The Quantum Internet: What's In Store For Us?

Category: Future Tech

Today is the last day of 2018, so it seems fitting to look ahead to the future. What will the future of the Internet look like? How will advances in physics affect computers, networking, encryption, and privacy? Let's look ahead to the Quantum Internet…

Quantum Computing and The Internet of the Future

Quantum physics describes a strange world that exists at the level of the very small; we’re talking atoms and sub-atomic particles such as photons. As the basic components of computers keep shrinking – a transistor can now be only 5 nanometers wide – it seems inevitable that we will end up computing in the quantum realm. What will that mean for ordinary users and for the companies that serve their computing needs?

Two aspects of quantum mechanics are especially relevant to computing and the Internet. The first is the principle of “superposition,” which states that a quantum-scale object can simultaneously be in multiple states such as up, down, or infinite combinations of those two states. Many readers are familiar with “Schrödinger's Cat”, a thought experiment that illustrates superposition. In this experiment, a cat sealed in a box is both alive and dead (and all the infinite combinations of those states) until an observer opens the box to see what state the cat is in.

Writing that that reminded me of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. German physicist Werner Heisenberg stated back in 1927 that the position and the velocity of an object cannot both be measured exactly, at the same time. What does all of this have to do with quantum Internet? I'm not sure, but here's a great video of the physics of falling cats, that brings both of those theories into play.

The Quantum Internet and Falling Cats

I seem to have digressed, so let's get back to the topic at hand. Superposition allows a “qubit” - a quantum bit of information – to have exponentially more values than either 1 or 0 as classical bits have. This property, in turn, allows exponentially more powerful and faster quantum computers that can perform many complex computations in parallel.

Quantum computers will be able to solve problems that are simply beyond the capabilities of the best computers based upon classical binary physics. One such problem is how to crack strong encryption in a reasonable amount of time. Today, we have classical encryption so strong that it would take the NSA hundreds of years to break it; but with quantum computers the job could be done in weeks, days or hours. That’s rather ominous for privacy, but another principle of quantum physics may provide a hack-proof alternative to classical encryption.

The second principle is “entanglement,” which Einstein derided as “spooky action at a distance,” but which modern physicists have found actually exists. When a pair of quantum objects are entangled, changes in the state of one object are mirrored in the other instantaneously, no matter how much distance separates them. This 1997 article from the New York Times describes an experiment conducted in Geneva, Switzerland which demonstrated the entanglement principle.

The Implications For Encryption Are Profound

Imagine an information sender, “Alice,” who wishes to communicate securely with “Bob.” She generates a great many pairs of entangled photons and sends one of each pair to him. If the state of any of the sent photons is measured by an eavesdropper (“Eve”) it will not match its counterpart in Alice’s possession when it reaches Bob. Because the photons are entangled,

Alice and Bob will instantly know of Eve’s interference. They will discard any intercepted photons, leaving them with a very long string of photons whose states are known only to them. A super-strong encryption key can be made from such photons. Any message encrypted with it can be decrypted only by Alice or Bob. Hopefully they'll remember where they put all those photons.

Quantum computing and networking will not replace the current system that’s based on classical physics, at least not any time soon. Quantum computers (if and when they materialize) will be enormously expensive, and so will be available to users only through the cloud (“quantum as a service” if you will) and only for tasks that require its revolutionary speed and security. Consumers may encounter quantum computing and networking in financial applications. Scientific researchers will share time on quantum computers.

And, of course, there will be rumors that the government is using quantum computing to extend and perfect its surveillance and control of all citizens. We’ll never know if such rumors are true because any evidence will be locked down with quantum encryption.

Looking Backwards and Forward

This reminds me of the early days of mainframe computers. Because they were so enormous and expensive, you couldn't have one on your desk, or even have one all to yourself. In 1978, my high school had a Teletype with a 300-baud modem, which connected over telephone lines to a university mainframe about 30 miles away. I had a lot of fun writing programs in BASIC and FORTRAN, and even got myself into a bit of trouble.

I never dreamed that I would have a personal computer infinitely faster and more powerful right on my desk, or in the palm of my hand. I couldn't have imagined the information, services and opportunities that would become available via the Internet. Likewise, just the thought of quantum computers and quantum networking makes me a little dizzy. Toss in the rapid advances already taking place in artificial intelligence and machine learning, and I can only wonder… will that enormous power be used for good? If not, can we at least solve the mystery of falling cats?

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "The Quantum Internet: What's In Store For Us?"

Posted by:

31 Dec 2018

Our concern should be pointed at AI and not computing power for now. AI could well lead to war or control of people. A pretty scary future awaits us in the next 10 years let alone the next 50.

Posted by:

31 Dec 2018

Cornell University published a comprehensive article on quantum computing combined with artificial intelligence that extends Bob's message and makes some bold predictions for the future. You may enjoy reading it, and don't let the math scare you. It may look complex, but most of the equations are just transformation matrices or vector summations, with fancy Greek symbols for variables to describe a matrix instead of one variable. Pretty simple stuff, actually.

Posted by:

31 Dec 2018

oh, the link:

Posted by:

Jonathan Skrine
31 Dec 2018

The problem is that many of the advances in operating systems take away control rather than improve the end results.

I often have to give up trying to read 'predictive text' ramblings on Facebook etc. and even emails.

When will people take the time and have the manners to actually read what their computer has written?

I know that I am sounding like my grandparents comparing car drivers with horses and carts but when it limits understanding of communication there is no real excuse.

Android, Windows or even Apple, the results are worse than I was getting with Dragon naturally speaking 20 years ago. I gave it up as a bad job and not fit for purpose.

I think I preferred the days of computers taking their own good time and having to take numerous tea breaks during the day waiting for results.

Happy New year Bob and thanks for all the information,


Posted by:

01 Jan 2019

Happy New Year Bob .. this makes you only a little dizzy? My head is spinning!

Posted by:

01 Jan 2019

Just the idea of a bunch of extremely rich, powerful, socialist leftist maniacs screwing around with the world, gives me a panic attack!
God help us!

Posted by:

David Lagesse
01 Jan 2019

It is simple to first shake the box that “Schrödinger's Cat” is in, the cat will then let you know if it is alive or dead.

Posted by:

01 Jan 2019

I still think the S. cat thing is nonsense. Our observation does not change the state the cat is in, but only our perception of that state. As for the possibilities of quantum computing, I would think that we could eliminate wires completely. We only have to know how to build the quantum pairs in discreet locations and use the computer to act on one of the pair. Within the computer this should not be such a huge task, but halfway around the world, the generation of the particles becomes a problem that may never be solved. I'm too old to worry much about all that anyway, and I'm well satisfied with my laptop. Now if Microsoft would quit making their products "better" and more "user friendly" and "intuitive" we might be getting somewhere.

Posted by:

01 Jan 2019

Things would have gotten even more complicated, in the future; if only Heisenberg had done the correct experiment with Schrödinger's Cat. Whereby, he drops the cat from the second story balcony with a slice of buttered-toast strapped to this feline's top-side.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I tried this a few years ago. The cat is still suspended several feet above the ground, constant flipping over and back again, locked in an epic struggle with the toast. I found a way to capture the energy from this perpetual motion machine, and it powers my entire house. Highly recommended!

Posted by:

02 Jan 2019

Hi Bob,
Your thoughts were very interesting in respect the future of the present “Turing” (binary) machines. A possible multi state electronics is not really different number cruncher. And the Artifical Intelligence expression will remain still a good marketing trick. The real deal would be something similar to the human brain. It is a byological material nd operates n the basis of associations. Some call it an sssociative computer. That is not computer of course. It is teached trough many years (around 10-12) till reaches maturity. Interestingly, that is the time till human intelligence develops. After that we humans can be wiser but not more intelligent. So, by and large, in this universe the human brain is the only material that knows about itself and can change by will things around it. It’s development by Mother Nature lasted for a few billion years. An ssociative computer built by humans shall approach that capability to call it artificial intelligence. An the abstract mathematical background seems to be today will be based on associations, not number systems. Just some thoughts.
Thanks Bob for your interesting mind blowing.
Michael Kovacs

Posted by:

Richard Alan Dengrove
03 Jan 2019

I wonder whether the principles of Quantum Mechanics can be simplified into common sense. Heisenberg's Principle of Uncertainty Can. The reason we cannot know the position and speed of a quantum at the same time is a quantum is so light a photon can knock it off course.

Posted by:

Richard Alan Dengrove
03 Jan 2019

I wonder whether the principles of Quantum Mechanics can be simplified into common sense. Heisenberg's Principle of Uncertainty Can. The reason we cannot know the position and speed of a quantum at the same time is a quantum is so light a photon can knock it off course.

Posted by:

11 Jan 2019

Shame on you and them for the cat torture. He should have dropped the kid a bunch of times instead.

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