Realizing the Potential of Quantum Information Processing
The quantum computing system heralds the first fundamental change in the nature of computing since the age of modern computing dawned with the Turing machine The natural parallelism of superposition enables, in principle, computations to be carried out that are not now, or ever will be, practical with classical systems. For example, the application to factoring large numbers would have a revolutionary impact on cryptography. But in practice other applications, many as yet unrecognized, are likely to have an even bigger impact; for example, the ability to extract a single entry, fast, from a large database of unordered information would have a major impact on fields like feature (e.g. fingerprint) recognition, language translation and speech recognition by corpora matching, and the many-body problem (e.g. air traffic control) to name but a few. However, industrial economics dictates that a new approach is unlikely to obtain a market hold unless and until the benefit is very significant. In early applications the quantum computer might be used as a type of co-processor to the established classical hardware. But these will not take off in commercial terms until the number of qubits that can be processed provides a system that has indisputable benefits over the classical approach. This implies that there would be no mass market for normal computational purposes until the systems can handle large decimal numbers. (The actual number of qubits needed will probably be determined as much by the error correction requirements as by the numerical size of the task).
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