Google Creates World’s Most Powerful Computer – The Financial Times reported a few moments ago that they reviewed a paper by researchers from Google that showed the company had already built a computer that had achieved quantum supremacy. The paper was briefly posted on NASA’s website but has since been removed because it had not undergone a peer review process to verify its findings.
Specifically, the report states Google already claims “their processors are capable of performing calculations in three minutes and 20 seconds that would take today’s most advanced classical computer, known as Summit, about 10,000 years.” Of course, at this point, it’s only capable of doing that one specific calculation, meaning we’re still a few years away from quantum computing taking over the world.
And technically, Google isn’t the first quantum computer. There are others, most of them experimental, but they have only demonstrated the ability to perform the same calculations as traditional computers at much faster speeds. This is different. This one performs calculations that ordinary supercomputers cannot do.
The good and the bad.
Of course, there are some amazing things made possible by quantum computing. For example, complex modeling could lead to medical breakthroughs including new treatments for currently incurable diseases. This also has implications for artificial intelligence and machine learning which are able to contribute to analyzing very large data sets that would take too much time with normal computers.
Which leads to another real-world consequence that should worry us: Much of how we keep the things we value safe is based on the simple concept that it doesn’t have to be perfect if it’s difficult. A bank vault doesn’t have to be impregnable to be effective, it just has to be tough enough to make it worth the effort, or slow down the robbers long enough for the police to show up. Sure, some people will try to crack it, but the effort involved is usually too much to get results.
Encryption is unbeatable.
Encryption, for example, is insecure because it is impossible to break. In theory, all encryption can be cracked given enough time. The reason encryption is considered secure is that traditional computers take too long to crack it. Given enough time, any encryption scheme imaginable can be broken, only “enough time” might involve, like, a thousand years. Most of us don’t worry about what someone might do with our data in a thousand years.
But what if they had a computer that would allow them to crack the encryption in a matter of minutes? That is a completely different situation.
That’s why cryptocurrency experts feel a little nervous about what happens when computers potentially break the chain of encrypted transactions that keep the blockchain secure. The current algorithm is likely safe from the 53-qubit processor demonstrated by Google.
Cryptographers are also working to create quantum-resistant technology that goes beyond the nearly impenetrable SHA-256 crytopgraphic hash, but no one will tell you they’ve discovered it. And with Google’s latest achievement, the timeline for finding a much more secure form of encryption is getting shorter.
Why it matters to you.
Encryption is a binary thing. Once a locked system can be hacked, it doesn’t matter if you need a supercomputer to do it, it’s broken. It’s safe, or it’s not. After that, if your information remains safe, it’s just luck. It’s not hard to imagine a future where governments decide to require quantum computers to break encryption on smartphones or hard drives, providing easy access without the need for “backdoors.”
Sure, your run-of-the-mill bad guy won’t have access to a quantum computer, but some of the biggest risks we face come not from run-of-the-mill bad guys, but from the companies that store our most private information.
Is there such a thing as too smart?
Which brings me back specifically to Google, which already knows more about you and what you do digitally than perhaps any other organization or individual. The company has a lot of information about you that it uses to market you to advertisers. Just because quantum computers are limited to a very narrow focus at the moment, what’s to say they won’t be used to analyze and map the data of every American?
Google is a pretty smart company and has managed to organize the world’s information and make it easily accessible to almost everyone. It has also created a very profitable business collecting your personal information and pitching you to advertisers based on their ability to analyze and monetize that data. Now, imagine that power going into quantum overdrive.…