Quantum Computing, Mixed Reality and Artificial Intelligence are the three key newer technologies that would shape the future in the decades to come, as visible to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who was here in India and on Tuesday 7 November 2017 was discussing about the future of technology and impact of digital economy on privacy. His observation is that computing history had been all about enhancing the man-machine interface and getting more people use computing in much more natural and intuitive way. He describes the ‘Mixed Reality’, as the ultimate computing experience: the idea that one can now have both the real world and the virtual world, just in front of his eyes, and it can blend the two.
On Data and ‘Artificial Intelligence’, Nadella observes, “The currency of our times will be our ability to collect data, but more importantly its ability to create intelligence or AI.”
‘Quantum Computing’ would be the third, longer-term bet, as Nadella elaborates, “We are in the early stages of this. When I look at the computational problems – whether it’s the catalyst that’s going to be able to absorb the carbon in the air or being able to model the enzyme that’s involved in natural food production – these are computational problems that’s not been solved.”
Quantum Computing harnesses quantum phenomena to process information in a novel and promising way and studies computation systems that make direct use of quantum-mechanical phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement, to perform operations on data. Nature follows the laws of quantum mechanics, a branch of physics that explores how the physical world works at the most fundamental levels. At this level, particles behave in strange ways, taking on more than one state at the same time, and interacting with other particles that are very far away.
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 behaviour, quantum computing can run new types of algorithms to process information more holistically.
Classical Computers are the computers that we use today. There are certain problems that classical computers will simply never be able to solve. Classical computers encode information in bits. Each bit can take the value of 1 or 0. These 1s and 0s act as on/off switches that ultimately drive computer functions.
Quantum Computers, on the other hand, are based on qubits, which operate according to two key principles of quantum physics: superposition and entanglement. Superposition means that each qubit can represent both a 1 and a 0 at the same time. Entanglement means that qubits in a superposition can be correlated with each other; that is, the state of one (whether it is a 1 or a 0) can depend on the state of another. Using these two principles, qubits can act as more sophisticated switches, enabling quantum computers to function in ways that allow them to solve difficult problems that are intractable using today’s computers.
Quantum systems may untangle the complexity of molecular and chemical interactions leading to the discovery of new medicines and materials. They may enable ultra-efficient logistics and supply chains, such as optimizing fleet operations for deliveries during the holiday season. They may help us find new ways to model financial data and isolate key global risk factors to make better investments. And they may make facets of artificial intelligence such as machine learning much more powerful.
Quantum computers 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.
Research has found that countries that were able to get new technology fast into their country, but most importantly, were able to turn it into intense use and take advantage of it by turning it into productivity gains were the ones that were successful. So whether it’s in India or elsewhere, it should not be about diffusion of technology alone. It’s not just enough to be, for example, a smartphone nation. The question is what you are doing with technology to have an impact on things like education, healthcare, supply chains. Merely celebrating consumption of some technologies alone will not make it equitable and the world needs more egalitarian growth.
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