What does quantum computing's future hold? Experts elucidate - The European Sting

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This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Joe Myers, Writer, Formative Content

  • A World Economic Forum issue briefing on quantum computing explored the technology, where it’s come from and where it’s heading.
  • Experts from academia and industry discussed the challenges, next steps and where we might be in five years and beyond.
  • There’s a lot of uncertainty, but all participants stressed the need for collaboration.

Computers are presumably familiar to the majority of you. What about quantum computers, though?

Quantum algorithms might price financial assets in the next five years, according to Goldman Sachs. Commercial quantum computers are still a ways off.

Experts from industry and academia discussed the technology — what it is, where it came from, and where it is headed – at a World Economic Forum topic briefing.

Dario Gil, Senior Vice President and Director of Research at IBM; Freeke Heijman, Founding Director at Quantum Delta, NL; Jeremy Jurgens, Managing Director, World Economic Forum; Robert Hackett, Senior Writer, Fortune; John Preskill, Amazon Scholar, Amazon Web Services (AWS); and Richard P. Feynman, Professor of Theoretical Physics, Caltech were among those in attendance.

Have you read?

  • Issue Briefing: What’s next for quantum computing?
  • Is your cybersecurity ready to take the quantum leap?

Here are some of the key talking points. You can watch the full session here.

How is a quantum computer different from a regular computer?

“When multiple particles interact with one another according to quantum physics rules, it turns out that describing what those particles are doing with regular language or classical computers is enormously complex,” John Preskill remarked.

“If we can control how those particles interact, we should be able to execute information processing tasks that we wouldn't be able to do otherwise.”

What could we do with quantum computers?

But, as Preskill pointed out, there's still a lot we don't know, including the areas where quantum computers will have a significant edge.

He emphasised that for the time being, the most important uses will be in relation to how matter behaves, chemistry, and material discovery. But, he warned, it will take time to figure out how to scale this up.

“It's not that we know everything there is to know about science and all we have to do now is put the resources together to accomplish the engineering. To get to quantum computers that can handle those extremely important problems, we'll need a lot of creativity.”

Preskill also stressed that we have a "very limited ability at this moment to foresee the uses of quantum computing down the road in the near term," as he put it. Cybersecurity

What is the Forum doing to avert a cyber pandemic?

Next-generation technologies like artificial intelligence, ubiquitous connectivity, and quantum computing have the potential to create new threats for the globe, and their entire impact is yet unknown at this time.

To avoid a potential cyber pandemic, there is an urgent need for collective action, legislative intervention, and enhanced responsibility for government and business.

The Future Series: Cybercrime 2025 initiative was launched by the Forum's Centre for Cybersecurity to assess what measures are required to control cyber threats in the face of important technology advances in the near future.

In our impact storey, learn more about how the Forum is guiding over 150 global professionals from business, government, and academic institutions, as well as how you can get involved.

Averting a cyber pandemic: how businesses are building a global response to cybersecurity risks

Where do things stand with the technology and where are we headed next?

We were able to develop a modest quantum computer and make it available through the cloud about five years ago, according to Dario Gil. As a result, we began to introduce the notion to a growing audience.

Since then, the number of systems available has increased, and “we're starting to see a broad set of institutions becoming interested in the topic,” according to the researchers.

Every year, he continued, we must try to deliver better and better quantum computers and systems. “However, it is critical to invite others along for the ride.” We can't just say, "One day, we'll have a magical machine that can do all of these things," he encouraged; instead, we need to come together and work through it together.

We used equipment with only 5 cubits just a few years ago. IBM, on the other hand, intends to construct a machine of over 1,000 cubits by 2023, according to Gil.

However, the amount of cubits alone does not indicate a quantum computer's capabilities, he added. “The machine's capacity, the number of circuits it can run, and the quality of the circuits it can run.

What other factors do we need to consider beyond just the technology?

Freeke Heijman noted, "What we're looking at is not merely a technological path, but an ecosystem strategy." “How do you attract the right talent and educate the right people to enter the field?”

Investment and capital are also vital – and she feels that start-ups have a chance. Collaboration will also be crucial. “In a European setting, we're working extremely closely,” she remarked. “For example, we recently signed a memorandum with the French.”

This Memorandum of Understanding will facilitate collaboration, but Heijman stressed that it is critical that it is not just about high-level policy but also about tangible action. For example, in the Netherlands and France, there is now a website where you can view all of the relevant employment openings.

“All we want is for the ecosystem to be as open as possible so that individuals can interact and produce new technology together.”

Of course, she added, it's still competitive. However, because the business is still in its infancy, there is already a great deal of collaboration and information sharing.

“We're all looking forward to considerably higher performance, which we hope to achieve both through hardware improvements and software ways for managing hardware imperfections,” Preskill added.

“We all want to see those advances materialise because it will move us closer to the day when quantum computing can have a broad influence on humanity,” says the author.


Gill had a similar sentiment. “I believe one of the things that unifies us all is our desire to see the quantum sector develop and succeed... He stated, "I think we're all enthused about the historic moment we're seeing."

How can we enable this collaboration in quantum computing?

According to Jeremy Jurgens, there are still a lot of unknowns in the sector. This is why collaboration is so crucial. The World Economic Forum has created the Quantum Computing Network, which allows firms like Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft, as well as academic institutions and national governments, to collaborate.

This is true even if the technology isn't. What talents will we require? How do we ensure that the advantages are shared throughout society?

“We must both seize the opportunities that lie ahead of us... while also managing the risks and preparing society as a whole for the significance of the transition,” Jurgens added.

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