Will quantum computing disrupt any industries that matter, and how soon?
+ “The way I would see it,” said Sutor, “by the end of the decade, we’ll start to see little, scattered examples. And then there’ll be this reassessment: Scientists, software engineers, and [other] people will say, ‘What do I have, and how did I do it?’ And there will be improvement…Then people will be really clever, in terms of just how they’re packaging the system, how they’re combining it with classical systems. The hardware itself is going to be changing — a lot of our classical components will be moving much closer to quantum computing, which will change the algorithms. Our compilers will be getting better. So there will be a second wave, then there will be a spreading.”
If quantum computers ever work well enough to be trusted for general purposes by users outside of academia, they will need to become reliable. Making a device that depends on quantum mechanics reliable is not all that much unlike taming a herd of wildebeest. It’s not, at least analytically speaking, impossible.
+ Building That First Application
+ “We need to have a first application, before [QC] can be ubiquitous,” commented William Zeng, the head of quantum research at financial giant Goldman Sachs. “As far as we can tell now, in order to get to the first application, we’re going to need error correction of some kind. In order to have error correction at scale, we’re going to need to scale up the imperfect qubit systems that we have today. There’s enough milestones that it’s not going to happen in the next year. I think the way to track it is to look at it from a user perspective — to say, ‘What is the series of milestones that need to occur in order to get there?’ And however long it takes, we’ll find out.”
+ Cybersecurity and cryptography
+ Perhaps within the decade, the capability for QC to render modern public-key cryptography pointless will transition its state, like an orbiting electron, from theory to reality. What makes cryptosystems viable today is how long it takes any algorithm to decode them, even if it were to take smart guesses rather than brute-force approaches. Once a single reliable quantum system comes online, and is usable through a cloud-based service, the time required to break any code would become trivially small. Even encrypted video chats could conceivably be revealed in near-real-time.
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