When Private Companies Take On Nation States
The eggs wouldn’t stay in my mouth. Reading this New Yorker article over breakfast left me gasping so often that whatever I was chewing needed to find another home. So what *is* quantum computing?
Classical computers speak in the language of bits, which take values of zero and one. Quantum computers, like the ones Google is building, use qubits, which can take a value of zero or one, and also a complex combination of zero and one at the same time. Qubits are thus exponentially more powerful than bits, able to perform calculations that normal bits can’t. But, because of this elemental change, everything must be redeveloped: the hardware, the software, the programming languages, and even programmers’ approach to problems.
Now I finally understand the Ant Man movies. But it gets crazier.
At the root of quantum-computing research is a scientific concept known as “quantum entanglement.” Entanglement is to computing what nuclear fission was to explosives: a strange property of the subatomic world that could be harnessed to create technology of unprecedented power. If entanglement could be enacted at the scale of everyday objects, it would seem like a magic trick. Imagine that you and a friend flip two entangled quarters, without looking at the results. The outcome of the coin flips will be determined only when you peek at the coins. If you inspect your quarter, and see that it came up heads, your friend’s quarter will automatically come up tails. If your friend looks and sees that her quarter shows heads, your quarter will now show tails. This property holds true no matter how far you and your friend travel from each other. If you were to travel to Germany — or to Jupiter — and look at your quarter, your friend’s quarter would instantaneously reveal the opposite result.
Basically Amazon and Google (along with some other private companies) are investing big in this research. And so is China. EVERYTHING is a use case.
Quantum computers could be used to develop biodegradable plastics, or carbon-free aviation fuel. … “We have good reason to believe that a quantum computer would be able to efficiently simulate any process that occurs in nature,” Preskill wrote, a few years ago.
But of course there are also some VERY specific use cases of note.
A full-scale quantum computer could crack our current encryption protocols, essentially breaking the Internet.
Just an amazing read. We might be very far from this reality, or within a decade.