In a manner befitting its existence, Quantum Computing is here and also not. On the one hand you can’t buy one at Harvey Norman, on the other they’re already operating and calculating the mysteries of once intractable problems.

I mean, come on! You’re already trying to choke down the dawning reality of the potential AI revolution and now here comes a computer that uses the fundamental building blocks of the universe to do calculations.

It’s so freaky that when faced with the initial workings and probabilistic nature of Quantum Mechanics, Einstein said, “God does not play dice!”.

It is a going concern though. McKinsey had listed it as one of the next big trends in tech in their 2022 list. It is predicted quantum computing could account for nearly US$1.3 trillion in value by 2035.

Quantum Computers are built on the principles of Quantum Mechanics.

**What is Quantum mechanics?**

**Superposition**

Quantum mechanics is all about the maths that describes the behaviour of atoms and subatomic particles (e.g. Quarks, Leptons, Bosons and the rest). This probability maths states that these particles can exist in multiple states simultaneously, until they are observed. This concept is called superposition.

This is where the famous Schrödinger’s Cat example comes from.

This thought experiment states that; if you imagine there’s a cat in a sealed box with a source of radiation that has a 50/50 chance of killing the cat, the cat is neither dead or alive, until you open the box and observe which state the cat is in.

**Particles and Waves **

The other key concept is that particles such as electrons or photons can exhibit both particle and wave behaviour depending on how they are observed or measured. For example, photons (light) can act like particles and waves.

**Entanglement **

Additionally there is entanglement, where two or more particles can become linked so that measuring one particle will instantly affect the state of the linked particles, no matter the distance between them.

Quantum mechanics is the cosmic Lego, the universe is built from.

**How do you get a computer out of that?**

An interesting fact about this field is that many quantum computer developers have started calling the computers we have now “Classic Computers”. Think about that for a moment.

In practical terms initial quantum computers will work and are working alongside classic computer technology.

The main difference between classic and quantum computers is the data switch used to represent logic. All current computers use a binary switch, 0/1, on/off, true/false. Quantum computers use **‘qubits’**.

Qubits can be made out of superconducting circuits, trapped ions, topological (exotic properties) or photons.

A qubit (quantum bit), due to a state of superposition (mentioned above) can be zero and one at the exact same time, until it is measured (observed).

If ten bits is 210 or 1,024 combinations of 1s and 0s and can represent any number between 0 and 1023, 10 qubits can represent all 1,024 numbers at the same time. The entanglement, also mentioned previously, allows for groupings of qubits where they are reliant on the state of each qubit in the group. If one changes in the entangled group, they all change.

Like changing the current computer bit to 1 or 0 (a logic gate), quantum computers use quantum gates to manipulate the state of the qubits (operations and transformations). Quantum gates can change the probabilities of different outcomes when measured, manipulate the entanglement or perform other operations.

It’s performing computation using the probable state of universal particles. Instead of sequential processing, it enables simultaneous computation of massive data sets.

**Is Quantum Computing real?**

Oh yeah. It’s very real, and there are many well known companies who are already well advanced in the field of quantum computing. Sure there are a lot of hurdles to you having one, though long before that, they will be changing the business landscape.

*These companies are: *

**Amazon:**Opened the AWS Center for Quantum Computing in 2021, in conjunction with the California Institute of Technology. They also have Quantum Services through Amazon Braket that supplies developers with computer access and tools from third-party partners.**D-Wave Systems:**The world’s first organisation to sell a commercial quantum computer and its latest is a 5,000 qubit system. It uses an optimised coding algorithm called Quantum annealing. This means it considers all possibilities simultaneously and presents calculations that correspond to the optimal configurations of qubits found.**Google:**Google has a quantum computer called Sycamore, a 54 qubit processor. In 2019 Sycamore took 200 seconds to sample one instance of a quantum circuit 1 million times. This would have taken a classic supercomputer nearly 10,000 years to do. Google has a suite of open source tools to push innovation. Google’s Quantum AI page is here.**IBM:**In Nov ‘22, IBM held a quantum summit, unveiling a development roadmap and timeline for development through 2025. This includes developing multichip quantum processors. Its current processor Osprey has 433 qubits and the plan is to complete work on the multiprocessor Kookaburra processor with 4,158 qubits. IBM also has quantum tools for developers.**Microsoft:**is developing its own scalable quantum machine focussed on topological qubits. A control chip and the quantum core work together to maintain a stable cold environment where information can be sent and received from every qubit. While this is in development developers can access the Azure Quantum platform.**IonQ:**uses a trapped ion technology. This means they use individual naturally occurring atomic ions for their quantum computer. The ions are trapped in a 3D space and lasers help perform the calculations. You can access this computer currently through Amazon Braket.**QCI:**Quantum Computing Inc. is taking aim at the lower end of the market. QCI has the Entropy Quantum Computer (EQC) aimed at developing immediate uses for quantum computers.**Quantinuum:**is a partnership (2021) between Honeywell Quantum Solutions and Cambridge Quantum. Hardware and software respectively. Honeywell’s quantum computer, the System Model H1, achieved the highest quantum volume measurement – 32,768 – in the history of quantum computing.**Rigetti Computing:**Rigetti Computing is an integrated systems company that builds quantum computers and superconducting quantum processors. Its most recent processor, the Aspen-M-3, has 80 qubits and is based on multichip technology. It also has a quantum cloud services program.**Xanadu:**Xanadu Quantum Technologies is a Canada-based company that’s using a photonic approach to building quantum computers. It uses photonics and quantum light sources that emit squeezed-light pulses. It can also be accessed through Amazon Braket.**Others:**There are other companies working on quantum processes and these include Toshiba, AtoS, Alibaba and Intel.

**Australian Resources**

Here are some resources for quantum computing in Australia.

- The Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology
- The Quantum Insider
- Quantum – CSIRO
- Silicon Quantum Computing
- Introduction To Quantum Computing In Australia
- Quantum Science Group
- ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology – RMIT University
- Australia: Quantum’s early bird | Chief Scientist
- How Australia is at the forefront of multi-billion dollar quantum computing revolution – Stockhead
- Quantum technologies | ANSTO

**Why should I care?**

Currently as of 2023, classic computers are still a better bet for practical uses and applications for most people. They are optimised for practical tasks and are also still improving.

Quantum computers can do amazing things right now in labs; though not for you in your office or house. They’re on the edge, though so was AI and now even the primitive version of it is disrupting all industry and business. Like the qubits they’re existing in a weird state of being here and not.

**The Possibilities and challenges**

**Cryptography: **Quantum computers can factor numbers so efficiently, that no current encryption is safe. On the other hand, quantum encryption could replace this and everything is secure again. Imagine the chaos in the changeover though.

**Finance: **For financial organisations there are applications in portfolio optimisation, option pricing, fraud detection, risk assessment, trading strategies, Monte Carlo simulations, and of course cryptographic security.

- The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has been one of the earliest commercial organisations to invest in quantum computing. The details are here in this story from AtoS, and also here in The Australian Financial Review.
- Xanadu, a quantum computing startup partnered (in 2019) with Canada’s BMO Financial Group and Scotiabank to develop quantum Monte Carlo algorithms to improve the efficiency of financial transactions and optimise real-time pricing.

**AI: **Quantum computing could add the ability to work with logic that is less rigid than current or potential systems based on binary logic.

- The concern lies in the unforeseen advancements that large language models are experiencing, not just the ones that were predicted. These advancements are a result of progress in training models and the sheer scale of language data used. Now, consider if this progress were combined with a 10,000 percent boost in processing power and iteration. What unexpected and potentially incomprehensible developments could arise?

**The Physical: **Quantum computers possess the capability to simulate and model the behaviour of materials and substances, taking into account the intricate quantum effects arising from electron interactions with other atoms. Such modelling is beyond the reach of conventional computers.

- In 2017, IBM successfully utilised a quantum computer to accurately simulate the electronic structure of beryllium hydride (BeH2), confirming its ground state energy and molecular arrangement.
- Similarly, in 2019, Google employed a quantum computer to simulate the energy levels of diazene (N2H2), contributing to a better understanding of its photochemical reactivity.

**Medical systems: **Quantum computing has the potential to revolutionise drug discovery by simulating molecule behaviour and accurately predicting their interactions with target proteins or receptors. This accelerated process could expedite the development of new drugs and personalised medicine. Moreover, optimisation algorithms enabled by quantum computing might enhance healthcare resource allocation and scheduling.

**Phenomena: **Quantum computers have the ability to simulate and model phenomena such as superconductivity, magnetism, and phase transitions (e.g. ice – water – gas), which are crucial in various fields including physics, chemistry, materials science, and engineering.

**Marketing: **Quantum computing empowers marketers with enhanced data analysis, improved targeting and personalisation, advanced optimisation algorithms, improved recommendation systems, and enhanced machine learning and pattern recognition capabilities.

**Global systems: **Quantum computing’s ability to simulate complex systems could be applied to studying climate change models or optimising energy distribution networks for increased efficiency and sustainability. It may also contribute to financial modelling for risk assessment or economic forecasting at a global scale.

**Energy Efficiency: **Quantum computing has the potential to improve energy efficiency in various domains by optimising processes, reducing waste, and enhancing computational power while consuming less energy.

**Potential Risks?**

- The encryption breakdown would essentially end the internet as it currently operates.
- There might be disruption in the financial markets due to faster and more accurate prediction models for stocks and investment strategies.
- There will be a race to develop quantum technologies as there is in AI and this may lead to geopolitical shifts.
- There may be ethical considerations of enshrined bias, privacy, surveillance, decision making and free will.

Leaping about in time, I’ve found that there are some things in life that I can’t change, and there are some things that I can. To save a life, to change a heart, to make the right choice. I guess that’s what life’s about; making the right choice at the right time. – Sam: Quantum Leap

**How did it all come about?**

In the early 20th Century, physics witnessed two significant breakthroughs. The first was Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and the second was Quantum Theory. Quantum theory introduced the concept of energy existing in discrete units known as “quanta.” It was created to explain the relationship between energy and matter at the subatomic level.

**Key milestones**

**1900:**Max Planck coined the term “quanta”, (singular: quantum) in his Quantum Hypothesis. It proposed his theory of black-body radiation, where he introduced the concept of energy quantisation.**1905:**Albert Einstein built upon Planck’s work and explained the photoelectric effect, which demonstrated that light behaves as both particles (photons) and waves. This work further supported the idea of quantised energy levels. He won the Nobel prize in physics 1921.**1913:**Niels Bohr proposed the Bohr model of the atom, postulating that electrons occupy discrete energy levels/orbits around the nucleus. He played a crucial role in the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. He received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922 for his fundamental contributions to understanding atomic structure and radiation.**1918:**Introduction of Planck’s Constant that relates the energy of a photon to its frequency. In recognition of Planck’s work, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.**1925:**Matrix Mechanics. In collaboration with Max Born and Pascual Jordan, Heisenberg formulated the mathematical framework known as matrix mechanics. This work introduced a new way of calculating and understanding the behaviour of quantum systems.**1926:**Wave Equation. Schrödinger published his paper “Quantization as a Problem of Proper Values” introducing his wave equation. This equation describes how the wave function of a physical system evolves over time.**1927:**Uncertainty Principle. Heisenberg proposed the uncertainty principle, which states that there is a fundamental limit to how precisely certain pairs of physical properties, such as position and momentum, can be known simultaneously.**1927:**Copenhagen Interpretation. Alongside Werner Heisenberg and others, Bohr played a crucial role in formulating the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. This interpretation emphasises the probabilistic nature of quantum phenomena and asserts that physical quantities only acquire definite values when measured.**Late 1930s:**Cat Paradox. Schrödinger proposed a thought experiment known as “Schrödinger’s cat”.**1935:**In collaboration with Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen, Einstein published a thought experiment called the EPR paradox (Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox) challenging some implications of quantum mechanics by proposing “spooky action at a distance.”**1957:**Hugh Everett proposes the many-worlds interpretation, suggesting that every measurement outcome branches into parallel universes.**1968:**Richard Feynman introduces the concept of quantum computing in his lecture “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom.”**1980:**Paul Benioff proposes a theoretical model for a quantum Turing machine, laying the foundation for quantum computation.**1982:**David Deutsch formulates the first universal quantum computer model known as a quantum Turing machine.**1994:**Peter Shor demonstrates that a quantum computer could efficiently factor large numbers, breaking classical encryption algorithms.**1997:**Alexei Kitaev proposes quantum error protection to protect quantum information from errors that can occur due to ‘noise’ and ‘decoherence’ in quantum computers.**1998:**Isaac Chuang and Neil Gershenfeld build the first two-qubit nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) quantum computer using liquid-state NMR techniques at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.**2001:**IBM builds a seven-qubit superconducting quantum computer known as “IBM Q.”**2005:**University of Innsbruck and the National Institute of Standards and Technology build a working quantum computer of 5 Qubits.**2007:**Yale University found a way to create stable qubits using solid state systems.**2010:**Quantum Teleportation proved. Quantum teleportation is a process that allows the transfer of quantum information from one location to another, without physically moving the particles that carry the information. It relies on the principles of quantum entanglement and superposition. Achieved by The University of Science and Technology China.**2010:**Researchers at D-Wave Systems claim to have built the world’s first commercially available quantum computer based on adiabatic (no heat transference) quantum computation principles.**2013:**Google and Nasa built D-Wave 2. The US government then pressured Google and NASA to halt development.**2016:**Google’s team led by John Martinis demonstrates the ability to perform specific tasks beyond classical computers using their nine-qubit superconducting chip called “Bristlecone.”**2019:**Google announces achieving “quantum supremacy” with its Sycamore processor capable of performing calculations faster than any classical supercomputer.**2020:**IBM develops the Q-1, the first quantum computer for commercial use.**2021:**IBM unveils its most powerful commercial quantum computer yet, named “IBM Quantum Condor,” featuring 65 qubits.

**Conclusion**

The big take outs on quantum computing are encryption, what it does to AI and then modelling everything else.

Like AI in 2017; by 2023 a little is a massive amount. A little AI with a little quantum computing is still going to be plenty, maybe more than enough to handle.

Easy to read, practical and comprehensive. I would to see articles like this appear on my Flipboard feed.

Thank you very much Patrick. I haven’t tried out Flipboard, though I will look into it.