With the United States, European Union and China pouring tens of billions of dollars of research funding into quantum computing, technology looks set to undergo an enormous boost.
While a traditional computer bit can be a 1 or 0, a quantum bit (qubit) is in a superposition of both states, until observed. Two qubits are in a superposition of 4 states and generally n qubits are the equivalent of 2n regular bits, meaning just 20 qubits can do the equivalent work of more than one million regular bits.
Current quantum processors have qubits numbering in the low hundreds, but are too fleetingly stable to be useful; a genuine quantum computer will need a few thousand more. Google, IBM, Microsoft, and others are working on quantum chips that may see a bona fide quantum computer by 2030 with consumer versions arriving in the 2050s.
Among the subjects that lend themselves to quantum computation is the chemistry of molecules. Understanding these will enable more efficient batteries. Another area is encryption, with corporations and governments rushing to devise quantum-proof techniques. Further ahead it may be a stepping stone towards AGM(Artificial General Intelligence).
1: A computer bit is simply a base-2 (binary) representation of the simplest form of computer information, think of an electrical wire being either on or off, 1 or 0. The reason for using binary is due to the architecture of computer components.
2: A superposition in the quantum sense means that rather than a measurement being a single exact value only, it can be a range of possible values simultaneously (I know, mind-bending). However once this superposition is collapsed to a single state (i.e. observed) it can only return a single measurement or answer. The larger range of possible states offered by a superposition increases its processing potential over traditional bits.
3: Further to the last note see the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle (i.e. Exact position and velocity of an object cannot be measured accurately at the same time)
4: A Processor is a computer chip responsible for carrying out calculations, two common types are the CPU(Central Processing Unit) and GPU(Graphical Processing Unit).
5: Encryption is the process of modifying data, such as a string of characters or numbers, using an algorithm so that the original data content becomes hidden or unrecognisable to anyone who doesn’t know the decryption process or doesn’t have a digital ‘key‘ (usually a complex mix of numbers, characters, etc…) used to reverse the encryption process.
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