Like any new technology, the term quantum computing is met with a mixture of fascination, fear, and confusion. Quantum computing has been heralded as a tool that will reinvent the future and create possibilities never before imagined and has also been identified as a tool that will destroy civilization when its abilities are turned to the dark side of cybercrime. What it is, is a technology inventing itself as it evolves.
Basics of Quantum Computing
Without getting heavily into the technical side, a modern computer can process math very quickly. It calculates math formulas one after another in seconds. Computers are limited by something called Moore’s Law. At its most basic level, Moore’s Law says that the faster a computer can run, the less it will cost. Scientists use Nanotechnologies allowing computer chips to get smaller and smaller, however, there will reach a point that they cannot physically get any smaller.
Enter quantum computing. Instead of bits and bytes in modern tech, quantum computing uses quantum bits or qubits. Quantum computing relies on principles of quantum physics.
So, What Can It Do
Quantum computing can calculate faster than anything we’ve ever seen, and so far, that’s all it can do, but it does it well. Quantum computers can run math faster than it takes a room full of supercomputers weeks to do, and a quantum computer can do it in minutes. It can run billions of formulas at the same time, which allows it to solve problems faster than anything currently built.
Potential Uses of Quantum Computing
Two key areas where there will be an impact from quantum computing will be in security and finance, precisely the combination of quantum computing and blockchain technology. In security, we are talking about encryption.
Modern encryption relies on elements of cryptography like hashes, algorithms, and ciphers. Encryption, as it’s used today, isn’t foolproof, but it requires a considerable investment of time and money to crack the more secure encryption codes, and even then, the encryption key can be easily changed and force another round of code breaking. A quantum computer would be able to crack these algorithms and encryptions as fast as they could be replaced. Most experts agree that rather than breaking cryptography, this would force it to evolve.
The other exciting area of quantum computing would be in the combo of quantum computing and blockchain technology. Blockchain in its purest form is a decentralized network. The network relies on groups of people processing math formulas to record transactions in a public ledger. This is time- and energy-intensive. Quantum computing gives the chance to decrease the time it takes to solve the equations dramatically. While some fear that this will threaten the stability of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general, others feel that it’s the next step in cryptocurrency evolution to find a quantum-proof method of encryption.
There will be other applications for quantum computing, from gene mapping to chemistry uses in modeling molecules, and especially physics in considering the properties of atoms. The first quantum computers are only now beginning to be put into production and are the size of small rooms, so there is still a long way to go before they are available to anyone but the wealthiest of institutions. Don’t expect quantum desktops anytime soon.