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Quantum Leaps

Athena @ ST 27 July 2021


Quantum technologies have been building hype for well over 10 years. Finally, significant advances in the research are happening proving that these technologies are more than theoretical. How and when should society prepare for the impending changes from quantum technologies?
What is changing?

In 2019, Google claimed to achieve quantum supremacy - solving a problem with a quantum computer that would be infeasible with a classical computer. They said they performed a computation with their quantum computer in a matter of seconds that would have taken a classical computer 10,000 years. IBM quibbled saying that their own supercomputer could have solved the same problem in 2.5 days. Regardless, Google’s work illustrated the advantage of using a quantum computer.

IBM recently followed up with a real-time experiment using both a quantum computer and a classical computer to confirm the results. Their experiment was a little different, but it also showed that quantum computers can perform calculations faster than classical computers.

And, in June 2021, the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) solved an even bigger problem using a quantum computer in 1.2 hours compared to 8 years for a supercomputer.

Implications

Despite the recent advances, quantum computing is still a nascent technology. It will likely follow the same trajectory as any other technology. It is currently transitioning from the government sector to the private sector which could soon mean social implications.

Quantum technologies have the potential to significantly boost the capabilities of all of our current IT. Communications could become more secure, and simulations could become more realistic. Artificial intelligence may finally achieve or even surpass the promises of human-like intelligence.

While quantum computers can solve complex problems in a fraction of the time compared to classical computers, that also means that our current cybersecurity is in danger during the transition to quantum technologies. As governments use these technologies for defense, global society could be at risk of a world where data leaks are an everyday occurrence. Organizations handling sensitive information need to find creative ways to protect their data from potential quantum hackers without the advantages of using quantum computers.

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