As a proponent of technology it is easy to see all the advantages. The entire knowledge of the humanity at your finger tips. Extremely fast communications, and collaboration. The ability to learn anything you wish or need to know within a few clicks. In fact, you can even become an expert on almost any subject with knowledge provided by the internet. All you need is an internet connection, strong reading comprehension skills, and the will to do it. For those who for some reason do not like to read (?) there are video tutorials galore.
Technology makes our lives easier. The rate at which technology is evolving is amazing. Technology is making a huge impact on peoples' lives, the economy, and more. Some good, and some bad.
I view technology as a hammer. It can be used to create and enrich, or destroy and kill.
I have been following closely the creation of a quantum computer by a Canadian company called D Wave. Founded in 1999, D-Wave Systems is the world's first quantum computing company. D Wave has published over 70 peer-reviewed papers in leading scientific journals. D-Wave's offices are in Vancouver, Canada, Palo Alto, California and Washington, DC. D-Wave is a privately held company.
In 2010 D Wave released their first commercial system, the D-Wave One™ quantum computer. We have doubled the number of qubits each year, and in 2013 they shipped a 512-qubit D-Wave Two™ system. It is expected that D Wave will be in the At 2000 to 4000 qubits range sometime this year in 2015.
With a lattice of 512 tiny superconducting circuits, known as qubits, the chip is chilled close to absolute zero (colder than interstellar space) to get quantum effects. A user models a problem into a search for the “lowest point in a vast landscape”. The processor can consider all possibilities simultaneously to determine the lowest energy required to form those relationships. Multiple solutions are returned to the user, scaled to show optimal answers.
The D Wave computer is shielded to 50,000× less than Earth’s magnetic field in a high vacuum. The pressure is 10 billion times lower than atmospheric pressure. There are 192 input / output and control lines from room temperature to the chip. The cooling unit and servers consume just 15.5kW of power, where they also state power demand won’t increase as it scales to thousands of qubits. The D Wave uses 12 kilowatts of power (compared to an average of 4100 kilowatts for the 10 top U.S. supercomputers)
The D Wave needs refrigeration and super conductors in order get the quantum effects of the incredibly small to calm down and maintain their magic so that we can extract the information we receive from them. The magic includes superposition, where a bit is on and off at the same time. This is opposed to classical computers which can only be a 1 or 0, not both simultaneously. This is how a quantum computer can solve problems so much faster, with the way they can scale up to a number of possibilities the human mind is unable to comprehend.
A quantum system can exist in multiple states at the same time. It’s called the superposition principle of quantum mechanics. At any given moment, the spin of a nucleus can be both up and down, holding both a 1 and a 0. And if you have two qubits, they can hold four values at the same time: 00, 01, 10, and 11. You can see where this is going: If you build a large enough quantum computer, it’s exponentially faster than anything in the classical world.
It would be fast enough to, say, instantly break the encryption algorithms that protect communication and electronic commerce on today’s internet.
D-Wave was sent a sample problem to run on the system: a 30-year-old chunk of code from an F-16 aircraft. The software had an error that took a crack team of Lockheed Martin engineers several months to find. Six weeks after sending the code, D Wave was giving a demonstration that included identifying the software error. Observers were amazed.
The D Wave appears to be a special purpose optimization engine, more than it is to a classical computer. It is very good at solving optimization problems. However, it is very early in the quantum computer realm.
A machine like this could find the cure to cancer, or any number of diseases, simulate protein folding, be useful in creating unbreakable cryptography, or any problem that is currently being worked by the distributed computing projects online right now.
There are grumblings about whether the machine is actually preforming quantum calculation, or just doing a bit of quantum-something or another. Quantum theory and the technology itself are so new and radical, it is unclear if anyone really understands what is going on.