A new photonic chip that works on light rather than electricity has been built by an international research team, paving the way for the production of ultra-fast quantum computers with capabilities far beyond today’s devices.
Future quantum computers will, for example, be able to pull important information out of the biggest databases almost instantaneously. As the amount of electronic data stored worldwide grows exponentially, the technology will make it easier for people to search with precision for what they want.
An early application will be to investigate and design complex molecules, such as new drugs and other materials, that cannot be simulated with ordinary computers. More general consumer applications should follow.
I’m no computer geek, but I know a bit about economics. Quantum computing represents a moment of comparative advantage for the nation(s) that pioneers it akin to Great Britain being first with the Industrial Revolution. The first use for the world’s first lab functional quantum computer is to apply it’s power in other fields where innovation is stymied by previously intractable math problems, thus permitting a burst of patentable breakthroughs or discoveries that lead to applied scientific and commercial uses. The second use of the quantum computer’s power will be put towards solving problems related to optimizing quantum computing itself, both in terms of refining the systems and assembling arrays.
Advantages of this nature tend to be self-reinforcing and synergistic. The state that accrues these downstream spillover benefits of quantum computing in rapid succession could potentially leapfrog over everyone else to a degree not seen in centuries.
Jeremy O’Brien, director of the UK’s Centre for Quantum Photonics, who led the project, said many people in the field had believed a functional quantum computer would not be a reality for at least 25 years.
“However, we can say with real confidence that, using our new technique, a quantum computer could, within five years, be performing calculations that are outside the capabilities of conventional computers,” he told the British Science Festival, as he presented the research
The upside of holding this kind of technological advance back from the commercial domain in order to “lock in” comparative advantage until the nearest quantum computing rival has gotten close, but not yet reached, operational use, will be overwhelming.
Don’t you feel great that the corporatist Bush administration was indifferent to venture capital start-ups, explicitly hostile to basic science research and xenophobic toward top-notch H1-B and foreign grad student talent while the Obama administration is explicitly hostile to start-ups and enamored of pouring scarce billions into rustbelt legacy industries, outdated infrastructure projects and oligarchic Wall Street paper shufflers instead of the high tech and VC sectors?