The race to be the first country to release a workable quantum computer has been going on for quite some time now. But never before have we been as close as we are now to seeing that happen. Whichever country does manage to be the first will no doubt have the opportunity to cripple the rest of the global economy in this particular market. But who will it be?
Because quantum computers work on the basis of qubits that can be both 0 and 1 simultaneously, they can perform an almost infinite amount of calculations all at once. Because of this, quantum computers could be the key to hijacking an entire country, which is a rather terrifying thought. The scariest part about quantum computers is they have the ability to pass through the very encryption that protects us. Having this power is enough to wipe out the entire global financial system or locate weapons of mass destruction.
Hackers are already causing havoc, and that’s just with normal computers. Once quantum computers are around and understood by more people, there will be serious issues. More than 4 billion computer records were compromised in the U.S. alone in 2016. This is a staggering 421 percent increase from 2015. Some countries are even stealing encrypted data now and storing it until quantum computers are around to be able to decrypt it.
There are several experts who will claim that because of IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Google, and D-Wave, that the U.S. is ahead when it comes to quantum computing. But, with China graduating over 4.5 million of its students per year with STEM degrees compared to the half a million from the U.S., how long can they realistically stay ahead? The EU are also investing heavily in this field with nearly $1 billion being invested in quantum computing over the next 10 years.
Can the U.S. really win this race? Maybe, but it won’t be an easy ride and we’d need to consider increasing federal research and development in order to develop technologies that will best bring together the wants of private interest and the needs of national security. Government agencies should support private companies and more of a focus should be on training quantum engineers. If all of these things can be done then there’s no reason why the U.S. can’t be the first to release a fully workable quantum computer. But for now, we’ll just have to wait and see.
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