Quantum computing – opportunities and threats – Johann Mifsud

Quantum computing – opportunities and threats – Johann Mifsud

Quantum computing is being hailed as a turning point in computer technology that holds the promise of computing power which is more powerful than what is currently available.

Colloquially speaking, it’s like comparing a horse and cart to rocket technology. Rather than using current logic devices, quantum technology makes use of subatomic phenomena and the laws of quantum mechanics as computing devices.

Currently, large corporations, as well as nations, are investing in these technologies, some claiming to have operational devices. However, these devices are not yet available as commercial, operational products but rather as experimental setups in research laboratories.

While on the one hand, such computing power holds promise to be useful and an answer to many problems we are unable to solve with current technology, on the other, we know it will open up a veritable pandora’s box of problems that might have huge implications , particularly in the field of security. What would happen to our internet-based economy if there was a computer able to ‘guess’ each and every password?

The answer to that question is an obvious one and holds the implication that such technologies have the capability of compromising any form of current secure communication. This has sparked a fierce technological race at the level of nations, as those that have such systems may decode all communications. From then on, there will be no turning back, and current security protocols will simply become obsolete. Thus, a lot of research effort is being expended to develop new communication protocols and encryption methods that can be used in the quantum era.

A lot of research effort is being expended to develop new communication protocols and encryption methods that can be used in the quantum era

On the flip side of the argument, technology with ‘unlimited’ computing power may be key to solving problems that are just not within reach with current methods. One would be that of using quantum computers to power AI machines, that for instance, could open possibilities such as language recognition machines that would be truly capable of having human-like capabilities, along with translating machines that can have multilingual capability via self-learning and evolving algorithms.

Another realm of application would be that of material science. Just imagine if we could find materials capable of boosting our solar panels fivefold! Similarly, quantum computing could help us make industrial processes far more efficient or even allow us to develop entirely new production processes. Manufacturing processes of materials such as fertilizers and building materials currently are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Developing climate-friendly technologies would enable us to vastly reduce carbon emissions, which would benefit us all.

Quantum computing technology is advancing at an ever-faster pace, so we might not have to wait too long to see it bring about huge breakthroughs in the sectors we have mentioned and so many more.

This article was prepared by collating various publicly available online sources.

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