Quantum computing and Bitcoin are a hot topic in today’s digital landscape. Google has claimed ‘quantum supremacy’ on its Sycamore quantum processor. The term ‘quantum supremacy’ indicates a milestone in revolutionizing data processing where quantum computers solve problems that far outclass classical computers.
Complex mathematical computations require complex machines, as is already evident with Bitcoin. This demands higher processing power as mining gets more laborious every day. Because of these recent advancements, quantum computing and Bitcoin have appeared on the front pages around the world. Let’s dive right into it.
Reportedly, Google’s Sycamore completed a calculation in 200 seconds, a feat that would take classical supercomputers a staggering 10,000 years to deliver similar results. This could mean the hitherto theoretical concept of quantum computation is on its way to becoming a reality.
The move into the era of quantum computers could open up a world of possibilities for both the better and worse. At this stage, Sycamore can run apps for random number generation, computing Artificial Intelligence and materials science.
The capacity of quantum computing to quickly solve complex mathematical problems presents a concern to the members of the interwebs. IBM refuting the 10,000-year claim may not be consolation enough.
Allegedly, quantum computation will easily undo RSA encryption, the technology that helps keep secure information on the internet. This would have far-reaching implications on technologies such as Bitcoin and blockchain, whose backbone depends on encryption.
Does then Google’s quantum supremacy spell doom for Bitcoin? Andreas Antonopolous, a figure in the Crypto community, dismissed the fears when asked if Google’s success has any bearing on the future of cryptocurrency.
“Zip, Bupkis, nada, nothing really happens” Antonopolous was quoted on October 10th, days after a paper detailing Google’s achievement was posted online allegedly prematurely.
He went on to explain that the nature of the practical applicability of quantum computers, as demonstrated by Google in the so-called ‘quantum supremacy,’ belongs to problem-solving tasks that are not directly related to breaking cryptography. Therefore, Antonolopous implies that quantum computing and Bitcoin are not mutually exclusive.
In a previous Q&A session on Reddit, Antonopolous expressed confidence that the quantum algorithms, with its present technology, cannot break Bitcoin hashes. His opinion seems to be confirmed by physicist John Preskill – an active contributor to quantum computing – who states that Google’s ‘quantum supremacy’ is not yet ready to handle tasks with real-life implications.
In his column on Quanta Magazine, Preskill explained that the technology could still be decades away from achieving a meaningful effect on society. He argues that qubit – used in quantum computations as opposed to bits in classical computing – is unstable and could lead to the loss of data.
This situation prompts the need for error-correction techniques which are currently unavailable. Before achieving this, it may be problematic to scale quantum computers given that the potency of the technology relies on high quantum volumes. Both quantum computing and Bitcoin have scaling limitations that have to be fixed for the optimum functioning of the technologies.
Bitcoin, with its breakthrough blockchain technology, is not the only field that stands to lose if Quantum computation exceeds the limits foreseen in its development.
By effortlessly unmasking encryption keys, other fields such as cybersecurity, virtual identification systems, privacy, and e-commerce could be undone in a matter of minutes. As such, private actors and governments are actively developing programs that are ‘quantum-proof resistant’ and ‘post-quantum algorithms.’
In fact, Google is conducting joint research with Cloudfare on the same. Even better, quantum computers can create more complex codes that could pave the way for quantum blockchain.
Therefore, if Google’s ‘quantum supremacy’ is a security threat, it is not mainly directed at Bitcoin and the blockchain.