Gearing up for the Quantum Computing Paradigm Shift
The earliest computers in the 1950s and 1960s transformed how businesses and governments were run. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was decentralized into mid-range departmental computing to increase autonomy and reduce cost. The personal computer brought the same into the home in the 1980s and mobile phones and the Internet brought the world “online” in the 1990s. By 2010, the confluence of the social, mobile and cloud revolutions took that experience to anyone caring to use it, and today the explosion of data and miniaturization of devices has given the Internet of Things with everything connected to everything else.
That 60 year whistle-stop tour tells us that technology driven transformations that bring societal impact have a decadal cadence - a new cycle of innovation that endures for the next 10-20 years. This brings us to the cusp of the next step change in computing - quantum.
There is a growing trend towards decentralized intelligence and localized decision-making. Swarm for instance, brings multiple IoT devices together to work as a collective. Linking the underlying technologies to enable these things is what creates the perfect storm. At a conceptual level, if I can connect “this” with “that” and together they can do the “other”, it could change EVERYTHING. The clever part is recognizing what “this”, “that” and the “other” actually are, and preferably before anyone else does.
I’m yet to be convinced that crypto-currencies have any genuine intrinsic value, and their fluctuating price implies that I am not alone. However, blockchain underpins more than just the crypto-currencies. If a blockchain based supply chain record could reduce the recall impact of a defective part down to the individual batch of the part in question, I’m starting to see a combination of “this”, “that” and the “other” that can deliver some real value. Imagine what a recall count in tens of vehicles rather than tens of thousands could mean to a car manufacturer.
And into the eye of this storm comes quantum computing, which will redefine computing as we know it. “Classic” computing has grown up in a binary world of 1s and 0s. It has proved very effective in expanding the computational scale to excesses, something that the pioneers of the last century would have thought ridiculous. Nevertheless, the binary model does have its limits.
The quantum computing paradigm processes information in quantum bits operating at the sub atomic level which can have multiple states rather than just the two we’ve known for 60 years. Beyond the physics, as these “qubits” can represent many more values than their binary counterparts, massive levels of parallel computation can happen multiple times over and at a much faster rate than conventional IT, making unprecedented amounts of computing power possible.
It is not hard to predict the domains in which such computational power of vast volumes of data will be relevant. The early adopters of quantum will help to revolutionize healthcare, meteorology and farming, for example. But it is also apparent that the full potential of quantum computing can’t be fully or even partially predicted.
The experts are saying “we’ll only really know what it can do when we get there”. Our earlier history tour shows that the first computers were designed to solve very specific problems, and it was only later that the technologists identified new ways to program them to complete other tasks. Their full power has only really been unleashed in the last decade. Likewise, I expect the next 50 years will demystify quantum computing as its capabilities are unlocked to address a multitude of commercial, industrial and societal challenges.
So sit down, buckle up and enjoy the ride – just as with the next generation of cars, there probably won’t even be a driver!
The emerging impact of quantum computing is just one of the topics addressed in the latest Ascent magazine, “Imagining our quantum future”. You can read more about it, swarm computing, the future of both energy and air travel, printed pizzas and numerous other topics by downloading the magazine at atos.net/ascent-magazine