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The Hype over Quantum Computers

May 25, 2020

Quantum Computers and Quantum Computing are making headlines these days with what seem like breakthroughs and major accomplishments? But how do you separate fact from fiction and get a better handle of what Quantum Computers actually are and what they are not.

What Quantum Computers are Not

Ways to make existing calculations faster. Only some algorithms have been shown to offer a Quantum Advantage which means calculations done on a Quantum Computer are not automatically faster unless they are running particular algorithms such as Grover or Shor’s. A quantum computer can run classical calculations, but not necessarily any faster.

You’ll have one at home. Quantum Computers are massive (often room sized) and they only have a few numbers of qubits and are of limited use beyond a few specialist applications. Many organizations are exploring, but we don’t think you see a version of Windows for Quantum Computers anytime soon. You can already access one through the cloud via Amazon, IBM and now Microsoft.

Quantum Supremacy means all encryption is vulnerable. Google’s statement in 2019 that had achieved supremacy means that our security systems are crack-able? Nope. It meant that they ran a largely useless algorithm faster on a Quantum Computer than on a classical. However a larger Quantum Computer could in theory break some of the Encryption that our world relies on, researchers are no-where near the scale of Qubits required to do so.

Quantum Theory is fake. Many think because the world theory is often used that there is something unproven about the quantum world. In fact Quantum theory is one of the most successful scientific endeavors and has been repeatably tested by experiment. There are real advantages to using Quantum Computers, if certain achievements are made in the number of qubits and the fidelity of those qubits.

Quantum Computers will Never Work. Think again. The principles of Quantum Computing are on a very solid footing. The research both theory and experiment has shown Quantum Computing to be viable. There is lots of exploration of the field and it appears we are entering the time-frame where Quantum Computers are beginning to look useful for a number of fields and problems.

Quantum Computers will take over the world. Much as many are scared about AI or Artificial Intelligence. Some are beginning to wonder if Quantum Computing will unleash some unprecedented intelligence upon the world that will take over and control humans. Right now there is a small but growing number of real world use-cases for Quantum Computers, so it is unlikely we can extrapolate to taking over the world, just yet. Elon Musk can relax.

David Deutsch, one of the founding fathers of Quantum Computing. Read his interesting views on the Multiverse. Photo Credits: Lulie Tanett

Don’t already Quantum Computers exist with more then 2,000 qubits. Certain types of Quantum Computers work on a principle of Quantum annealing (such as D-wave), but most development is happening in the world of gate based Quantum Computers which can be universally programed. Gate based Quantum Computers being developed by likes of IBM and Google have only tens of qubits. To do many of the hyped things that people talk about such as Grovers or Shor’s algorithms gate based Quantum Computers will be required. That doesn’t mean Quantum annealers do not have a place. For certain problems, such as optimization they play a very important role.

Building a Quantum Computer will open up doors to another universe. If you read any science books, popular or even Quantum textbooks you might have heard of David Deutsch who can be thought of one of the most valuable contributors to Quantum theory. In fact David Deutsch is one of the proponents to the multiverse, or many worlds. But that doesn’t mean you’ll have access to those alternative worlds.

Quantum Education

One of the best ways to understand what Quantum Computing is, other then follow our site (Quantum Zeitgeist) is to read, engage and think. There are some fantastic learning materials out there that can really help any from almost any perspective get a handle on Quantum Computing. There are books, courses, webinars, youtube channels – and even comics.