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A Quantum Computing Primer

Giving modern microprocessor performance a boost of about 100 million times current levels, Quantum Computing promises to change the way that nearly every problem is defined, calculated and solved.

Quantum computing exploits the properties of the states in which a sub-atomic particle can exist. It’s taken for granted, but there is a major computational limit created by having to represent problems that are submitted to a computer as 1’s and 0’s.

Whereas the computational element of transistor-based computing is the bit, quantum computing uses the qubit, short for quantum-bit. The values of quantum computing aren’t necessarily fixed. Their strength lies in superposition, the ability to exist in several states simultaneously, with the values determined at the time of measurement.

With quantum computing, the range that a qubit can have is a nearly infinite range, and it can be any of these values at the same time.

Current quantum computer design enhancements are based on optimizations that increase the number of qubits in a processing array, resulting in an exponential multiplication of the system’s computational processing power. Google recently announced their breakthrough design with 6 qubits arranged in a 2 by 3 configuration, demonstrating a new approach to address scalability factors. In January of this year, quantum computer leader D-Wave announced their latest design providing 2000 qubits.

To give an idea of how the power that quantum computing delivers will advance nearly every technological field, Numerate, a computational drug design company, estimates that running its artificial intelligence algorithms on a desktop would take upwards of 10,000 years to make a data-driven breakthrough. The equivalent data-driven algorithms on a quantum platform would take about an hour and would take other factors into consideration that include a solution custom-tailored to the patient’s genetics and addressing the specifics of all of their illnesses.

The type of power that physicists and computer scientists envision would mean that the most secure data encryption systems could be compromised in minutes. Complex design and fabrication processes would occur almost instantly. When this is added to the power of artificial intelligence and the result is algorithms that can make themselves smarter in extremely short time-frames.

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