Quantum computing (QC) allows for a fundamental – and even ‘disruptive’ – shift in how we analyze and try solving previously intractable problems. However, as with any great disruptive and potentially world-changing technology, quantum computing is not exempt from its share of ‘myth-mongering,’ even among academics.
Here are 3 common myths that have been masquerading as facts in the world of quantum computing.
Debunking 3 Quantum Computing Myths
Myth#1: Quantum Computers Can Solve All Classical Computer Problems Instantaneously
Fact#1: Quantum Computers Speed Up the Solving of Only Certain Problems
With the help of ‘qubits,’ which can hold values of both 0 and 1 (unlike classical computer bits that can be either 0 or 1 but never both), quantum computers can analyze information faster and find solutions faster. But current quantum computers cannot solve all problems instantaneously. They can only solve problems designed specifically for them or are more relevant to everyday life (e.g., cryptography).
However, in the future, this will change. According to Viv Kendon of Durham University, today’s quantum computers already “have several tricks that can bypass what classical computers can do.” This means that future quantum computers will solve every kind of problem, especially those unsolvable by today’s classical computers due to their limited processing power.
Myth#2: ‘Quantum Supremacy’ Spells the Beginning of the End for Classical Computing
Fact#2: Classical Computers Won’t Be Completely Swept Aside by Quantum Computers
In 2012, John Preskill at the California Institute of Technology proposed the term ‘quantum supremacy.’ Seven years later, Google announced in a article that it had achieved this milestone with its 53-qubit quantum computer Sycamore. This machine could perform a calculation in 200 seconds that would have taken a current, state-of-the-art supercomputer a whopping 10,000 years. Michelle Simmons of the University of New South Wales calls this the “first experimental evidence that quantum speed-up is achievable in a real-world system.”
Nonetheless, those who fear that quantum supremacy foretells the end of classical computing can rest easy because it doesn’t – at least not yet. According to Peter J. Love of Tufts University, the practical implications of the task completed by Sycamore are fairly minimal for the near future. Professor Preskill has a different take, though. He believes that Google’s quantum supremacy milestone is a pivotal step towards ‘practical’ quantum computing. At Quantropi, we agree with Professor Preskill. At the same time, we also foresee that quantum computers won’t replace classical computers, leading to the growth of ‘hybrid’ computers.
Myth#3: Quantum-Safe Cryptography Provides Complete Data Security
Fact#3: In Case of a Quantum Attack, Quantum-Safe Cryptography Isn’t Safe
The advent of large-scale quantum computing – which is less than a decade away, according to Michele Mosca from the University of Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing – poses a significant threat to our global information infrastructure. Current Public-key Cryptography (PKC) algorithms are fairly resistant to security breaches launched from classical computers. But in the near future, quantum computers will be able to break even the strongest PKC algorithms, putting our entire communications network and data at risk. Quantum-safe Cryptography algorithms provide enhanced data security even in a large-scale quantum attack. But only in theory.
The truth is that Quantum-safe Cryptography is not completely quantum-safe, despite what its adherents say. Its two key approaches, Post-Quantum Cryptography (PQC) and Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) have weaknesses that make them inadequate for protecting systems and data in case a quantum attack happens. Only Quantropi offers TrUE security against the quantum threat. It’s the only cybersecurity company in the world providing the 3 prerequisites for cryptographic integrity: Trust, Uncertainty, and Entropy (TrUE). Powered by quantum mechanics expressed as linear algebra, our patented TrUE technologies establish Trust between any two parties via quantum-secure asymmetric MASQ™ encryption; ensure Uncertainty to attackers, rendering data uninterpretable forever, with QEEP™ symmetric encryption; and provide Quantum Entropy as a Service (QEaaS) with SEQUR™ – ultra-random key generation and distribution to enable secure data communications. All Quantropi’s TrUE technologies are accessible via our flagship QiSpace™ platform.
4 REAL Facts About Quantum Computing
To give you a better idea of quantum computers’ capabilities (and limitations), here are some real facts about quantum computing.
1. Quantum Computers are Enormously Faster than Classical Computers
While quantum computers certainly won’t replace classical computers any time soon, they are unimaginably faster than anything we have today.
The advantage of quantum machines over classical computers can be in the millions and tens of millions of times, sometimes even more. The Chinese photonic quantum computer Jiuzhang 2.0 can reportedly analyze random data patches using Gaussian boson sampling 10 to the power of 24 times (or one billion billion) faster than classical supercomputers.
But here’s the caveat – quantum computers aren’t yet big and powerful enough to solve real-world problems, like simulating drug molecules or materials using quantum chemistry. At the moment, there isn’t anything that classical computers can’t do that quantum computers can do.
We’re yet to see quantum computers beating classical hardware for practical tasks. Even though quantum computers theoretically leave legacy computers in the dust, there’s still a lot of work to be done before they become practical and mainstream.
2. Quantum Computers Require Super Low Temperatures to Operate
Disturbances from the environment – such as temperature and noise – can disrupt qubits’ extremely delicate quantum state. To keep qubits stable, quantum computers are kept near absolute zero – the lowest temperature possible.
The temperature sensitivity of quantum computers makes them difficult to implement, maintain, and operate. Not only do we need to cool quantum computers to extremely low temperatures, but we also need specialized equipment to read and amplify the signals emitted by qubits. This is one of the reasons why quantum computers – at least in the near future – won’t replace classical computers.
The sensitivity of qubits to environmental noise complicates the maintenance of quantum computers and makes building larger machines very challenging. Larger systems of qubits are harder to control and keep stable and error-free. IBM actually considers the instability of qubits the biggest obstacle to larger machines.
3. The Power of Quantum Computers Scales Exponentially
Because qubits can be in a state of superposition where they are simultaneously both 0 and 1, the computing power of quantum computers grows exponentially with the number of qubits. Quantum computers with two qubits can perform 4 (or 2 to the power of 2) computations simultaneously, 3 qubits can do 8 (2 to the power of 3), and so on.
Due to this massive advantage, quantum computers are gaining on classical computers at a doubly exponential rate – that is, by powers of 2.
For illustration, exponential growth would be something like this:
While doubly exponential growth can look like this:
With the exponential scaling of quantum computing power in mind, quantum computers have come very far in recent years. While qubit counts have increased tens of times, computing power has grown thousands and tens of thousands of times.
The first quantum computer that could accept data and produce a solution was introduced in 1998 and had just 2 qubits. By March 2000, researchers had already developed a 7-qubit quantum computer. But although 2 and 7 qubits were huge achievements at the time, old quantum computers were really small compared to what we have in the game have today.
Fast forward to 2019, and we have quantum computers with as many as 54 qubits. And in November 2021, IBM unveiled a quantum processor with a striking 127 qubits – the first quantum machine to reach “3 digits”.
That’s not all. IBM’s roadmap incorporates a device with over 1,000 qubits, Quantum Condor, for the end of 2023. With quantum computers so large, we might finally start seeing the technology finding actual uses in the real world.
4. Quantum Computers Can Help us Simulate the Natural World
Although classical computers can simulate physical processes with certain accuracy, they fail as soon as sub-atomic phenomena are included in the equation.
Simple chemical elements like the one-atom hydrogen can be simulated on a laptop. However, elements like thulium – which has 69 orbiting electrons that are entangled with each other – are far beyond the capabilities of classical computers.
It would take you 20 trillion years to write down each of the possible states of thulium per second. And to simulate thulium on a classical computer, you would need to get your hands on Intel’s worldwide chip production for the next 1.5 million years. Such amounts of silicon would cost you US$600 trillion.
Operating according to the rules of quantum mechanics – which describes physics at subatomic levels – quantum computers might be able to help us push the boundaries of simulation beyond anything we can do today. The physical properties of quantum computers could help us develop cancer treatments or perhaps even see what’s going on inside black holes.
Ready to learn more about the future of quantum computing and how to keep your business safe today? Take a read through some of our other blogs.