Unraveling the mystery of Quantum Computers for beginners

March 13, 2024
Tomek Ćwik By Tomek Ćwik, CEO and Co‑Founder of finQbit

Introducing Grow Digital Insights, a new series of in-depth articles aimed at fostering a meaningful dialogue about our digital future, shedding light on key technology trends through contributions from leading experts in their field. 

Brought to you by EIT Digital’s Communications Lead Federico Guerrini and published monthly, the series aims to bridge the gap between advanced tech concepts and a wider audience, providing clear, authoritative perspectives on complex technological developments. 

Our journey begins with "Unraveling the Mystery of Quantum Computing: A Beginner’s Guide" by Tomek Ćwik, CEO of finQbit.

Join us in navigating the future of technology, grounded in expertise and insight. 

Imagine a computer so powerful it can solve very big puzzles in seconds, puzzles so tough that the fastest computers we have now would need thousands of years to figure them out. This isn't just about making bigger and faster computers, it's about stepping into a whole new world where the normal rules don't apply, guided by some of the smartest people who ever lived.

Quantum computing is so strange and new that it reminds us of something Niels Bohr, a famous scientist, once said: "If quantum mechanics hasn't shocked you, then you haven't really understood it." But what makes quantum computers so special and exciting? Let's try to dive into the world of quantum computing in a simple way.

In classical computers like the one you might be using, everything is run by bits. Think of bits as light switches that can be either flipped off - “0” or flipped on - “1”. These bits are the building blocks for all the data in regular computers, and they work by turning off and on in patterns. Now, quantum computers use something called quantum bits - qubits for short. Picture a coin that can spin in the air, and instead of landing on just heads or tails, it can somehow be both at the same time. This cool trick is called superposition. It lets qubits do lots of calculations all at once. It would surely have amused Albert Einstein, who famously quipped, "God does not play dice with the universe." Yet, in the quantum realm, it seems the universe is all about rolling those dice.

Another quantum marvel is entanglement. When qubits become entangled, the state of one (no matter how far away they are) instantly affects the state of another. It’s like updating your social media status and instantly causing someone on the other side of the world to spill their coffee in shock. Nevertheless, it means that quantum computers can process complex information at incredibly fast speeds, unlike anything in classical computing. Einstein, ever skeptical of quantum mechanics' odd implications, referred to this phenomenon as "spooky action at a distance." Despite his reservations, entanglement has become a fundamental, though utterly perplexing, aspect of quantum physics, proving that the universe might be even stranger than Einstein imagined.

Together, superposition and entanglement provide quantum computers with the potential to achieve what is impossible for classical computers. While a classical computer approaches problems linearly, processing tasks one at a time in a step-by-step manner, a quantum computer leaps beyond this linear approach. It explores multiple solutions simultaneously, akin to reading every book in a library at the same moment, rather than sequentially. Nevertheless, if you ever feel overwhelmed juggling tasks, just remember: you're not a quantum computer, and it's okay to take things one page at a time!

The difference between quantum and classical computers doesn't just boil down to speed. It's about the kinds of problems they can solve. Quantum computers are not just faster versions of classical computers - They are something entirely different. The distinction between quantum and classical computing can be likened to the difference between John Bell's quantum mechanics and classical physics. Bell, known for Bell's theorem, which provides a way to test the predictions of quantum mechanics against classical physics, might have seen quantum computing as the ultimate experiment, demonstrating the peculiar entanglement and non-locality at the heart of quantum mechanics.

Nevertheless, where do quantum computers excel?

The tip comes from Richard Feynman, a pioneer in quantum computing, who famously suggested, "Nature isn't classical, dammit, and if you want to make a simulation of nature, you'd better make it quantum mechanical." Feynman's enthusiasm for quantum mechanics underscores the revolutionary potential of quantum computers to simulate the natural world with unprecedented accuracy, offering insights into everything from new materials to the mysteries of the universe. However, the space is much wider, transforming logistics, finance, cybersecurity and beyond.

Still, before you think we're on the brink of a quantum revolution, it's important to note that quantum computing is still in its infancy. Building and maintaining a quantum computer is incredibly challenging. Qubits are extremely sensitive to their environment, a slight change in temperature or vibration can cause them to lose their quantum state, a problem known as decoherence. Moreover, quantum computers are not meant to replace classical computers. Instead, they are expected to work alongside them, tackling specific tasks that are currently impractical for classical systems.

Despite the challenges, progress in quantum computing is accelerating. Scientists and engineers are finding new ways to stabilize qubits and scale up quantum systems. The potential applications are vast, from revolutionizing cryptography and boosting artificial intelligence to creating more efficient materials and energy sources.

Quantum computing might sound like it's straight out of a sci-fi novel, but it's very much a reality, albeit an emerging one. The journey into the quantum realm is not just about building faster computers but unlocking new possibilities that were previously beyond our imagination. As research continues, we may soon witness quantum computers solving some of the world's most complex problems. In this quantum journey, the excitement lies not just in the destination but in the discoveries we make along the way. Welcome to the quantum age, where the future of computing is not just about what we can imagine but what lies beyond it.

Tomek Ćwik is the CEO & Co-founder of finQbit, a Techstars alumni quantum startup that integrates deep technology within the financial industry. Quantum ambassador & software engineer, seasoned R&D executive who loves to work with passionate technologists. FinQbit took part in the 2023 edition of the EIT Digital Venture Program and is part of EIT Digital’s Equity Portfolio.

We are always on the lookout for interesting contributors to our Grow Digital Insights column. Are you an industry leader or a researcher with an in-depth knowledge of the latest trends and applications of digital technology? Would you like to share your expertise and insights with EIT Digital's pan-European ecosystem of high-profile entrepreneurs, researchers, journalists, innovators and policy-makers? Please send your article proposals to press@eitdigital.eu or federico.guerrini@eitdigital.eu. We will review them and get back to you soon.

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