Living in the era of the World Wars, the entire world was immersed in conflict. Likewise, we are currently immersed in an era of immense technological advancement commonly referred to as the fourth industrial revolution.
Great effort is being directed into research on these technologies which include Artificial intelligence, Quantum computing, Machine learning, clean energy, big data, and Blockchain technology. These technologies are, in one way or another, a part of our lives. For example, customization of search results on YouTube to suit your preferences is backed by artificial intelligence and machine learning.
The Interconnection between These Technologies
While these technologies are developing in isolation, they also have an impact on each other’s growth. For example, Blockchain technology upon conception depended on the Proof-of-Work consensus algorithm. An example of Blockchain technology that is known globally is Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer monetary exchange system or cryptocurrency. The Proof-of-Work algorithm requires that computers which act as nodes or miners compete to get a solution to very complex cryptographic problems to add transactions to blocks. This model is very secure but has the downside of demanding for massive amounts of computing power and electricity.
On the other hand, clean energy is pushing for a more economically sustainable and environmentally friendly use of resources. This is a great test to Blockchain technology, which may be forced to die or evolve to survive. Currently, Blockchain technology has seen the rise of more consensus algorithms including Proof-of-Stake and Delegated Proof-of-Stake algorithms in a bid to improve the efficiency of the technology.
The Brilliance behind Quantum Computing
Quantum Computing may be considered to be second only to Artificial Intelligence. Artificial Intelligence is a technology that is rapidly evolving, with many tech companies investing heavily in this area.
However, Quantum Computing is the one technology that is attempting to merge the quantum universe with what we can see, feel and touch; our reality. Interestingly, while classical computing utilizes bits represented as 0s and 1s, quantum computing utilizes qubits. These may be represented as 0s, 1s, or a superimposition of these such that a new state is created. Increasing the number of qubits increases computing power. Quantum computers, therefore, have greater capability than classical computers and are capable of achieving greater processing speeds and power.
Quantum Computing is Threatening Blockchain Technology’s Survival
Blockchain technology relies on cryptographic hashing for advanced encryption. However, the potential that quantum computing has in decryption may be the biggest threat yet to blockchain technology.
Theoretically, large quantum computers running a quantum algorithm referred to as Shor’s algorithm will have the capacity to solve many problems faster than the best classical computers using high-end algorithms. This, therefore, means that all quantum computing needs to trample over blockchain technology is time; time to develop a complex enough computer with such capacity.
Advances in Quantum Computing
Recently, the term ‘Quantum Supremacy’ was coined to refer to the situation where quantum computers become more efficient in a specific field than classical computers. Most estimates point to about five to ten years for this to occur.
It is interesting to note that the first quantum cryptography protocol was published in 1984 by IBM. In 2009, the first two-qubit, solid-state quantum processor was developed at Yale University. By early 2018, Google was testing a 72 qubit quantum processor, with IBM and Intel working on 50 qubit and 49 qubit quantum processors respectively.
What Is Holding Quantum Computing Back?
Because technological advancements are not linear, it may not be possible to predict when quantum computing will be more complex and advanced than classical computing. However, the recent developments are a great pointer to what is to come and, in a way, herald that Blockchain technology may require to evolve faster than it is. It is worth mentioning that researchers are even trying to incorporate quantum computing into blockchain technology, creating qBitcoin.
A significant challenge that quantum computing is facing is overcoming the problem of fault tolerance. While it may be feasible to increase the qubits on a quantum computer to increase its power, the numbers of errors that arise also increase. This is an area of active research, and if a lasting solution is reached, Blockchain technology may be forced onto its knees.
Additionally, it is currently challenging to hold information generated by quantum computers for a long time due to the limitations of quantum mechanics. However, recent findings are slowly overcoming this problem and promising results may soon be seen.
The Current State of Quantum Computing
Quantum computers seem to be in their infancy. Their current state may be compared to the state of the computer in the late 90s when supercomputers were few and only owned by the military and some government agencies. Currently, not many quantum computers exist, and those that do are owned by a few technology companies such as IBM, and a few other financially capable institutions.
However, IBM has made Quantum Computing available to the world via their service, IBM Quantum Experience. This service utilizes cloud facilities to make this rare resource available to the public.
Additionally, Quantum computers currently require massive amounts of space to be housed in and specialized equipment to ensure proper functioning. Quantum computers are very sensitive to perturbations, for example, due to noise or high temperature. For proper functioning, they need to be cooled to very low temperatures, some as low as -273 degrees Celsius. Researchers are currently working on overcoming this challenge, with some researchers having developed a two-qubit quantum computer which could function at room temperature.
What to Expect From Quantum Computing
With researchers having created quantum processors almost similar to the ones currently in use in classical computers, quantum computing may very soon be available for day-to-day use. Once the current challenges are resolved, we may have access to one of the most powerful technologies known to man!
It may be too early to say that quantum computing will kill Blockchain technology because Blockchain enthusiasts and researchers are also working on the technology to ensure its survival. However, it is still an interesting matter to consider. Who knows!