While it sounds like the stuff of dystopian science-fiction, quantum supremacy is actually a very real milestone for a super-computer. It’s achieved when such a processor can perform a calculation in a matter of seconds that would take a normal computer several years.
Google recently claimed that its 54-qubit Sycamore processor achieved quantum supremacy when it cracked a calculation in 200 seconds that would have taken the world’s leading super-computers 10,000 years. Though Google’s declaration has been disputed by some, it’s worth taking a look at what the real-life applications of such quantum capability could be.
Currently, any hacker or entity trying to use brute-force on an encrypted password could waste years trying to gain access. But quantum computers have the potential to gain brute-force entry in a matter of seconds, eviscerating encryption as we know it. On the other hand, quantum computers would also be able to create even more complex forms of encryption, ultimately making passwords even stronger.
Currently, in order to see the effects of a drug, scientists must synthesize the molecule and observe its interactions with other molecules. This takes a lot of trial and error time and resources. But quantum computers could model and run simulations of drug interactions in record time. While this would save researchers time and money, it would also save lives in the log run as the trial periods of life-saving medications could be aggressively shortened – sounds like a pandemic must-have.
Quantum computer’s ability to solve complex problems involving hefty amounts of information in a matter of seconds is sure to bolster the rise of artificial intelligence, which will need to process data at lightning-speed to reach its true potential.
Trading and risk assessment involve large-scale models and simulations, and quantum computers have the potential to give investors a huge edge. The Monte Carlo simulation, for instance, which visualizes the impact of risk and uncertainty in an investment, could be drawn-up in just a few seconds by a quantum super-computer.
Earth is a complex ecosystem made up of hundreds of smaller systems. Mapping out the interactions and synergistic relationships between them is a tall order. This complexity is what makes it hard for current climate models to be perfectly accurate. With quantum computing, we could create more accurate models that could handle more variables, which could give us a better idea of how we can realistically slow or reverse the effects of climate change.