Why we must prepare for a quantum impact

If the experts are to be believed, quantum computers will radically change problem solving. IBM recently held  an event to explore the skills gap that exists between the education system and quantum computing. There is no denying that quantum computing represents a massive departure from traditional approaches to computer science. It’s more like rocket science.

During the virtual event, Jeffrey Hammond, vice president, principal analyst, serving CIO professionals, at Forrester, said: “Like many of many clients, I am trying to put quantum in context. How much of a change will we have to make?”

Tina Brower-Thomas, executive director at Howard University, center for integrated quantum materials believes that quantum computing offers a place for people from many different disciplines to collaborate. She said: “We have an opportunity to invite as broad a participation as possible and keep young people engaged.”

Beyond Moore’s Law

While the experts on the online panel discussion believe that quantum computing has the potential to benefit humanity, there are clearly two sides to the quantum coin. To paraphrase Winston Churchill (and Spiderman), with great power comes great responsibilities: there needs to be wide acknowledgement that the power of quantum computing could be used for malicious intent.

Across the IT sector, quantum computing is seen as something that will power algorithms that go far, far beyond what Gordon Moore’s little formula for computing growth could ever have anticipated. A classical algorithm is simply too slow to tackle highly complex problems.

Even something as mainstream as a weather forecast, could  potentially be more accurately predicted using a quantum computer than running weather forecasts on today’s supercomputers.

There are application areas for quantum computing in drug discovery and biotech, risk modelling in financial markets and complex optimisations where there are many, many variables. Any problem, where the complexity increases exponentially as the number of parameters increases, is seen as a good candidate for quantum computing.

But the flip side of this immense power is that quantum computers will be devastatingly good at cracking the toughest encryption keys and the extensive modelling and simulations a quantum computer would offer, could be weaponised.

While the experts IBM gathered were happy to talk about the skills and diversity gap that exists in the field of quantum computing, ethics and the risk of government restrictions and bans are areas that will need extensive public debate well before quantum commuting becomes mainstream.

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