(Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a talk William Hurley – AKA Whurley – gave at a technology conference in Austin in early November. Whurley, who is author of Quantum Computing for Dummies and the CEO and founder of Strangeworks, spoke to a packed audience at the Austin Convention Center.)
I was asked to speak on the subject of Quantum Advantage.
The way we describe Quantum Advantage is the ability of a quantum computer to surpass the functionality of what a classical computer can do; to do something that you just simply couldn’t do on a classical computer.
We are at that inflection point in the development of Quantum Computing.
We’ve got HPCs, TPUs, and GPUs and all of these high-end compute functionalities, and we’re producing a ton of data. But we’re reaching bottlenecks in certain areas, like drug discovery and material science as well as energy, battery, chemistry, and things of that nature.
We need something better. We need more computational power to be able to do real software development, not just building the next Facebook or Instagram, but deep tech software that will forever change our world. I’m a huge fan of deep tech. When you look at where we’re at now, quantum presents us with an entirely new way of computing. We’re just starting to see a fraction of the potential. At some point in the not-too-distant future, that quantum advantage will be reached.
Why should you care? This is the greatest time to be alive in the history of computer science. We are about to take a step away from von Neumann architecture into a completely new era. I believe that 2023 is going to be like 1963. In 1959, Jack Kilby invented the Integrated Circuit. Before that, you bought transistors one at a time. His invention started the march to where we’ve ended up with computing today. I think 2023 hits a big reset button and we start all over again; with a compute power we’ve only been able to dream of at this point.
I want to encourage all of you to get involved in quantum computing. In 1963, who was thinking about AI or autonomous vehicles or drones or medical software or any of that stuff? There will be entire new industries built on quantum computing. I look at it as we had the industrial revolution, then the information revolution, and now we stand on the precipice of a quantum revolution.
Here are some specifics about why you should care. The first thing everybody wants to know is when is it going to come? Pessimists say 10 years, optimists say 3, if you’re a realist you should be preparing today. Deloitte did a study and found out that if you’re going to take your developers and you’re going to make them quantum computing ready, that could take 12 to 24 months. If quantum computing is three years out, then tic tok, tic tok. You don’t have a lot of time to prepare, making this business critical for your government or enterprise.
There’s all this talk about quantum replacing classical computing. Don’t think of quantum computers as a replacement for classical computers. Think of them as an augmentation. Think of them just like a GPU or a TPU. You’re going to do different specialized functions on these machines. They may be the only machines capable of doing those function, but they will still require ‘classical’ components
Why do you need it? Think of it this way. We used to cross the United States, from New York to California in a wagon. Some of your party could die, maybe it was a horrible journey, maybe you made it to your destination. And then we built the rail system, and that same journey took a week. The rail systems are the classical computers we have today. Those classical computers are great, but eventually, no matter how far we travel, we run into an ocean of complexity. What do we do if we want to go to Japan? We can’t take a train to Japan. We need a plane. Planes didn’t replace trains, they augmented them. They’re for a different special purpose. That’s a really healthy way to look at these quantum computers in relation to classical computers as we move forward in the future.
That doesn’t diminish the fact that they have amazing potential. There are trillions of dollars of enterprise opportunity just on the horizon and developments no one has even dreamed of today and won’t think of for another decade or potentially more. And this is why I’m so excited about quantum computing.
It will affect everybody. You may not use it directly, but you’ll be a benefactor of this quantum revolution. You’ve also got cryptography, material science, data science, logistics, finance, et cetera. With cryptography, just know that it’s more of a help to cryptography and your security and privacy than it is a hindrance. Everybody likes to scream, shout about quantum breaking all of our encryption keys. And it will break keys. There’s zero doubt that’ll happen, and it probably happens before the end of the decade. However, it’s not the current keys that we have that we need to worry about. It’ll be the keys where the secrets were stolen 20, 30, 40 years ago. Those are the things that’ll get broken first, right?
I don’t want to overhype it. Today, quantum computers are not where we want to see them. They’re going to take a while, but you know what: How many of you had an Apple IIe? Or Commodore 64? You thought that was great at the time, right? You did a bunch of cool things with it you couldn’t otherwise do? Same thing with Quantum. Is it the alien like, God like technology we want yet? No. Does that mean you shouldn’t be using it today? Absolutely not. To ignore this emerging technology today would have been the equivalent of seeing an Apple IIe and being like, “Oh, I’ll never use that. I’m going to do all my spreadsheets with this pen and paper.” Doesn’t sound too smart in hindsight, does it?
Quantum Computing is here. Start using it.