2023 began with many business leaders being blindsided by the mainstream adoption of generative AI. As we start to think about what trends are waiting for us in 2024, it’s quantum computing that is increasingly setting off the tech-spidey senses in businesses around the world.
Critics have often dismissed quantum computing as overhyped. But as it prepares to enter center stage, all eyes will be on whether it can deliver on its promises of a seismic shift in computational capabilities.
Atom Computing’s recent announcement of a 1,225-qubit quantum computer, nearly tripling IBM’s Osprey, which was the previous front-runner, underscores that we’re on the cusp of a new era in computing. This leap amplifies quantum computing’s potential to revolutionize sectors like pharmaceuticals and cybersecurity, enabling calculations of unimaginable complexity.
However, there is an increasing belief that quantum computing will be determined by the quality of qubits over sheer quantity.
So let’s explore: Does quantum computing have a future?
Quality Qubits Over Quantity
John Prisco believes we will see a shift in the quantum computer market in 2024, departing from the obsession over the concepts of quantum advantage and raw cubit count. Instead, the industry is set to pivot towards addressing the more critical issue of error correction and practical problem-solving applications.
“Quantum computing giants are expected to redirect their efforts towards logical qubit count, prioritizing the quality of qubits over sheer quantity, which had previously dominated discussions.”
Unfortunately, while 2024 may not bring about a decisive consolidation of quantum computer design modalities, this uncertainty challenges the industry’s overall development and focus.
“The quantum computer market is poised to see the elimination of one of the current modalities, which means 2024 will not achieve development focus, a bad sign as the industry strives to transition from headline-grabbing feats to tangible, real-world impact.”
The pivot from a sheer numbers game to emphasizing error correction and functional applications signifies a maturation of the field. This transition, though fraught with uncertainty, represents a critical juncture.
“As the industry grapples with translating theoretical capabilities into real-world applications, another looming issue arises—the implications of quantum computing for data security, particularly how hackers could exploit this nascent technology to store encrypted data today for decryption tomorrow.”
Hackers Will Store Data to Decrypt Later
Fred Rivain, CTO of Dashlane, offers a timely warning about the speed to which Quantum technology is advancing and the need for quantum-resistant encryption methods is no longer optional.
The looming threat of a quantum computer breaking current encryption standards, such as RSA or ECC encryption algorithms, underscores the need for organizations of all sizes across industries to evaluate where they may be at risk and migrate to post-quantum cryptography today.
“The risk to institutions and companies is real: hackers and rogue states are likely already trying to steal, hoard, and store encrypted data, with the hope that they can break it in the future.”
Next year, we expect NIST to announce “round 4” of standardized post-quantum algorithms, which will be integrated into critical cryptographic libraries like libsodium so all developers can use them. While pioneers like Cloudflare and Signal have initiated real-world implementations, broader adoption remains a long-term prospect. Motivation for change may require a Y2K-like event despite pushes from the White House.
Rebecca Krauthammer, co-founder and chief product officer at QuSecure, also warns that we can expect the threat landscape to evolve with the advances of quantum computing.
“With the advancement of quantum computing and AI-driven attacks, a new breed of cyber threats will emerge. Cybersecurity teams will not only be tasked with defending against traditional malware and breaches but also quantum-oriented store-now-decrypt-later attacks, adversarial machine learning tactics, and AI-driven social engineering schemes.”
This will necessitate a broader skill set for cybersecurity professionals and more advanced defensive tools and platforms.
Misconceptions Around Quantum Computing
There are many misconceptions about quantum computing. Tony Uttley, President & Chief Operating Officer Quantinuum, was quick to point out that quantum computers are not ten years away or 15 years away.
“We have quantum computers right now, which can do things that classical computers can’t. Another misconception is that quantum computers will only be good for one thing.”
Uttley explained that while the primary focus of quantum computing development has been on business applications, the technology has inadvertently become a game-changer for complex scientific challenges. For example, condensed matter physics and high-energy physics problems, often the purview of organizations like CERN and projects like the Large Hadron Collider, can now be approached in ways previously thought impossible.
“Human history has taught us that if you give incredible tools to brilliant people, they will find something to do with it. We’re seeing that play out in real time.”
In essence, quantum computing has become a transformative tool that can make theoretical concepts tangible, offering a new lens through which we can understand the universe.
“What I’m excited about is smashing the myth that says quantum computing is a decade away and that quantum computing is only going to solve one thing.”
What Sectors Will Quantum Computing Impact?
Financial services, giant banks, and trading firms leverage quantum capabilities for portfolio optimization and enhanced fraud detection. The pharmaceutical sector is eyeing quantum computing for efficient drug discovery. At the same time, companies focused on sustainability are exploring new material sciences, exemplified by work with BMW and Airbus on hydrogen fuel cells.
“Quantum computing also promises to revolutionize regulated industries from healthcare to aviation by providing much-needed transparency and traceability in AI algorithms, mitigating the “black box” problem in AI decision-making.”
However, the risks are as formidable as the rewards. A significant concern is data encryption, as algorithms like Shor’s Algorithm have shown that quantum computing could potentially crack existing encryption methods. This introduces not only technical challenges but also ethical considerations in how the technology should be harnessed for the greater good while ensuring security.
What is the Future of Quantum Computing?
Quantum computing is not a futuristic concept; it’s a current reality with pivotal milestones on the near horizon. One immediate milestone is reaching a level where quantum machines routinely outperform even the world’s most advanced supercomputers in simulation tasks, ushering us into an era where classical computing becomes inept at emulating quantum capabilities.
As for preparation, Tony Uttley, President and Chief Operating Officer of Quantinuum, advises business and government leaders to focus on the burgeoning applications of quantum technology in areas from cybersecurity to high-energy physics.
“We will start to see it inserted into places that influence our daily lives. We may not ever touch a quantum computer ourselves, but it might be an application you’re working on your mobile phone that is going back across the world and reaching in and doing something from a quantum computer.”
Much like the early stages of the internet and classical computing, quantum computing will start with niche applications but is poised to become ubiquitous, subtly powering tasks on our everyday devices like mobile phones.
Challenges in a Quantum Computing Future
On the one hand, quantum computing opens vistas for groundbreaking research in fields like medicine, material science, and cryptography, acting as a catalyst for innovation and pushing the boundaries of what we deem computationally possible. On the other hand, the disruptive potential of this technology raises critical questions about data security, ethical implementation, and the creation of a digital divide.
“As quantum capabilities burgeon, we are faced with the compelling need to invest in error-correction mechanisms and focus on the quality of qubits rather than mere numerical superiority.”
Ignoring these intricacies could lead to a precarious future where the power of quantum computing is either underutilized or misused. Therefore, the journey ahead demands a calculated, ethical, and multi-disciplinary approach, converging technological prowess with regulatory foresight.
“Quantum computing could shatter current encryption models, demanding a total overhaul of cybersecurity protocols.”
Furthermore, the technology is still in its infancy, grappling with issues like qubit stability and error correction while presenting a high barrier to entry in terms of cost. As we enter 2024, business leaders must balance the transformative potential against the existential risks and operational challenges of quantum computing.
As we pivot from the era of classical computing to a quantum future, business leaders and policymakers must proceed with a balanced and informed strategy, weighing the monumental benefits against the existential challenges that quantum computing inevitably brings.
The Quantum Leap of 2024: From Physical Qubits to Global Collaborations
Yuval Boger, CMO at QuEra Computing, predicts that in 2024, the quantum computing field will undergo monumental shifts.
“One of the most significant is the transition from the era of physical qubits to that of error-corrected logical qubits, marking a leap towards more stable and reliable quantum computations.”
Boger also believes this will coincide with the increased integration of quantum processors into high-performance computing (HPC) centers, creating a hybrid computational landscape that leverages the unique capabilities of both classical and quantum machines.
“Concurrently, we will see European nations opening up their national quantum programs to U.S. vendors. This collaborative stance is driven by the realization that staying at the forefront of quantum advancements often necessitates a more global approach.”
This is exemplified by the notion that ‘the best French quantum technology’ is not necessarily synonymous with ‘the best quantum technology for France’. The same logic could easily be applied to other countries, such as Germany, UK, Finland, etc. For these reasons alone, 2024 should be extremely exciting for the future of quantum computing.
As we approach 2024, quantum computing could quickly usher in a game-changer moment that will affect us all. Imagine faster drug discoveries or unhackable passwords; that’s the good side. But there’s also a flip side: current online security could be easily cracked, and the technology is still rough around the edges, often expensive and hard to use.
As we move from the old world of computing into this exciting yet unpredictable quantum era, leaders in business and government must be both cautious and clever. They must embrace the giant leaps forward and prepare for the potential pitfalls. In simple terms, quantum computing offers a world of extraordinary possibilities, but it’s a tool we must learn to wield wisely.
What are the fundamentals of quantum computing that I need to understand?
Are quantum computers just super-fast computers?
What are the three essentials of quantum computing?
Is quantum computing the future of computing?