The Trump administration’s 2021 budget request contains $237 million in funding to support quantum information research. Quantum information science harnesses the behavior of particles to make calculations in fundamentally new ways. Of that, the US Department of Energy has requested $25 million to accelerate the development of a quantum internet.
Such a network would leverage the counterintuitive behavior of nature’s particles to manipulate and share information in entirely new ways, with the potential to reinvent fields including cybersecurity and material science.
While the traditional internet for general use isn’t going anywhere, a quantum network would offer decisive advantages for certain applications: Researchers could use it to develop drugs and materials by simulating atomic behavior on networked quantum computers, for instance, and financial institutions and governments would benefit from next-level cybersecurity. Many countries are pursuing quantum research programs, and with the 2021 budget proposal, the Trump administration seeks to ramp up that effort.
“That level of funding will enable us to begin to develop the groundwork for sophisticated, practical and high-impact quantum networks,” says David Awschalom, a quantum engineer at the University of Chicago. “It’s significant and extremely important.”
After immediate applications such as unbreakable encryptions, he speculates that such a network could also lead to seismic sensors capable of logging the vibration of the planet at the atomic level, but says that the biggest consequences will likely be the ones no one sees coming. He compares the current state of the field to when electrical engineers developed the first transistors and initially used them to improve hearing aids, completely unaware that they were setting off down a path that would someday bring social media and video conferencing.
MacDailyNews Take: There are 3 types of people in this world:
- Those who understand quantum computing.
- Those who do not understand quantum computing.
- And those who simultaneously do and do not understand quantum computing.