China and the United States compete for the supremacy of quantum computing

About an hour north of Manhattan, at IBM’s research headquarters, an employee walks to a glass door, bends down, and stares into the viewfinder to open it with his eyeball.

We enter a black room with a glass cube the size of a jeep.

“This is a real quantum computer,” says Scott Crowder, IBM’s vice president of quantum adoption.

In its center, hanging from the ceiling, is a shiny metal cylinder the size of an oil barrel.

“That shiny thing you see is where we keep our quantum processor. It must be really, really, really cold,” he says. “Like 100 times colder than outer space.”

There’s a buzz in the background as pumps create vacuums inside the computer to help it cool off. At a very low temperature, the materials begin to exhibit the strange physics at the heart of what a quantum computer does.

“It can store and process information in completely new ways using the laws of quantum mechanics,” said John Martins, a physics professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara who worked on Google’s quantum computing program.

The laws of quantum mechanics, as Einstein called them, horrifying. At the atomic level, particles can be in Two countries or even two places at the same time. A quantum computer uses this horror.

“The basic idea here is that in classical arithmetic, your data is represented by bits, which can be either zero or one, and in quantum arithmetic, you have bits or quantum bits. And it can be a combination of zero and one at the same time,” Martinis explained. .

there Many More than that, but the point is that this could allow quantum computers to perform the kinds of computations that conventional computers aren’t good at, Martinis said, “much faster than any supercomputer.” Martinez participated in a hacking experiment in 2019 that demonstrated the so-called Quantum supremacyGoogle said its quantum computer was the first to perform a computation nearly impossible for a conventional computer. A group of Chinese scientists later showed that ordinary computers could, in a wayTake over the job, too.

The hope is not that quantum computers will be faster or better for every problem, but rather for complex, complex problems.

“Mimic nature, so things like discovering a new drug, developing new materials,” Crowder said. Mercedes-Benz wants to use it to better understand the chemistry of the messy battery, for example.

Crowder said quantum computers could help find patterns in complex data, “so that they have applications in things like artificial intelligence and machine learning.” In a sea of ​​banking, fraudulent ones?

They may also excel in what is known as optimization. When a problem contains a million options – say, say, a million different ways of designing factory floors – which is the most efficient? “So I can think about financial matters, like improving the portfolio,” Crowder said.

Of course there could be other uses not yet imagined.

But one thing that has caught the attention of national security officials around the world is that quantum computing could one day crack the encryption that protects nearly everything on the Internet — from bank passwords to private messages, said Greg Allen, senior fellow in the Strategic Technologies Program at Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“China’s strategy is to intercept and download a lot of encrypted data now with the expectation that sometime in the next decade or two they will have quantum computers powerful enough to crack that encryption,” he said. The United States is now developing Quantum resistance encryption.

With all this potential for chaos and progress, investment money is pouring in.

“By 2027, we expect to invest more than $16.4 billion in quantum computing,” said Heather West, director of research at IDC. “And those will be private investments, and they will be investments in research and development, and they will be government investments.”

There is now at least 89 quantum computing startups In the United States alone.

“There’s a tsunami of hype about what’s going to revolutionize quantum computers,” said Scott Aaronson, a professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Austin. “Quantum computing has turned into a word that venture capitalists or people seeking government funding will bribe it on anything because it looks good.”

Aaronson cautioned that we cannot be sure that these computers will revolutionize machine learning, funding and optimization issues. “We can’t prove that there is no quantum algorithm that solves all these problems at breakneck speed, but we can’t even prove that there is no algorithm for a conventional computer that does,” he said.

Back at IBM, Scott Crowder was well aware of the danger of over-promising quantum computers.

“Quantum computers are not yet big enough or good enough to replace classical or do something you can’t do on classical computers yet,” he said. “That’s why we say that’s exactly what we need to do and deliver year after year in order to get there.”

IBM has published a file road map About how you intend to scale quantum computers.

There are hundreds of research institutions, private companies, and universities connecting to quantum computers in development. IBM has 190 partners exploring their technology.

“We have open access, which basically means free access for people to explore and understand the technology, we have over 400,000 people who have signed up to use this open access to the cloud,” Crowder said.

Chinese technology giant Baidu has developed a quantum computer It’s called Qian Shi, and it allows people to interact with its quantum chips via an app.

At the moment, as technology develops, the main thing that people use for quantum computing is knowing how they can use quantum computing.

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