In order to have a discussion about quantum computing, we will first need to have a discussion about quantum physics. I know this is where we lose everyone so let’s keep it brief. Quantum physics is not for everyone and we will no try to pretend we are the experts on this subject. We are however really interested in the concept of quantum computing and we believe the quantum computer age will drive A.I. to a level never dreamed. And that is saying something.
Let’s start with some definitions that you can find around the web that can help us set the groundwork to understand how a quantum computer would function and why it would be better than what we have today.
1- A black body is an idealized physical body that absorbs all incident electromagnetic radiation, regardless of frequency or angle of incidence.
2- A white body is one with a rough surface reflects all incident light rays completely and uniformly in all directions.
3- Quantum – the minimum amount of any physical entity involved in an interaction
4- Logic gates perform basic logical functions and are the fundamental building blocks of digital integrated circuits.
In early 1900, German-born physicist Max Planck published his groundbreaking study of the effect of radiation on a “blackbody” substance, and the quantum theory of modern physics was born
Through physical experiments, Planck demonstrated that energy, in certain situations, can exhibit characteristics of physical matter. According to theories of classical physics, energy is solely a continuous wave-like phenomenon, independent of the characteristics of physical matter. Planck’s theory held that radiant energy is made up of particle-like components, known as “quantum.”
Quantum particles behavior allows for some of the weirdest possibilities, making it theoretically possible to transport mater over long distance ( all Star Trek ) and multiple and unlimited universes differing from the one we are in. If we can harness some of this weirdness we may be able to make a Supercomputer like no other.
The modern computer relies on the flow ( Amperage ) and behavior of electrons to function. It is this flow powered by an electromotive force ( volts ) that allow us to create two possible states ( 1 or 0 ) that are the basis for all computer logic and language. The modern computer uses binary as the fundamental language in series of what are known as boolean logic gates.
These logic gates using binary signals are controlled using a hierarchy of increasingly more sophisticated computer languages until ultimately we see things like Windows 10 or Microsoft Word. These languages allow the translation of the computer actions to a set of instructions humans can use. These gates are the cornerstone of the modern semiconductor industry.
As we learned above ( if it is new to you) is that a modern electron based computer basically relies on two different states ( 1 or 0 ) in order to perform logical calculations and instructions. So how would a quantum computer function?
In fact, a quantum computer would rely on something called Superposition ( another weird phenomenon of the quantum world).
Superposition frees us of from binary constraints. A quantum computer works with particles that can be in superposition. Rather than representing bits, such particles would represent qubits, which can take on the value 0, or 1, or both simultaneously. I told you this was weird.
How would a Quantum Computer be better?
The equivalent of quantum bit would be able to at least have 10 possible different states compared to the electron which only has two states. This means that a quantum computer would be able to store much more information, retrieve it quickly and use much less energy. Truly a supercomputer right? So how much faster would it be? Let’s ask a company called D-Wave.
D–Wave’s flagship product, the 2000 qubit D–Wave 2000Q quantum computer, is the most advanced quantum computer in the world. Last year, a team of Google and Nasa supercomputing division scientists found a D-wave quantum computer was 100 million times faster than a conventional computer.
Let’s say that again, 100 million times faster. Imagine what this means for the future of Artificial Intelligence development! Now you know why this very disruptive technology is on our radar.
Energy efficiency in a Quantum Computer Age.
The other feature of a quantum computer is the low amount of energy that is needed for such a high level of computational power. In fact, at the current rate of computer adoption, it is projected that by 2040 we will not have the capability to power all of the machines around the globe, according to a recent Semiconductor Industry study.
Today’ classical computers are limited by the minimum amount of energy it takes them to perform one operation and the total minimum energy of a computer as a whole is the sum of all this computational energy. This energy limit is named after IBM Research Lab’s Rolf Landauer, who in 1961 found that in any computer, each single bit operation must use an absolute minimum amount of energy.
Using Landauer’s formula to calculate the lowest limit of energy required for a computer operation researchers have demonstrated it could be possible to make a chip that operates with this lowest energy.
However, this limit far exceeds the energy requirements for a quantum computer.
Energy efficiency superfast computers mean the table is set for a huge jump in A.I. capability. Is this good or is this bad for mankind? I guess time will tell but for sure we are going to be paying attention.
If you did not know that NASA had a supercomputing division researching quantum computers you are not alone. It seems we are not alone in thinking the quantum computer age is getting close. Check this out.
A 360 video of the IBM Quantum Lab at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. Inside, IBM scientists are researching and building a practical quantum computer, which when built, will be one of the greatest milestones in the history of information technology. Inspired by nature and the laws of quantum mechanics, IBM believes quantum computing is the future of computing and has the potential to solve challenges that are out of reach of today’s classical computers.
On May 4, 2016, IBM Research announced that for the first time ever it is making quantum computing available to the public, providing access to a quantum computing platform from any desktop or mobile device via the cloud. Users of the IBM Quantum Experience can create algorithms and run experiments on an IBM quantum processor located in this lab, learn about quantum computing through tutorials and simulations, and get inspired by the possibilities of a quantum computer.