My partner, Penny, and I have recently been listening to an incredible audiobook: Quantum Supremacy: How the Quantum Computer Revolution Will Change Everything, by Michio Kaku.
If you believe, as you should, that artificial intelligence (AI) will have an utterly profound impact on our lives, technology, and society in general, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Digital computers calculate using many transistors working together in an integrated circuit (also called a microchip). Quantum computers do away with transistors and instead calculate using atoms in units called quantum bits or qubits.
In essence, the difference is that while each relatively larger transistor can only perform one calculation at a time, each tiny qubit can perform many calculations at once. This means that quantum computers can process an extraordinary amount of data in an extremely short time.
In 1965, Intel founder Gordon Moore predicted that the number of transistors on each computer chip would double approximately every two years, continuously increasing the power of computers as a result. Chip manufacturers were indeed able to continuously reduce the size of each transistor and to the surprise of most experts, Moore’s prediction — now referred to as Moore’s Law — proved to be correct.
Correct that is until recently when the miniaturization of transistors began to reach their physical limit. While researchers continue to work on solutions to this problem, quantum computing is now seen to be the next leap forward.
The quest to develop a quantum computer has taken decades.
As early as 1959, physicist and Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman discussed the possibility of arranging molecules and atoms to build devices, more formally proposing the idea of harnessing quantum physics to build a powerful computer in a lecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1982.
Since that time, substantial research and experimentation has demonstrated only limited success, just producing rudimentary quantum computers. However, a very recent breakthrough by Australian engineers has uncovered an exciting new approach that could be used to build billions of qubits into a single computer chip – moving quantum computing from theory to reality.
Quantum computing will be unimaginably faster than digital computing, solving in just a few seconds problems that would take a digital computer literally hundreds if not thousands of years to process!
There are still two profoundly difficult challenges that must be overcome to make quantum computing truly viable.
The first challenge is temperature. A quantum computer needs to be cold. I mean really cold – almost at absolute zero. That’s not the 0°C we think of as zero, it’s about -273°C or -460°F. Absolute zero is like the cold in outer space — there is literally no heat present.
The second problem is sensitivity to their environment. The slightest, tiniest vibrations, temperature fluctuations, interference from electromatic waves, or other interactions with their outside conditions can make a quantum computer dysfunctional. Even someone sneezing in the next room can wreak havoc with the operation of a quantum computer.
Now, enough about what quantum computing is.
It is what quantum computing will do in the not-too-distant future that is truly jaw dropping.
In my June 22, 2023 blog, I wrote about the exciting future I see ahead for Artificial Intelligence (AI). Quantum computing is the process that will truly power the AI revolution.
China and the USA are now in a frantic race to be the first to develop powerful quantum computers as they will be able to break any security code, no matter how complex. It will be possible for the winner to effortlessly pull the curtain back on all the state secrets of the other. For instance, China and potentially others would finally have complete, uncensored access to all CIA and other government files.
Chemical processes will be transformed. For instance, after years of work, German scientist Fritz Haber received the 1918 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his invention of the Haber-Bosch process, a method to synthesize ammonia from nitrogen gas and hydrogen gas, which proved critical to the large-scale production of fertilizers. It’s estimated that one-third of global food production now uses this process, and that it supports nearly half of the world’s population – literally avoiding what would otherwise have been death by starvation for tens of millions of individuals.
However, the Haber-Bosch process is so energy intensive that ammonia production contributes 1% to 2% of worldwide carbon emissions, while fertilizers themselves also produce greenhouse gases after farmers apply them to their fields. Newer, carbon-friendly methods of fertilization are now being explored, including the potential use of peanuts which are known to naturally fix nitrogen from the air and soil. However, scientists do not yet know how to utilize the energy-efficient method used by peanuts in a way that will produce nitrogen able to be added to fertilizer. Quantum computers should solve this mystery in just minutes, eliminating 1% to 2% of worldwide carbon emissions.
Medicine will be profoundly improved.
New vaccines will be developed in a matter of hours. Had workable quantum computers existed when the COVID epidemic first appeared, new vaccines would have been coming out of laboratories just days later as opposed to the years it did take.
Quantum computing will make it possible to detect many forms of cancer long before symptoms occur – something only dogs seem to be able to do right now. A dog has thousands of times more sensitive sense of smell, much better than that of humans. In fact, dogs can be trained to smell cancer. There is a recent case where the dog kept signalling that the patient had bladder cancer. However, every test came back negative, but the dog kept insisting. The patient’s doctor ordered one last test, and sure enough, the patient had very early bladder cancer. The dog had detected cancer so early in its development that the testing proved unable to detect it until it had further developed.
Now you may wonder why I appear to have wandered off topic to tell you about the dog’s ability to smell. There is a point and here it is. Quantum computers will be able to analyze breath samples instantaneously, even faster than a dog can. As we speak into our smartphones, they will record breath samples and send them to quantum computers in the cloud which will analyze them, immediately detecting any of a whole host of diseases if present, including cancer.
We live in very interesting times. If we play it right, quantum computing — AI on steroids — will solve almost all the problems facing humankind today, creating a world full of abundance and good health.
Daily atmospheric CO2 [Courtesy of CO2.Earth]
Latest daily total (July 20, 2023): 420.79ppm
One year ago (July 20, 2022): 419.13ppm
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