Algorithmic Warfare: New computer makes quantum leap in computing power
433 qubit chip from IBM Osprey
New York, New York – As the world grapples with how to take advantage of emerging quantum computing technologies, IBM recently unveiled its most advanced computer ever — breaking its own world record in the process.
Introduced at the annual IBM Quantum Summit in New York, the Osprey computer has more than three times the processing power of the previous model. While quantum advances are expected to affect all industries, the technology could have unique implications for how nations defend themselves, researchers said at the recent summit.
Quantum computers use fundamental units known as qubits, as opposed to the ones and zeros used by traditional computers. Computing power comes from the potential for each qubit to be 1 and 0 at the same time, rather than being limited to one or the other.
At 433 qubits, IBM’s Osprey is the world’s largest quantum computer, surpassing what was once the world’s largest system, IBM’s 127-qubit computer Eagle.
“We live in a time when computing with a capital C, as I like to call it, is undergoing one of the most exciting moments since the advent of digital computing in the 1940s,” said Dario Gil, senior vice president and director of IBM Research.
“There is an undeniable amount of technological advancement that is taking place and the pace is only accelerating,” he said during the summit.
The creation of larger quantum computers increases the computer’s ability to solve complex problems. However, stringing more qubits together creates more “noise,” a term that means a disturbance in the state of the bits in the computer, affecting the outcome of the calculations performed on them.
The more bits are error-free, the closer the quantum computer comes to its full potential. In addition to bug issues, current quantum computers are prohibitively large, and researchers continue to work to increase processing power while reducing size.
Some of the progress for quantum computing is coming from new hardware being developed by IBM, including new cabling that helps with temperature control, said Jerry Chow, manager of IBM’s Experimental Quantum Computing Division.
This new hardware will enable the next scale-up of computers in the next few years, he said. IBM’s 1,121-qubit Condor is expected to be unveiled next year, and its 1,386-qubit Flamingo the following year.
While quantum computing has not yet reached its full potential, it still has national security implications today.
For example, Oak Ridge National Laboratory uses IBM’s Qiskit quantum computing software, said Travis Campbell, director of the lab’s Quantum Computing Institute. The lab oversees national security science areas such as nuclear non-proliferation and cyber resilience and intelligence, and performs more than 1 million executions per month on the system.
“Quantum computing is one of those emerging technologies that we see tremendous value in, whether it’s chemical computation, materials science, modeling, new types of catalysts, or the development of new types of superconductors,” he said during the summit.
Additionally, as quantum technology advances, new threats to national security could emerge, said Ray Harishankar, a fellow for QuantumSafe at IBM.
Most encryptions are based on complicated algorithms. Encryption is secure because it would take hackers too long to guess the key using a traditional computer. But when a hacker harnesses the processing power of quantum, it makes the key much easier to understand, bypassing encryption and gaining access to protected communications.
Several companies, including IBM, are developing encryption that will protect sensitive information from attackers who may have access to quantum computers in the future, Harishankar said.
While noting that organizations like the World Economic Forum and the National Security Administration foresee a “danger zone” for quantum cryptography in the early 2030s, he said it can take several years to even use an algorithm to protect critical infrastructure.
“You have to realize that you have to get them on the production line several years in advance. It cannot be thought today and implemented tomorrow,” he added.
But the technology still has a long way to go before it is widely applicable in every field. Quantum researchers from companies thronging to the annual Quantum Summit have been encouraged to champion quantum in their workplaces.
The field is still waiting for the moment of “quantum advantage,” said Campbell of Oak Ridge National Lab.
“It comes with this demonstration that we can use quantum computing to drive scientific discovery or innovation or whatever your personal goals are,” he said. “But to demonstrate that experimentally, that’s a clear priority for us for what’s next.”
IBM believes it can achieve this advance by collaborating with partner organizations through its quantum computing network, Gil said. According to IBM, the company’s network has grown to more than 200 partners, including Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
“When you see the energy and enthusiasm we all experience in the world of quantum, how much appetite there is to learn, to contribute and to shift careers into this new realm, you know that together we are making something real tackle big,” Gil said.
Subjects: Infotech, new technologies, cyber