Artificial intelligence is all the rage these days. Hardly a day goes by without a news article on the latest AI advancement from chatbots to self-driving cars. But while AI is certainly revolutionary, there’s another emerging technology that will likely have an even bigger impact: quantum computing.
Surprisingly, quantum computing rarely makes headlines. Most people have never heard of it. Yet it has the potential to transform entire industries and supercharge AI in ways we can barely imagine. Here’s why quantum computing deserves more attention and what challenges and opportunities it may bring.
What is Quantum Computing?
Classical computers operate using bits represented as 0s and 1s. Quantum computers utilise qubits which can represent 0 and 1 simultaneously, allowing for vastly increased computational power. Through principles of superposition and entanglement, quantum computers can process multiple calculations simultaneously.
While today’s quantum computers are limited to handling specific tasks like optimisation and simulation, full-scale universal quantum computers could one day perform calculations beyond the scope of classical supercomputers. Some predict they could be 100 million times faster.
Why The Silence?
So if quantum computing is so revolutionary, why isn’t it grabbing more headlines? A few key reasons help explain the lack of buzz.
1. It’s early days – Quantum computing is still in its infancy with limited real-world applications so far. The quantum computers that exist today are noisy and error-prone. Significant hardware advances are still needed for quantum to reach its full potential.
2. Highly technical field – Quantum physics is complicated. Journalists may shy away from covering something few readers truly understand. The concepts behind qubits and superposition are esoteric and difficult to convey to a general audience.
3. Lacks a defined timeline – While AI milestones like beating humans at Go make headlines, quantum has no defined timeline. Experts estimate it could be 5-30 years before quantum achieves commercial scale. This uncertainty makes it easy to overlook.
4. Scarce computing power – Only a handful of organisations like Google, IBM and Rigetti have built quantum computers. With so few systems available, there are limits to what software can be developed and tested. This shortage of quantum power keeps it out of the limelight.
Quantum Computing versus AI
Make no mistake, AI is a game-changing technology. But quantum has the potential to supercharge AI in ways that push it to new frontiers. Here are some key differences between the two technologies:
- AI deals with data while quantum focuses on computing power itself.
- AI relies on classical computing resources. Quantum can exponentially increase the speed and scale of computation.
- AI software requires massive datasets to train machine learning models. Quantum algorithms can find patterns in data using far fewer examples.
- AI tasks like machine vision and natural language take substantial computation. Quantum could accelerate training and inference.
Some even believe that unlocking general AI may not be possible without quantum computing resources. The exponential increase in speed and reduction in energy consumption could remove key barriers to emulating human-level intelligence.
So while AI allows machines to think more like humans, quantum gives them the computational power to radically extend their capabilities. The two technologies are primed to feed into each other in groundbreaking ways.
One major risk posed by quantum computing is the ability to crack current encryption standards. Much of today’s internet security relies on encryption keys that would take classical computers longer than the age of the universe to break. But quantum algorithms like Shor’s can theoretically break common public key encryption in minutes.
This could enable quantum computers to decrypt sensitive information from financial data to government secrets. Entire industries may need to rethink encryption and identity management strategies. Multifactor authentication and quantum-resistant cryptographic schemes will grow in importance.
Some solutions like lattice-based and hash-based cryptography show promise for “quantum-safe” encryption that’s resilient even against the power of quantum attacks. But implementing these across today’s vast digital infrastructure poses an enormous challenge.
Organisations will likely need to get creative, combining long-term and short-term strategies to securely transition into the quantum era over time.
While quantum computing poses security threats, it also opens up exciting opportunities across business and research:
- Modelling molecules and chemicals at atomic levels to enable scientific breakthroughs and drug discovery.
- Optimising increasingly complex supply chains and logistics networks.
- Performing financial risk analysis in seconds versus months.
- Powering machine learning and artificial intelligence to new capabilities.
- Simulating physical systems from climate models to fusion reactions.
Some even predict quantum networks could one day form an “unhackable” quantum internet using principles of entanglement to securely transmit information. This could have profound implications for sectors like healthcare and defence.
The Road Ahead
Quantum computing may not make headlines today, but it looks poised to rapidly rise in importance. As quantum hardware and software mature over the next decade, we may finally see the long-promised quantum revolution.
This could fundamentally reshape finance, cybersecurity, AI, research and other critical sectors. While the timing remains uncertain, quantum’s exponential scale-up of computing power makes it a technological game-changer unlike anything before.
One thing is clear – quantum and AI are primed to feed into each other in groundbreaking ways. So while the world focuses on AI, it’s time to start paying more attention to the quantum technology that could supercharge it to unimaginable new heights.