Quantum computing, history and expectations

Although the first tangible results have only come in recent years, quantum computing is close to extinguishing its first 50 candles. What we must expect for the future

After a long wait, the moment seems to have finally arrived. After years of research, experiments and prototypes, with slow and gradual progress, in recent times the sector of quantum computer science has undergone a sudden acceleration , so as to appear more and more likely that within a few months, one of the many research centers can reveal to the world a fully functional quantum computer.

One wonders, however, why there is so much enthusiasm and expectation around this branch of information technology that apparently has not much to do with the general public. The reason is early: although not designed to be sold in large consumer electronics chains (at least for now), quantum computers promise to exponentially enhance computing skills – and therefore processing – of the current supercomputers, with immediate applications in the most disparate sectors.

Quantum computers, with their load of qubit , will thus be able to give new impetus to research in the field of materials sciences , where they are used in the study of new construction materials, allowing to simulate operation and interaction up to the atomic level; or in the field of artificial intelligence, where they will be able to enhance the results of the algorithms thanks to the greater ability to “grind” numbers and data. Not to be underestimated, then, the contribution that quantum computers can give in IT security sector , where the greatest computing power can be used to improve both the detection of new threats and to create encryption algorithms that are even more powerful than the current ones.

The history of quantum computing

Although the first appreciable results have only been obtained in recent years, quantum computing is a discipline that has its roots in the early 70s of the last century. It is thanks to the work of Charles Bennett , which became part of the IBM family in 1972, which laid the theoretical foundations of the first quantum computers. Bennett, together with other IBM researchers, hypothesizes that some operations, apparently too complex to be carried out with “normal” PCs, could be accomplished by exploiting some principles of quantum physics.

In 1981 IBM and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology they organize a first international meeting on quantum communication theory, in which not only experts in communication theory and computer science take part, but also some of the world’s leading experts in quantum physics – one above all, Richard Feynman . And it is Feynman who gives impulse – and courage – to the researchers present in the room to continue their business.

Data center rendering with quantum computers

Obstacle course

Enterprise anything but simple, though. By their very nature, in fact, quantum computers are rather prone to error, forcing technicians and engineers to intervene over and over again to fix any malfunctions or to verify that the results are actually correct. Being a relatively young discipline, in fact, there is not yet one modus operandi well defined and, more often than not, the employees are forced to proceed by trial and error.

Several difficulties, for example, are also found in keeping the circuits of a single qubit “active”, inclined to lose its quantum characteristics rather easily. In this way, keeping a quantum computer – whether it is made up of 10, 50 or 100 qubits – fully operational is quite complex and tiring.

What future for quantum computing?

Despite some minor “road accidents”, however, the future of quantum computing seems to be brighter than ever. If at the beginning of the “path” of research and development of the concepts behind quantum computers we find only IBM, today the US information giant is in good company. Google , through the acquisition of the startup D-Wave , has developed one of the most powerful quantum computers in circulation, while Intel continues to churn out quantum chips at impressive rates.

Google quantum processor

Alongside the big of Silicon Valley, moreover, we find a plethora of startups born in the wake of the first concrete results shown by IBM, Google and Intel. And it is from them that the most interesting news could come up what to do with quantum computers . While I big seem to be interested in the applications of quantum computing to artificial intelligence, i startups they might try to follow different paths and take less beaten tracks. Someone, for example, would like to use the power of qubits for forecasts in the economy and finance sector; others who study the formation and behavior of molecules; others still busy using quantum computers to create artificial intelligence systems that are even more advanced than today’s.

In short, a sort of gold rush of the new millennium, with a long path still to be completed. As admitted by several experts in the field, in fact, it will be necessary to wait several more years before you can have in your hands a fully functional quantum computer and, above all, with a practical use.

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