drugs are being cancelled in the trial stage even when they might work for a subset of the population. Quantum computing would allow for a person’s genes to be sequenced and analyzed much more rapidly than the methods we use today and would allow for personalized drug development.
Improve weather forecasting and climate change predictions
Even with sophisticated tools, weather forecasting remains a bit of a guessing game. Just ask anyone who has been caught in a storm with no warning or prepared for a blizzard but ultimately only saw flurries. Since quantum computers can analyze all the data at once, meteorologists will have a much better idea of when bad weather will strike to alert people to ultimately save lives, anguish and money. The UK Met Office, the national weather service of the United Kingdom, has already invested in quantum computing technology to help improve forecasting. We can also gain more insight into how we are influencing our climate because quantum computers will help us build better climate models. The sooner we know how things are expected to shift, the better we will be able to prepare and respond to climate change and its impact.
Whether in the air or on the ground, quantum computers will help to streamline traffic control. They will be able to quickly calculate the optimal routes concurrently which allows for efficient scheduling and would reduce traffic congestion. For similar reasons, quantum computers are also powerful for optimizing supply chains, air traffic control, fleet operations and deliveries.
Tackling the whole problem
Instead of troubleshooting issues bit by bit as we do now with classical computers, quantum computers tackle the entire problem at once. This opens the door for amazing developments in every field from financial services to our national security.
Perhaps Eric Ladizinsky, co-founder of quantum computing company D-Wave, explained the differences between a regular computer and a quantum computer best when he spoke at WIRED 2014 conference. He said to imagine that you only have five minutes to find an X written on a page of a book among the 50 million books in the Library of Congress. In this scenario, you would be a regular computer and you would never find the X. But, if you had 50 million parallel realities and you could look at a different book in each of those realities (just like a quantum computer), you would find the X. A quantum computer splits you into 50 million versions of yourself to make the work quick and easy.
Quantum computers give us the ability to solve complex problems that are beyond the capabilities of classical computers.
We’re heading down an entirely new field of physics, and by its very nature there will be discoveries, innovations and solutions we have never dreamed of yet.
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