Updated: Jan 22, 2021
Richard Feynman, one of the most influential physicists of his time, once asked a question at a conference on physics and computation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The
question he asked would usher the world into a quantum revolution.
“Can we simulate physics on a computer?”
As Feynman restlessly discussed his ideas with others, he was successful in beginning to spark interest in the development of quantum computers. Many began to wonder how they would even work.
Well, today, we have carried on Feynman’s legacy and have begun to shape a better
understanding of the world of quantum mechanics and how it intertwines with quantum
computers. Quantum computers utilize circuits to perform calculations. Traditional computers also rely on these tiny circuits to perform calculations. The major point of interest for quantum computers is that they use quantum phenomena known as superposition and entanglement.
Traditional computers use ‘bits’ to process information. These bits can represent one of two possible states — 0 or 1 — that refer to whether a portion of the computer chip called a logic gate is open or closed. Quantum computers, on the other hand, use quantum bits or qubits. Qubits can represent a 0 and 1 at the same time. In a quantum computer, each qubit holds the ability to influence the behavior of qubits around it, working together to arrive at a solution. These concepts of superposition and entanglement are exactly what allow quantum computers to arrive at results significantly faster than that of traditional computers and even supercomputers.
Quantum computers will be able to simulate the behavior of materials at the particle level, which will allow chemists and physicists to make unique progress in their fields. Quantum computers will also likely be able to play instrumental roles in the development of batteries, solar cells, fertilizers, and even pharmaceutical drugs.
With all these incredible abilities, however, attention must be drawn to the fact that there is a question of ethics and morality to be brought up with these quantum computers.
This large question mark regarding ethics and morality looming over the prospects of quantum computers can be attributed to the fact that there is an ethical aspect to all human developments.
With this said, although a quantum computer does not pose a threat of life or death, it does act as a threat in another aspect: security. Quantum computers will provide a major advantage to those with access to them. These people will easily be able to decipher the content of emails, bank transactions, credit card numbers, etc. Many countries believe that if a quantum computer lands in the wrong hands, we may potentially see a major internet security crisis.
To add on to all of this, there is also a question regarding the intellectual property of scientific innovations and experiments and how to ensure that they remain private and in the proper hands.
With all of this, there has recently been a major push to make a switch to new cryptographic codes that aren’t susceptible to the power of quantum computers. However, implementing these codes and verifying their functionality will take a long time.
Making quantum computers work more efficiently and increasing their accessibility is a major key to help a world that needs new developments in medication and solar power. However, we must also ensure that we are taking the time to address issues of security that arise alongside this power to innovate.