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Quantum computing is in its infancy, and most probably haven’t heard of it. China and Google are in a race to see who can achieve quantum supremacy first. Right now, China is winning. In this article, we’ll be discussing some of the basics of quantum mechanics and how its rules have been applied in creating quantum computers. The capabilities of these machines are utterly mind-blowing and raise ethical concerns for our safety and future. You won’t want to miss this one.

Quantum mechanics refers to how our natural reality works on the subatomic level. Subatomic particles are smaller than atoms and consist of electrons, protons, neutrons, and photons. The rules in quantum physics state that an unobserved photon exists in all possible states simultaneously, but when observed or measured exhibits only one state. The state that an unobserved photon exists in all possible states simultaneously is called superposition.[7]

Subatomic particles that are created together are forever linked throughout space and time. One particle can be in another galaxy and the other on Earth and instantaneously communicate with each other. This is known as entanglement.[11] A subatomic particle can also go through any solid barrier easily through tunneling. An example of tunneling is a person being able to walk through a brick wall, impossible for us, but not for a subatomic particle.

Albert Einstein referred to entanglement as “spooky” because it defied the laws of relativity.[1] The theory of relativity says that time and space are linked together, that the universe has a speed limit, and nothing can travel faster than the speed of light (186,000 miles per second).[2] But subatomic particles have proven to be exceptions by communicating with each other instantaneously throughout space and time.

What is a quantum computer?

Quantum computers are machines that use the properties of quantum physics to store data and perform computations. In a quantum computer, the basic unit of memory is a quantum bit or qubit. Classical computers are traditional computers that we use such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones.[3] Classical computers encode information by using binary bits that can either be 0’s or 1’s and are either on or off.  Since qubits are made of subatomic particles like photons or electrons, these particles conform to the rules of quantum mechanics instead of classical mechanics. They exhibit the bizarre properties of quantum particles.[10]

Qubits are made by using physical systems such as the spin of an electron or the orientation of a photon. These systems can be in many different arrangements all at once (superposition) and can be inextricably linked (entanglement). This results in a series of qubits representing different things simultaneously. To put things into perspective, a few hundred entangled qubits would be enough to represent more numbers than there are atoms in the universe.[3] A qubit can store a zero, a one, both a zero and a one, or an infinite number of values in between, as well be in multiple states at the same time. This makes it possible for a quantum computer to store multiple numbers at once and process them simultaneously.[1]

Who has developed quantum computers?

IBM and Google have developed quantum computers. Google’s Sycamore had been in the lead until recently. In December 2020, China made a breakthrough in quantum computer technology with its new Jiuzhang quantum computer. Theirs uses photons of light and an array of lasers, prisms, and mirrors so you have computations moving at the speed of light under controlled conditions.[9] This photonic computer found solutions to the boson-sampling problem in 200 seconds, a calculation that an ordinary supercomputer would take 2.5 billion years to complete.[5] This computer is 10 billion times faster than Google’s quantum computer.[8] Both Google and China are in a race to see who can achieve quantum supremacy first.[4]

The Benefits and Applications of Quantum Computers

 Quantum computers can:

  • solve complex problems at a very fast rate
  • reduce power consumption from 100 to 1000 times since they use Quantum tunneling
  • improve many of our current technologies that need immense computation power like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and 5G
  • help in the development of new pharmaceuticals by examining every possible drug interaction through a combination of more precise and expedited DNA sequencing and understanding of protein folding. This offers the best possible plan of action for success for each patient with each particular drug.
  • help with cryptography by creating unbreakable cybersecurity barriers and super secure long-distance communication
  • fine-tune atomic clocks that are essential components in GPS and communication systems
  • help with mapping a human brain and understanding how it works
  • help us find distant planets by analyzing the vast amount of data collected by telescopes to ultimately develop methods for safe space travel
  • help researchers model complex molecular interactions at an atomic level which can lead us to new cures for incurable diseases
  • test jet software that is too complex for classical computers to make jets safer
  • reduce weather-related deaths by accurately predicting the weather forecast
  • detect cancers early

The Risks of Quantum Computers

 Quantum computers can:

  • lead to limitless hacking and code-breaking, posing global security threats[6]
  • ultimately have the ability to produce conscious beings
  • accurately predict the stock market by identifying an incorrectly priced stock option and exploit it for personal gain before the market shifts
  • win elections by acquiring the best ways to market information to best exploit individual voter preferences.
  • offer unlimited power to the winner of the quantum computer race

Considering the risks, this technology may be too smart for our own good, especially in the wrong hands. It may even be capable of solving the mystery of the universe and the nature of our existence.

Carl Jung, one of the pioneers of psychology, believed humans are inherently religious due to an inherent striving towards a relationship with someone or something that transcends human power. How would knowing these mysteries affect our reality and the way we view our existence? What if the answer was much more simple than we anticipated? What if we are merely here by chance and cease to exist after death? What would happen if everything we have come to believe to be true was simply an illusion created and fueled by our inherent need for survival deeply programmed in our unconscious minds? What effect would that have on our psyche and spirituality?

These are serious concerns when it comes to dealing with technology that is so advanced. It’s true that these technologies would lead to many positive breakthroughs, but at what price? Unless you are interested in physics or engineering, many people will not hear about these technologies and how far they have come. It’s important for us to be aware of these technologies and their possible consequences. For many, it is hard to even think what it was like before smartphones and the internet. Imagine the changes with quantum computing!

For information and safety tips about how to keep you and your family safe, we highly recommend Dr. B’s Cybersecurity and Red Flags supplement. In an age where technology is advancing at such a fast rate, it is important to keep you and your family informed.

Thank you to CSUCI intern Andres Thunstrom for co-authoring this article.

I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetKidsInternetSafe.

Onward to More Awesome Parenting,

Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom,Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty
GetKidsInternetSafe.com

Photo Credits

Photo by Geralt on Pixabay

Photo by MarceloCDomingues on Pixabay

Photo by Free-Photos on Pixabay

Photo by TheDigitalArtist on Pixabay

Works Cited

[1]BBC (2019) https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-48971538

[2] Bergmann, P (1962) Principles of Electrodynamics and Relativity: The General Theory of Relativity, Volume 2/4

[3] Bonser, K(2020)  https://computer.howstuffworks.com/quantum-computer1.htm

[4] Carlow, G (2019) https://www.quantamagazine.org/quantum-supremacy-is-coming-heres-what-you-should-know-20190718/

[5] Conover, E(2020) https://www.sciencenews.org/article/new-light-based-quantum-computer-jiuzhang-supremacy

[6] Emilio, M (2020) https://www.eetasia.com/quantum-computing-poses-security-threats-to-cryptography/

[7] Gamble, S (2019) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538701/

[8] Garisto, D (2020) https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/light-based-quantum-computer-exceeds-fastest-classical-supercomputers/

[9] Letzer, R (2020) https://www.livescience.com/china-quantum-supremacy.html

[10] Pednault, E (2020) https://www.ibm.com/blogs/research/2019/10/on-quantum-supremacy/

[11] Starr, M(2015) https://www.cnet.com/news/physicists-prove-einsteins-spooky-quantum-entanglement/

Andy Thunstrom
Andy Thunstrom
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