The Animated Map of Quantum Computing: A Visual Introduction to the Future of Computing

If you lis­ten to the hype sur­round­ing quan­tum com­put­ing, you might think the near future shown in Alex Gar­land’s sci-fi series Devs is upon us — that we have com­put­ers com­plex enough to recre­ate time and space and recon­struct the human mind. Far from it. At this still-ear­ly stage, quan­tum com­put­ers promise much more than they can deliv­er, but the tech­nol­o­gy is “poised,” writes IBM “to trans­form the way you work in research.” The com­pa­ny does have — as do most oth­er oth­er big mak­ers of what are now called “clas­si­cal com­put­ers” — a “roadmap” for imple­ment­ing quan­tum com­put­ing and a lot of cool new tech­nol­o­gy (such as the quan­tum run­time envi­ron­ment Quiskit) built around the qubit, the quan­tum com­put­er ver­sion of the clas­si­cal bit.

The com­put­er bit, as we know, is a bina­ry enti­ty: either 1 or 0 and noth­ing in-between. The qubit, on the oth­er hand, mim­ics quan­tum phe­nom­e­na by remain­ing in a state of super­po­si­tion of all pos­si­ble states between 1 and 0 until users inter­act with it, like a spin­ning coin that only lands on one face if it’s phys­i­cal­ly engaged. And like quan­tum par­ti­cles, qubits can become entan­gled with each oth­er. Thus, “Quan­tum com­put­ers work excep­tion­al­ly well for mod­el­ing oth­er quan­tum sys­tems,” writes Microsoft, “because they use quan­tum phe­nom­e­na in their com­pu­ta­tion.” The pos­si­bil­i­ties are thrilling, and a lit­tle unset­tling, but no one’s mod­el­ing the uni­verse, or even a part of it, just quite yet.

“Use cas­es are large­ly exper­i­men­tal and hypo­thet­i­cal at this ear­ly stage,” McK­in­sey Dig­i­tal writes in a report for busi­ness­es, while also not­ing that usable quan­tum sys­tems may be on the mar­ket as ear­ly as 2030. If the roadmaps serve, that’s just around the cor­ner, espe­cial­ly giv­en how quick­ly quan­tum com­put­ers have evolved in rela­tion to their (expo­nen­tial­ly slow­er) clas­si­cal fore­bears. “From the first idea of a quan­tum com­put­er in 1980 [an idea attrib­uted to Nobel prize-win­ning physi­cist Richard Feyn­man] to today, there has been a huge growth in the quan­tum com­put­ing indus­try, espe­cial­ly in the last ten years,” says Dominic Wal­li­man in the video above, “with dozens of com­pa­nies and star­tups spend­ing hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in a race to build the world’s best quan­tum com­put­ers.”

Wal­li­man offers not only a (non-hyped) map of the pos­si­ble future, but also a map of quan­tum com­put­ing’s past. He promis­es to clear up mis­con­cep­tions we might have about the “dif­fer­ent kinds of quan­tum com­put­ing, how they work, and why so many peo­ple are invest­ing in the quan­tum com­put­ing indus­try.” We’ve pre­vi­ous­ly seen Wal­li­man’s Domain of Sci­ence chan­nel do the same for such huge fields of sci­en­tif­ic study as physics, chem­istry, math, and clas­si­cal com­put­er sci­ence. Here, he presents cut­ting-edge sci­ence on the cusp of real­iza­tion, explain­ing three essen­tial ideas — super­po­si­tion, entan­gle­ment, and inter­fer­ence — that gov­ern quan­tum com­put­ing. The pri­ma­ry dif­fer­ence between quan­tum and clas­si­cal com­put­ing from the point of view of non-spe­cial­ists is algo­rith­mic speed: while clas­si­cal com­put­ers could the­o­ret­i­cal­ly per­form the same com­plex func­tions as their quan­tum cousins, they would take ages to do so, or would halt and fiz­zle out in the attempt.

Will quan­tum com­put­ers be able to sim­u­late nature down to the sub­atom­ic lev­el in the future? McK­in­sey cau­tions, “experts are still debat­ing the most foun­da­tion­al top­ics for the field.” Despite the indus­try’s rapid growth, “it’s not yet clear,” Wal­li­man says, “which approach” among the many he sur­veys “will win out in the long run.” But if the roadmaps serve, we may not have to wait long to find out.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Map of Com­put­er Sci­ence: New Ani­ma­tion Presents a Sur­vey of Com­put­er Sci­ence, from Alan Tur­ing to “Aug­ment­ed Real­i­ty”

The Map of Physics: Ani­ma­tion Shows How All the Dif­fer­ent Fields in Physics Fit Togeth­er

The Map of Chem­istry: New Ani­ma­tion Sum­ma­rizes the Entire Field of Chem­istry in 12 Min­utes

The Map of Math­e­mat­ics: Ani­ma­tion Shows How All the Dif­fer­ent Fields in Math Fit Togeth­er

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • Daniel Wolf Hohener says:

    So… Quan­tum Physics explained in lamans terms as 3 types of switch­es and a whole bunch of pos­si­bil­i­ties is real­ly a lot eas­i­er to under­stand than i orig­i­nal­ly thought it to be a big com­plex wiring prob­lem but in fact your map makes quan­tum physics to be under­stood sim­ply attain­able com­pu­ta­tions all at the same time while on mul­ti­ple dif­fer­ent lev­els. Sounds like Hebrewic Qha­bala the roadmap to con­scious­ness … The music of the spheres … 10 seferoth,… 22 paths in between … All mak­ing 32 states of con­scious­ness,… Or even more… Quan­tum physics fits in that divine tree some­where… Keter i think… An Soph An An… Thanky­ou for the video you made i learned a lot about sci­ence and com­pu­ta­tions alla physics… Quan­tum Physics is cool… I hope you make more edu­ca­tion­al videos to add to your grow­ing sci­ences col­lec­tion you already have made… Thanky­ou for shar­ing friend … Daniel Wolf Hohen­er

  • Michael Bond says:

    Some­one knows their stuff 😀

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