The age of quantum computing might be upon us, and set to change the world in ways we can only imagine.
There is much confusion in the layman world when it comes to quantum computing, and the information available on the matter is quite cryptic. The best way to begin explaining quantum computing is to highlight the problem it tries to solve the limitation of binary computing. Binary computing is the core foundation of all modern-day computers, at the core of every processor is a switch much like the switch that turns the lightbulb in your home. And that switch functions as two simple value, on or off. In the computer world, that on and off value translated as 1 for on and 0 for off. If you can imagine thousands of football fields with the same standard light switch stretched all across them and there would still be more switches in a single modern-day processor.
We are oversimplifying here, of course, there are other functions that we need to consider, such as 'AND' or "OR' gates. But to address the problem, we are trying to explain here; we focus on the central values which run through a circuit or processor, which is 0 and 1. The limitation we face at this point is the amount of information that can process in a given amount of time. Say we can gather temperatures, humidity and wind from millions of points across the world, and imagine if we gather around ten data points for every second at every point in an attempt to map where a hurricane is about to move. Which would be impossible with even today's supercomputer standard; there is just so much information that processing these data points cannot be done fast enough to project or map where accurately the data ends up; in this case, map where the hurricane may end up.
The data points we mentioned earlier are just for illustration purposes, there are far more data which we have not accounted for, and this brings us to our present-day problem.
Moore's law indicated the number of processing power for each chip should double every eighteen months, but this is becoming less and less true, we are reaching physical limitations. We are approaching close to the size of atoms, and the fear is we may not be able to go much smaller. Temporarily, the workaround has been to create multiple cores, which is like hiring more staff in an office. Say you have an office clerk who needs to process some data for you, no matter how great that clerk is at his job, more work can happen if you have two great employees. And the argument can be made that two or three average competent employees can finish more work than the most efficient clerk in the entire world. However, no matter the number of cores, we are coming close to pushing the limitations of that too. Which brings up back to the value 1 and 0, what if instead of two values at each point we instead had an unlimited number of values?
Is there a working quantum computer at the moment?
What is a Quantum Computer?
Yes, there is one at an IBM research facility in Zurich among a few others. At best we are still in the experimental phase in quantum computer development and the ones we have working at the moment work at absolute zero temperature. Such low temperatures are far from commercially viable and show how far away we are when it comes to combining quantum computing with household computing. Households do not need quantum computers, scientists do, and this is where quantum computing makes their first appearance. In laboratories and sophisticated research, facilities are making high levels of extreme calculations. With quantum computing, we would not just map weather patterns and forecasts correctly but also the entire movement within our galaxy itself. And instead of having these quantum computers sitting in every research facility in the world, we can house them in one centralized facility to process complex amounts of data as a cloud computing server. The limitations here are far beyond our current projective imagination. No one in the 1990s could have predicted us using smartphones to control a drone with cameras or an app with filters that can put an animated 3D beard on your face. Humankind ingenuity is anything but predictable making it truly hard to predict where quantum computing pushes humankind forward.