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7 Reasons You Should Learn Quantum Computing Now

You’ve landed on the Qiskit blog, so you’ve definitely heard of quantum computing. Or, if you’re not a returning reader, at the very least you’ve heard the word ‘quantum,’ whether from Ant Man’s antics on the big screen, a high school physics class, or a gadget with the word slapped onto it for some obscure reason — and it caught your attention.

If you hear the word quantum often enough, you eventually encounter other words like superposition, entanglement, interference, and weird concepts like cats that may or may not be alive.

Most readers of this blog should already understand the excitement behind these words and concepts — but if you’re new here, you might think these concepts have nothing to do with you. Well, I think they have everything to do with you. I think you should learn quantum computing.

But, what is quantum computing?

You see, classical computers, like the device you’re using to read this, are great at solving some problems easily: multiplying two 2048-bit integers, reading emails, binging cat videos on YouTube, reading articles on Medium, etc. But despite how sophisticated classical computing has become, there are many scientific and business problems for which we’ve barely covered the tip of the iceberg.

That’s where quantum computing might come in. Quantum computing is a quickly-maturing technology that is fundamentally different from classical computing. We hope it will solve useful complex problems that are intractable even on today’s most sophisticated supercomputers. We have good reason to believe that quantum could one day provide computational advantages in simulating complex molecules, tackle machine learning problems, and more. But since it is a whole new computing paradigm, we may be able to explore a realm of opportunities beyond what we know! The potential application umbrella could impact science, education, business, government, and more.

IBM Quantum scientist Dr. Maika Takita in the Thomas J Watson Research Center IBM Quantum Lab. Photo credit: Connie Zhou for IBM

The important point to highlight is potential. We believe quantum computing has enormous potential, which is why there’s significant effort being made toward building quantum hardware and identifying important use cases. I also believe you should pick it up, like, right now.

So, here are a few reasons you should learn quantum computing, in no particular order and by no means comprehensive:

Number 1: Quantum may make the ‘impossible’ possible.

Before you raise an eyebrow, I don’t mean quantum computers will render every impossibility possible. You won’t be able to un-cook a burned cake, for instance, or convince your cat to cease waking you up at odd hours.

But some of those problems that are intractable even on today’s supercomputers? Problems that currently seem, well, impossible? We believe we may be able to solve some of them on future quantum computers. There is a real possibility that future quantum computers will solve certain problems exponentially faster than classical computers.

We think we can begin exploring quantum solutions to these intractable problems today, by drafting new algorithms, finding ways to apply existing algorithms to new use cases, or even identifying solutions to problems we haven’t begun to think about.

Number 2: You might become a highly sought after subject matter expert or industry leader.

Today’s quantum computers are big and noisy, and there are a number of obstacles to overcome before we have error-corrected processors capable of tackling large problems. But this is exactly why it’s important to start now. You have an opportunity to develop useful algorithms that we can implement on today’s noisy quantum processors or near-term hardware, and then evolve these use cases alongside the hardware itself. And, again, there are plenty of problems that may have quantum solutions we haven’t thought of yet — how neat would it be if you discovered one of those!

Because of the enormous potential of quantum computing, as the technology rapidly grows and the workforce grows, there could be high demand for quantum talent very soon. And you could be just what this field needs!

Number 3: Quantum computing might solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.

Quantum hasn’t presented any empirical advantages over classical computational methods yet, but that milestone is likely coming soon. As we explore different applications, we’re starting to realize that a number of fields could be impacted by this technology.

Take accurate simulations of complex molecules, for instance. This is the caffeine molecule:

National Center for Biotechnology Information (2022). PubChem Compound Summary for CID 2519, Caffeine. Retrieved June 13, 2022 from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Caffeine.

A perfect simulation of this molecule is not possible, at least not with 100% accuracy, even on today’s most powerful supercomputers. We would need approximately 10⁴⁸ bits to represent the energy configuration of a single molecule at a single instant. But we predict that 160 fault-tolerant quantum bits (qubits) could precisely simulate the caffeine molecule.

Take a moment to think about why these molecular simulations may be important. Accurate simulations of complex molecules may lead to new discoveries — new drugs such as new classes of antibiotics that could battle bacterial strains resistant to current drugs. So some of your future medicines may sprout from these types of simulations!

Accurate simulations may also pave the way for new chemical synthesis processes that could benefit the environment. Take agriculture as an example. Chemists have been trying to find a more efficient nitrogen-fixation process for creating ammonia-based fertilizer, because currently around 1–2% of the world’s energy consumption goes into manufacturing fertilizers.

Looking even further afield, quantum simulation might lead to breakthroughs in climate technologies, like new catalysts to make CO2 conversion more efficient and selective, or better battery and solar power technologies. According to a McKinsey study, quantum computing could help “abate carbon on the order of 7 gigatons a year of additional CO2 impact by 2035, with the potential to bring the world in line with the 1.5°C target.”

Number 4: The world is already preparing for quantum’s impact on data privacy.

Among the biggest concerns about quantum computing is fault-tolerant quantum computers being able to crack certain protocols that have traditionally been used to protect our data. This includes the encryption, hashing and public key algorithms we use today, such as RSA encryption. If this happens, your currently secure data transmissions would no longer be secure.

To prevent this, a lot of research is going into both staying ahead of quantum decryption as well as developing quantum cryptographic protocols that utilize quantum computing principles to secure information. The National Institute of Standards and Technology is amid releasing quantum-safe protocols. Switching computers to these new cryptographic protocols will require more people in the field and more expertise, which circles back to why the field will need more talent.

Number 5: You can program a real quantum computer — in minutes!

Seriously! You ended up on the Qiskit Blog — the blog of a community devoted to learning how to program these devices.

Qiskit is an open source python framework that hundreds of thousands of users around the world use to run billions of quantum circuits in a typical day. By learning Qiskit, you’ll be able to program quantum hardware from IBM, AQT, IonQ, and more, explore how these hardware architectures differ, and implement quantum algorithms on real hardware.

Just keep in mind these computers don’t have error correction yet, so don’t expect to, say, solve climate change tomorrow. But by getting started today, you’ll also be able to familiarize yourself with this hardware once the time comes that companies are using it to solve their problems.

Get started with Qiskit here, with options to run Qiskit locally or on the cloud.

Number 6: You don’t need a formal quantum computing course to get started.

Qiskit lowers barrier of entry by offering a variety of learning resources, application modules, and even community events like programming challenges and hackathons. These are multi-level resources; there’s something for everyone from beginners to experts!

Moreover, Qiskit has an incredible, thriving community around it, rife with enthusiastic people willing to experiment and explore, and best of all, help! One of our Qiskit Advocates once likened the community to Hogwarts: help will always be given to those who ask for it.

Qiskit Hackathon in Singapore, 2019

The best way to access the community is to join the Qiskit Slack workspace.

And last but not the least:

Number 7: You don’t have to stick to R&D to be part of the quantum community.

This up-and-coming field has room for anyone and everyone to inform its future — a career in quantum doesn’t have to be limited to scientific research or development. Check out this career panel, which touches on many of these points: How to Get a Job in Quantum Computing.

Moreover, you don’t even need a science background; there’s an entire creative niche in quantum computing! I like to call it quantum creative. Quantum creative encompasses things like quantum games, quantum art, quantum music, and more. Basically, it involves creative projects that connect to quantum computing in some way, whether parts of it are generated by real quantum computers, or they harness quantum principles, or they demo or teach a quantum concept.

Take a look at this art installation, for instance:

Didn’t think quantum could look so amazing, did you? I certainly didn’t when I first started out!

The point is: feel free to explore and use quantum computing in a way that is the most joyful for you. But do explore it, because the time to start really is now.

Begin your quantum learning journey today!

More to Explore:

Get started with Qiskit here!

“Why I’m Learning Quantum Computing” Stories:

General

Cryptography

Quantum Creative

Business and Finance

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