Photo by: Graham Carlow For: Quanta Magazine

The breakthrough

Last week, Google’s Alphabet Inc announced it had achieved a breakthrough in computing research by using their quantum processor, Sycamore to pass a complex test that took it only 200 seconds to solve. This means, that ‘quantum supremacy’ was reached. It is said that this action with a supercomputer would take up to 10,000 years to finish. Not long after this announcement that was published in Nature, IBM quickly addressed that the same case could be performed on a classical system in 2.5 days with greater fidelity.

This news caused preemptive stress in the blockchain/crypto community. It has been said in the past that Quantum computers are the Achilles’ heel of Bitcoin and the whole crypto industry, let’s decrypt what exactly Quantum computing is.  

What you need to know

Understanding Quantum is a nightmare. Google, IBM and some other start-ups, such as D-Wave, have invested in the next generation of supercomputers. This is a race to the finish line because when successful, these machines will be able to help solve problems like modeling complex chemical processes that our existing computer can’t solve now.  With the use of subatomic particles, they can operate quickly with the use of less energy compared to a classic computer. Computers now use bits. A bit is a single piece of information that can exist in two states – 1 or 0. Quantum computing will use quantum bits also known as qubits. This means that they can store much more information because they exist in a superposition of these values.

This is a simple explanation, and still, it’s quite hard to understand exactly what distinguishes this technology, but it will, when completed revolutionize computer intelligence. 

This doesn’t sound like it has anything to do with crypto. Well, in a way it does, because people are scared that this will override our crypto technology and since there ‘are only’ 3 million Bitcoins left to mine, that this quantum machine would be able to mine bitcoins quickly, causing havoc for anyone who has ever invested in Bitcoin.  It is also said that the quantum computer may be able to deduce the private key of an address only by seeing its public key. 

What are the pros of quantum? 

We do not have a lot of information on quantum. Based on what we do know, these are the benefits

  • It will be able to perform any task faster as compared to a classical computer.
  • The qubits make it a convectional superposition.  
  • Will help speed up the development of drugs which will improve the chemical industry.
  • Quantum computers can be used in cryptography for more secure data encryptions.

What are the cons of quantum?

  • It’s expensive. Most small businesses may not be able to afford this machine, which means mass adaptation is far away.
  • Quantum computing will make every computer on the planet including ones with nuclear codes a chance to get hacked, making its ability to ‘break Bitcoin’ the least of our concerns.

The future

We are unaware of what the future holds for Quantum. There are currently a lot of errors, an example is that the period that the scientists are able to keep qubits in a quantum state for a fraction of a second. This means that it’s too short of a period to run a full algorithm.

For Bitcoin owners, it is important to note that if smaller systems will most probably be broken before quantum going after Bitcoin which will alert researchers and let them know when to panic.

That being said, David Chaum, creator of Praxxis said that he believes that proof-of-work systems will be more resistant to quantum attacks even if wallets and keys may not be. “The hashing algorithms in Proof of Work (PoW) protocols that require mining are generally resistant to quantum computing,” he said. “The more likely angle of attack for an adversary with a quantum computer is to break the security of wallets in PoW or Proof of Stake (PoS) protocols.”

But he also said, “One day soon, a quantum computer capable of using Shor’s algorithm to defeat many cryptosystems will be produced. The blockchain community would be foolish to ignore this threat until that day comes.

The NSA directed government agencies to halt work on quantum-susceptible cryptosystems more than four years ago. The NSA is taking quantum computing seriously. So should we.”

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