8 Things Disrupted By Quantum Computing

When quantum computing begins to go mainstream, how will you know if it is giving you a correct answer? After all, quantum exceeds the power of traditional computing so checking its work with a bits-and-bytes box won’t work. One solution, just unveiled last week at a computer science symposium in Paris, is the best answer to date: imbed a quantum computer-scale cryptographic puzzle in the data to be analyzed. If you get the right answer to the puzzle, the output regarding the data should also be correct.

If you geek out on stuff like this (we do…), here is an excellent article on the topic: https://www.quantamagazine.org/graduate-student-solves-quantum-verification-problem-20181008/

All this got us to thinking about quantum computing, which is very slowly making progress at replacing traditional computers. So far, unlocking the promise of this technology has been slow; quantum bits – qubits in the trade – are highly unpredictable (hence the need to check their work). Still, with billion of dollars of government and private capital being invested in quantum it seems clear it will one day work.

And when quantum computing does come online, here are 8 things it will meaningfully disrupt:

#1. National security. Virtually all computer system security relies on cryptography to govern access. This includes any data or communication stored by any government’s intelligence apparatus or other system. Quantum computing is purpose-built to break those codes. This is why both the Chinese and US governments are essentially the world’s lead investors in quantum computing.

#2. Financial Services. Just as with national security, the global financial system relies on cryptographic-based algorithms. The most sophisticated systems in place now are still no match for a quantum computer.

#3. Personal data/identity. All your personal data and communications sit behind computer firewalls powered by the same sorts of protections as governments and financial institutions.

#4. Crypto currencies. There is a long running joke about quantum computers: you’ll know the first one has come online when bitcoin crashes. That is because bitcoin and every other crypto currency uses cryptographic puzzles to maintain a decentralized ledger. Those algorithms were built for traditional computers; they are no match for a quantum system.

But quantum isn’t all bad news… Here are 4 applications where quantum will be of tremendous assistance:

#1. Pharma/Materials engineering. Quantum computing allows researchers to analyze potential compounds more quickly and develop more complex ones as well. This is an underappreciated benefit to quantum computing and could reinvigorate R&D-driven growth everywhere from drug companies to specialty chemicals/metals businesses.

#2. Big Data analysis. Here’s a fun sound bite: “Every two seconds, sensors measuring the United States’ electrical grid collect 3 petabytes of data – the equivalent of 3 million gigabytes.” Researchers at Purdue are developing quantum computer algorithms to use that data more efficiently and completely. Read more here: https://phys.org/news/2018-10-quantum-tackle-big-machine.html

#3. Artificial Intelligence. Humans can still do many things an AI-powered computer algorithm struggles with: identifying objects in a picture, for example. Unleashing the computational power of quantum on that challenge could shorten the “learning period” every AI system goes through.

#4. Weather forecasting. This is an application tailor-made for quantum computing, with reams of data and complex interactions between variables.

Summing up: all this may sound pie-in-the-sky and irrelevant for equity investors just trying to get through the quarter, but just remember that the S&P 500 price today discounts over a decade of future earnings. More than enough time, in other words, for quantum to go mainstream. And disrupt a range of important industries and larger structures like national security.

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