Quantum computing: The next frontier

Quantum computing: The next frontier
Amid fears of a trade war between China and the US, experts have now become signaling concern that both nations could soon engage in a race to become a pioneering..

Amid fears of a trade war between China and the US, experts have now become signaling concern that both nations could soon engage in a race to become a pioneering leader in the field of quantum computing. 

Some believe that given China’s significant investments, it just might end up winning this race.

Background

Artificial intelligence is the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that can otherwise be performed only through human intelligence. This includes but is not limited to visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.

Presently, most of the technology focused on Artificial Intelligence is properly known as narrow AI or weak AI. Self-driving cars and Siri are some of the platforms that employ AI (narrow AI). Researchers and experts now believe that humanity is now on the path to creating General Artificial Intelligence (AGI). According to scientists, AGI would be able to outperform humans in nearly every single cognitive task.

In 2018, Alibaba Group, the Chinese based e-commerce company, developed an Artificial intelligence software that has performed better than humans in a reading comprehension test. It the recent months it has been reported that China has invested significant funds in using AI technology to boost its military prowess. It is reportedly planning on making use of robots and robotics in an effort to increase its bomb and shell production capacity by threefold within a decade. It is using the technology of Artificial Intelligence in order to achieve this goal and boost the productivity of its ammunition factories.

Quantum computing

This is how IBM describes the power of quantum computers – “Quantum computers are incredibly powerful machines that take a new approach to processing information. Built on the principles of quantum mechanics, they exploit complex and fascinating laws of nature that are always there, but usually remain hidden from view. By harnessing such natural behavior, quantum computing can run new types of algorithms to process information more holistically. They may one day lead to revolutionary breakthroughs in materials and drug discovery, the optimization of complex manmade systems, and artificial intelligence. We expect them to open doors that we once thought would remain locked indefinitely. Acquaint yourself with the strange and exciting world of quantum computing.”

Analysis

According to a report by South China Morning Post, China and US are currently gearing to wage another economic battle but this time around it will revolve around artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

China has been spending significant funds on developing its AI capabilities. In fact, in April 2018, it was reported that the most valuable artificial intelligence start-up in the world is presently in China. The company called the SenseTime Group, has already raised an impressive $600 million from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and other investors at a valuation of more than $3 billion. It specializes in analyzing faces and images on an enormous scale.

With regards to quantum computing, it is slated to revolutionize the way multiple industries including pharma, vehicle manufacturers and more function. SCMP has reported that “Chinese universities and US technology companies such as IBM and Microsoft are racing to develop quantum computers.”

Tony Trippe, Managing Director of Dublin, Ohio-based Patinformatics has highlighted how quantum computing can break encryption in normal computers. Trippe said, “We’re talking about encrypting data so it can’t be broken, certainly not by a classical computer. It would be an unhackable system. At the same time, it could break encryption that was on a classical computer. “An organisation or a nation that had quantum computer technologies would have a significantly easier time of wreaking havoc on other systems.”

Many experts believe that quantum computers will change computation entirely. “Over time, quantum in the field of computation is so important is that it will redefine the category of computers themselves,” said Dario Gil, vice-president of IBM’s Artificial Intelligence research. “It is the future of computing.”

However, there are still problems that need to be addressed. “There are many tough problems to solve before quantum computing is a commercial reality,” said Jim Clarke, Director of quantum hardware at Intel. “Some of these problems involve materials science, quantum chip design and manufacturing – those are sweet-spot problems for Intel.”

Data breaches have emerged as one of the main problems of the 21st century. Major conglomerates and governments have been hacked in the recent years. Millions of user data has been breached. In August 2017, China sent an “unbreakable” code from a satellite to the Earth, marking the first time space-to-ground quantum key distribution technology had been realized. In other words, due to significant investments, the country has been able to bridge the so-called technological gap with the US.

Another milestone achieved by Chinese scientists occurred in May 2017. A team of scientists from eastern China built the first form of quantum computer that is said to be faster than one of the early generation of conventional computers developed in the 1940s.

Even though US government has in the past made quantum computing a priority (especially the Obama administration), some experts believe that China might win the quantum race. Jonathan Dowling, co-director of Louisiana State University’s Hearne Institute for Theoretical Physics noted, “What we’re seeing is a bunch of different things going on at once with no overall organization unlike in China, where they are exactly sure what they’re doing.”

Assessment

Our assessment is that even as American lawmakers try and curb China over matters like intellectual property, the country may be losing ground in a race to develop key technologies. In the recent years, Chinese President Xi Jinping has made public his expansive ambitions for China. He has presented a vision in which China is a military superpower that is also economically stable. Under his leadership, the country has invested in various important technologies like quantum computing.

A new study indicates that Chinese organizations are dominating when it comes to patenting of QIT applications. Hence, even if American companies such as IBM end up controlling the computers, Chinese may end up controlling how those machines are used. Quantum computing would make it hard to for external elements to encroach data embedded within them. In addition, they also make it easy to breach encrypted data in normal computers. Thus, millions of computers automatically become vulnerable across the world.

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