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What is Quantum Computing?

A quantum computer is a highly-advanced computer system that works exponentially faster than today’s conventional computers. Quantum computing is the practice of studying quantum computers and their potential. This practice is growing and has caused the rapid decrease in the size of computers at the same time as these systems are rapidly increasing in their capability. However, quantum computers are still being developed and have not yet become accessible.

What is a quantum computer?

A quantum computer is an advanced computer system. Quantum computing studies theoretical computation systems which use quantum-mechanical phenomena (e.g., superposition, entanglement) to perform data operations.  While the average computer’s memory is made up of bits, a quantum computer’s memory is made up of qubits.  A regular computer saves information in binary form using zeroes and ones, which are called bits. These strings of numbers, which are comprised of 0s and 1s, create codes that instruct the computer on how to proceed. However, a qubit in a quantum computer is a particle (e.g., atom, electron, photon) which is manipulated to store information. It is a two-state quantum-mechanical system, such as the polarization of a single photon, which can be vertical and horizontal polarization.  So, the particle is manipulated in its quantum properties, like its spin or polarization, and can have multiple properties. Because of the flexibility and variation of qubits, more information can be stored on a quantum computer. Most importantly, information can be processed at an exponentially faster rate. For example, a problem that would take a conventional computer several minutes to solve due it its complexity, could be solved in less than a second by a quantum computer. This is because today’s conventional computers must go through each problem one step at a time, where a quantum computer has the ability to solve multiple problems instantaneously.

What are the legal ramifications of quantum computing?

Quantum computers have the ability to affect many industries, including, but not limited to, technology, financial, pharmaceutical, and automotive sectors.  The positive effects of quantum computers seem real and exciting. For example, new scientific discoveries can bring valuable benefits towards society.  However, the regulation of this new technology is a major concern.  This is especially true because quantum computers are able to decipher (i.e., decrypt) encrypted information at a remarkable speed.  This can lead to privacy concerns when the confidential information of consumers has been uploaded onto the cloud, with the assumption that it is safe because it is encrypted.  In other words, communications between consumers and financial institutions could be accessed by anyone with a quantum computer.

One question is whether the National Security Agency should be permitted to use quantum computers in order to gain access to information? At this time, Google is probably working on methods to repel the attack of the NSA quantum computer. What happens if a quantum computer is used to hack into third-party computers? These are issues that will be unfolding in the near future.

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