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Quantum Computing Could Go Mainstream This Decade

Quantum Computing

What happens when quantum computing hits the masses and becomes just as common as a smartphone? We may not have to wait that long to find out. It’s what comes next, according to Bank of America strategist Haim Israel.  Israel hails quantum computing as a revolutionary product for this decade, saying it will be as big as smartphones were in the 2010s. 

Scientists aren’t so sure, and not nearly as optimistic. Many equate quantum computing for the space race of the 1950s. We’re not quite there yet, either, but perhaps that’s because the government dropped the ball and things are only now picking up in the hands of big tech. 

So, still a long shot but it is a race for sure.

The U.S., China and Russia are all competing to achieve quantum supremacy. 

The scientists and experts involved don’t object to the race itself--just what the term ‘supremacy’. It’s a big dramatic for their tastes, and they would instead prefer to call it the “quantum advantage”.

But let’s back up here, with the basics: quantum computers refer to supercomputers using revolutionary technology that leverages the characteristics of quantum mechanics to solve certain problems faster than regular computers can.

The difference between quantum computers and existing ones means much faster processing speeds, and potentially solving problems and processing data that would take traditional machines millennia.

Proponents of the development of quantum computers state that quantum computer technology could lead to breakthroughs in self-learning artificial intelligence (AI), provide medical insights by simulating incredibly complex biological molecules, manage financial risk at banks…

It will also be able to simultaneously break all existing cryptographic keys while setting the stage for uncrackable quantum encryption. Exactly this point is why many nations--led by the U.S. and China--have taken a strong interest in quantum computing. 

The U.S., United Kingdom, European Union and China have each promised more than $1 billion of investment in quantum computing and related technologies. 

As for the U.S., it’s a crucial moment for America’s national security, which depends on winning the race to do what quantum computers will do best: decrypt the vast majority of existing public-key encryption systems. Last year, U.S. Congress adopted a bill aimed at accelerating the development of quantum computing. 

In October, Google claimed to have achieved a breakthrough by using a quantum computer to complete a calculation in 200 seconds on a 53-qubit quantum computing chip, a task it calculated would take the fastest current supercomputer 10,000 years. In doing so, it claimed it has achieved quantum supremacy. 

A competitor in the race, IBM thinks Google has overstated its achievement. For its part, IBM fired up its biggest quantum computer, a model with 53 qubits.

Earlier this month, Intel announced a quantum computing controller chip called Horse Ridge designed to shrink and simplify the hardware needed to communicate with quantum processors that house qubits.

Also this month, Amazon entered the race and announced it would partner with three firms to offer online access to prototype quantum processors. 

Related: Ousted Uber CEO Cashes Out $500 Million In Stock

The company unveiled a new service called Amazon Bracket that lets enterprise customers explore how they could benefit from quantum computers by developing and testing quantum algorithms in simulations. 

Rigetti Computing, whose quantum computers join those from IonQ and D-Wave in Amazon's Bracket service, unveiled a 32-qubit machine. 

But these ambitions will likely take decades of work, and some researchers worry whether they can deliver on inflated expectations. The most optimistic experts estimate it will take 5 to 10 years to construct useful quantum computers. More cautious ones predict 20 to 30 years. 

However, there is a wide community opposing the development of quantum computing or at least being uncertain that quantum computing will end up benefiting society. 

Scientific American posing what seems to be the biggest existential problem with quantum computing: “The billion-dollar question in the meantime is, how do we get useful results out of a computer that becomes unusably unreliable before completing a typical computation?”

By Michael Kern for Safehaven.com

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