A few years ago — for fun — I started to read about quantum computing and quantum information. At the time, I believed that a real quantum computer was decades away, especially since that was what most experts were saying.
But, that’s linear thinking — and technology does not often follow linear progressions. Technology increases exponentially. And it may increase super-exponentially, if the latest quantum discoveries continue to flow from research labs and companies, such as D-Wave.
D-Wave recently announced that Google has signed up as one of their quantum computer customers and Google and NASA are teaming up to develop a Quantum AI lab. In case you don’t realize the implications: that’s friggin’ huge.
Quantum information processes use qubits, which are a lot like the bits of information we’re familiar with in binary computing. But, where a binary bit can be in a 1 position or a 0 position, a qubit can be in a 0 position or in a 1 position or anything in between — at the same time. It’s called superposition. Qubits in superposition are capable of massive feats of calculation. And, the more qubits that researchers learn to entangle, the more powerful these computers will become. How powerful? According to How Stuff Works:
A 30-qubit quantum computer would equal the processing power of a conventional computer that could run at 10 teraflops (trillions of floating-point operations per second). Today’s typical desktop computers run at speeds measured in gigaflops (billions of floating-point operations per second).
That’s pretty powerful. However, most experts say that quantum computers are better for certain computations that classic computers don’t even come close to matching. Because of a quantum computer’s ability to detect observation and its ability to massively crunch numbers, QCs make near perfect devices for encryption and cryptography.
But, in my opinion, sending and receiving secret messages is just the start. We don’t even know the full implications. Just a scattering of headlines this week points to the weird behavior of quantum mechanics stretches our understanding of time and space. Photons that are entangled before they even exist? Making a quantum computer out of good old fashioned silicon? We also see quantum technology mentioned in far-future devices: teleportation, time travel, etc.
Right now we look at the quantum computing age and compare it to the last technological sea change, the internet or dotcom age. Sure, it will make spies happy, but what about us? But, the quantum age may be like nothing on the historic charts, even beyond the civilization-molding steps of discovering fire and agriculture. I look at it more like the discovery of language, instead of discovering how to symbolically talk about reality, though, this quantum language will allow us to actually talk to our reality (or realities).
And maybe it will talk back.