Posted in Big Thoughts Education General Technology Innovation

Behold the Quantum Age Cometh

May 18, 2019 - 3:50 pm

What is driving our rapid movement towards a next generation of computing power?

I’ve been involved in using and working with computers for over 30 years. In that time, processing speed has continued to increase rapidly with each new generation of microchips. The cost of computing has also rapidly dropped. Just look at storage costs: in the 1990’s a gigabyte was almost $100,000; today it is less than 10 cents. Software capability has empowered remarkable new business models from on-demand mobility to global online commerce. At no time have our expectations of what technology can provide plateaued; moreover, our appetite for innovation has only increased. I’ve come to expect, like you, that computing technology will just continue to get faster, better, and cheaper as time passes.

We’re not yet near a time when current capabilities will fail to meet our needs. This is particularly true in the consumer and enterprise space. Today’s computing continues to take us to places we didn’t expect with fast, innovative connected services, available on an ever-expanding number of devices.

A hyper-connected, data-driven planet, though, doesn’t stand still. As every organization becomes a technology organization at its core; as more data is created, stored, and leveraged; as software drives more of the human experience and computing intelligence gets baked into everything; as our ambition and confidence increases to tackle our most intractable issues; our needs are catching up with the capacity for classical computing to deliver.

Early Use Cases for Quantum Computing

Here are a few specific examples of drivers of a next generation of computing:

The first example is our need for better cybersecurity. All the benefits of a digital, connected world has only increased the potential for security issues. A day doesn’t pass when we don’t hear about another significant security breach. Cybersecurity technology is innovating quickly, but bad actors are evolving quickly too. Current approaches including widely adopted encryption technologies will eventually become useless. Ironically, it may be quantum computing that eventually breaks all current encryption techniques.

To ensure a more secure, appropriately-scaled, response to our hyper-digital, connected future will require new approaches and new technology. In its absence, a lack of public trust will hinder progress and may have limiting consequences such as burdensome regulation that we may later come to regret. Quantum is poised to offer the kind of cybersecurity the future will demand.

Now the second example: Our need to advance our understanding of biology, physics, and chemistry. While we’ve come a long way in understanding our universe and our planet; we still have much to learn. Super computers are enabling us to better understand molecule interactions, but modelling takes time and has complexity processing limits.

Anticipating the weather, and more broadly understanding our climate over time, already tests the most advanced machines. Drug research needs better capabilities to design a new generation of treatments including the creation of personalized solutions; a drug designed for a single individual for their unique body and issue.

Surprisingly, quantum computing may also be essential to furthering our understanding of quantum computing and the quantum mechanics space in general. I know, that’s very meta. Researchers are excited about the possibility of this new technology helping to understand and advance innovation in quantum.

And finally, the third example: Global competitiveness. Can we possibly imagine a world where one nation is powering forward with significantly better computing power than others? For example, could the United States continue to rely on classical computing, while China, Russia, and others rapidly made advances in computing that is millions of times faster?

Today, an economy left behind in technological capability will quickly struggle. After-all, the painful evidence of history already proves this. The promise of new computing performance is motivation enough for many countries to be in this race. And in it they are! With quantum computing, nations big and small across the world are investing heavily and many have made it a national priority.

Quantum computing is arriving. A new age of capability will soon be upon us.

My new online video series, Introduction to Quantum Computing, is now available here: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/introduction-to-quantum-computing

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