Google researchers have claimed their quantum computer has solved a problem that would take the best conventional computers thousands of years to crack! IBM have already disputed the claim, demonstrating they were able to solve the problem in three days using conventional computers. Whether it has been achieved or not, it's an impressive achievement in the journey toward quantum supremacy.
So why is quantum computing important? Quantum computers have the potential to solve complex problems quickly. This high powered capability will have many uses in the future. Science is delving further into the quantum world. For example CERN's hadron collider has undertaken a wealth of experiments trying to unlock the fundamental questions of the universe, splitting protons to better understand their makeup, the Higgs Boson being one example. This has led to a deluge of data, the like that has never been seen before, requiring many decades to analyse using current technology. In 2026, a new collider four times larger will be built requiring a hundred times more computing power to be able to research the findings of the data. This alone, has driven interest from private and public organisations to be at the forefront of quantum computing research.
Long term commercial applications are also important drivers, given these computers potentially have the capability to map complex systems, including: molecules for drugs; improved cyber security; sampling to make future predictions (eg. share forecasting) and designing better computer systems (eg. AI). It may one day find a way to access parallel worlds. Already, organisations and companies are devoting serious investment into research funding.
Just recently, Google announced they achieved quantum supremacy, a contentious claim, but even if it were true, would only give bragging rights to having achieved an artificial goal. The true race will be to achieve more practical outcomes, where a quantum computer can regularly out perform standard computers. The main players in the race are Google, IBM, Rigetti, Intel and CIT's D-wave. CIT actually replicated the discovery of the Higgs Boson using their quantum computer, but it was no quicker than a super computer. IBM have partnered CERN using their experts in quantum mechanics to develop their quantum computer.
My novel, Sentient, is set a hundred years into the future, so I took account of these technologies when 'world building. In 2120, I imagine scientists have developed 'universal quantum computing', the holy grail of computing, where it consistently out performs standard super computers. I envisage the next stage of development expands to 'multiversal quantum computers' (MQC), moving performance capabilities exponentially higher again. The MQC computer, nicknamed 'Digital Heaven' will allow its developers God-like abilities. Two adversarial companies will be competing to own the rights to the MQC, one seeking to use it to terraform Mars, the other to rapidly develop intergalactic communication and colonisation. This sets the scene for a high stakes battle that will impact on the future of mankind and its next stage of evolution.