Quantum computers will transform our lives in 20 years

June 30 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Communication   Year: General   Rating: 10 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

In the last two decades, advances in computing technology, from processing speed to network capacity and the Internet, have revolutionized our lives. From sequencing genomes to monitoring the climate, many scientific advances would have been impossible without an increase in computing power – and now with quantum computers (QC) on the verge of harnessing atoms and molecules to calculate billions of times faster than silicon-based computers, scientists predict an even more amazing future unfolding.

In a recent Fortune Magazine article, writers Peter Schwartz and Rita Koselka describe a QC world that includes microscopic sensors embedded in our homes, vehicles, and workplace that monitor our well-being 24/7; and a thin headband of ultrasonic transducers that wirelessly transmits information both ways between the Internet and our brain, and to other headbands.

UVA scientist Stuart Wolf anticipates that within 20 years, instead of cell-phone conversations we will have “network-enabled telepathy” – we will ‘speak’ directly to another person’s headband from anywhere in the world using just our thoughts.

Several trends drive this future forward. The cell-phone and PC are already beginning to merge and will eventually be reduced to mere ‘chips’ on our headband. If you wonder how devices can get smaller and still be accessible, keep in mind that vastly-improved voice-recognition software will soon arrive.

While voice technology only works efficiently on fast processors today, rising bandwidth will one day make this the only way to communicate with PCs and cell-phones. Goodbye keyboard!

The following scenario portrays what life might be like in this quantum future:


Your driverless hybrid knows it is warm and rolls the top down. You drive to the freeway on-ramp and relinquish the wheel. Your headband screens a video to enjoy on the way to the airport where there is no ticket check-in or security line. In a split second, micro-cams identify you and provide your gate number.

While boarding the plane, you see a familiar person. Your headband immediately flashes his virtual business card and displays it on your eyes. “Dr. Horton”, you call out. “It’s so nice to see you again. How was the conference”? Only the slightest flicker of Horton’s eyes betrays that he is Googling your details too. “Hello George; the conference was fine and congratulations on your promotion”.

This may sound like science fiction, but it is not. Sony has already patented a system that beams data directly into the brain without implants, and most experts believe this futuristic world will soon become reality.

With our headband, we can speak or think any question, and get an immediate answer. Everyone will have access to something approaching all information all the time. Just consider some of the potential ramifications of unlimited information availability. The necessity to learn languages might disappear. If the devices were cheap enough, and the network truly ubiquitous and global, the economic playing field could be leveled. No more inequality in third-world countries; if information is power, everyone will have it.

Some may find wearing this revolutionary headband unsettling, but proponents say it’s only a piece of clothing; you can always take it off. As with previous disruptive technologies – radio, television, the Internet – this too will one day become a natural part of our lives. Go “magical future.”

What do you see as the most important benefit arising from quantum computers?

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Comment Thread (1 Response)

  1. Great examples of the “every day” benefits of quantum computers. I would like to add, that the quantum computer doesn’t need to be in the headband. When cybernetic upgrades become common, and nano-technology has developed, the QC could be directly implanted to our arm, or even the brain.

    On quantum computing: Currently there is alot of hypy towards quantum computing. Researchers are studying ways of harnessing bizarre particles called anyons, that represents a calculation as a set of braids in spacetime. This; researchers believe, is a shortcut to practical quantum computaion. Currently researchers are studying materials, that are suitable for quantum computing. One possible candidate is recently experimentally discovered form of carbon – graphene. Graphene is a one-atom-thick planar sheet of sp2-bonded carbon atoms that are densely packed in a honeycomb crystal lattice. It can be viewed as an atomic-scale chicken wire made of carbon atoms and their bonds. Not only is it the thinnest of all possible materials, but it is also extremely strong and stiff. In its pure form it conducts electrons faster at room temperature than any other substance. Engineers around the world are scrutinizing graphene to determine, whether or not it can be fabricated to products such as quantum-dot computers, smart displays, supertough composites and ultrafast transistors. Quantum computing would benefit from single electron transistors (Or more accurately quantum-dot tarnsistors), which are just one application of graphene. The idea is that a nanoscale graphene plane can be formed into a single-electron (or quantum-dot) transistor. Two electrodes, a “source” and a “drain,” are connected by an “island” of conducting material, or quantum dot, that is only 100 nanometers wide. The “island” is too small to accommodate more than one new electron at a time; any second electron is kept away by electrostatic repulsion. An electron leaves the “source”, and tunnels quantum mechanically to the “island”, and there after to the “drain”. The voltage applied to a third electrode called the “gate” controls whether a single electron can enter or exit the island, thereby registering either a 1 or a 0.

    Then on the computing power of quantum computers: As Pelletier already mentioned, quantum computers compute billions of times faster on certain kind of problems. There are a couple of problems, that are not suitable for quantum computers, and are better to be done on a silicon based “norm” computer. Experts have speculated, that one day quantum computers will become so powerful, that they could gather enough information of person, that he or she could be constructed with future nano-technology.

    Now that is truly a “magical future”.

    Posted by: JHE   June 30, 2008
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