Quantum Computing

By: Gaurika Manchanda

We are living in a digital era. The role of technology in life is beyond expectations, characterized by a high knowledge turnover in the economy. A large amount of information is generated, analysed and modelled using computer technologies these days which eases down business processes. This high dependency requires us to have a Socioeconomic balance between existing and upcoming advanced technology in order to ensure steady growth and avoid stagnancy. The amount of information generated and  analysed has increased manifold times. Thus, there is a need to develop Quantum computers that are capable of solving complex problems more efficiently as compared to the classical ones.

Quantum supremacy coined by John Preskill refers to the goal of developing a quantum device that can solve complex problems efficiently that no classical computer can think of doing in a reasonable time. A milestone was achieved recently when the researchers of a University in China achieved quantum supremacy by solving a problem in a matter of 200 seconds that would otherwise require the world’s fastest computer Fugaku 600 million years to complete. Apart from the recent developments, it has been achieved only once in 2019 by Google when it solved a complex computation requiring 10,000 years in a fraction of seconds.

We know that quantum computers are faster than the traditional ones but why is this so? Which mechanism enables supercomputers to perform complex problems so fast?

The answer lies with the quantum theory of physics. The quantum computers store data and perform calculations based on this theory using superposition and entanglement. The calculations are performed based on the probability of an object rather than following the traditional method of 0 and 1. While a classical computer works on the bits of either 0 or 1 a quantum computer can exist in multiple states simultaneously using qubits that can be both 0 and 1 or a combination of both. This superposition or capability of existing in multiple states enables it to carry calculations all at once. Whereas, entanglement enables the qubits to correlate irrespective of the fact that how distant they are. 

Thus, Quantum computing could bring a revolution to many sectors including healthcare, finance, banking, entertainment and is expected to build a multi-billion dollar quantum industry by 2030.

With the introduction of this technology, the financial sector is expected to grow tremendously. This development would enable effective analyses of raw data sets, improving decision making and services in the financial sector. Additionally, this advancement will be very beneficial during  times of uncertainty, as during such times analyzing risk is a matter of great importance specially for financial institutions. Therefore, determining risk standards using quantum computing will ensure some level of stability in the economy.  The availability of such technology would have extremely helped us in the economic crises of the past decade, including the pandemic. 

The benefits are confined not just to the financial sector; even the pharmaceutical industry is expected to boom. In this industry particularly, a large proportion is spent on Research and Developmental activities to improve existing drugs or develop new ones. Quantum Computing holds the key for developing core activities of pharmaceutical companies. Since our body structure is complex various molecular formulations have different impacts on the body. The various permutations and combinations of molecules help identify and develop cures for various human illnesses. Quantum computers can perform this computation and predict the structure and behaviour of molecules more effectively.

There are numerous challenges that are to be tackled before this technology could reap benefits. Scientists have achieved quantum supremacy once or twice in the past but the challenge lies in maintaining this level stable for a feasible period to bring this technology to use. The qubits used are extremely fragile; the slightest disturbance from the outside world can destroy quantum information. Thus, a steady low-temperature environment is a prerequisite for smoothly carrying forward the process. 

Apart from the need of a stable external environment, Quantum computers also pose a risk to data privacy. In today’s time, the most important asset that an individual holds is digital assets. Advanced cryptography using quantum computing can easily break through any traditional device. Thus this new technology cannot be practised unless new security measures are developed that no supercomputer can decrypt. This new technology glorifies the need of modifying security systems in order to realise the true potential of the quantum world, thus looking forward to developments that would safeguard the digital lives of an individual. 

Imagine verifying an operation that gives a separate outcome each time the computation is performed. No doubt it would be tedious and chances of errors are high. Since Quantum Computing is based on probability, the same data set may provide different outcomes every time.  As a result, this process must be repeated over and over again to achieve the right outcome. Thus the chances of errors are much higher than the classical computers, all the more specifying the need for powerful quantum architectures to detect such errors. 

Despite the steady developments in this field, the intricacies and complexities involved make it a distant dream which is yet to be turned into reality. As of now, no quantum computer has been developed that is large enough or powerful enough to surpass the classical ones. The potential of performing exponentially powerful computations in the near future is the hope that could reshape the world.