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Quantum leap to super computers: The next generation that will make your current laptop look like an abacus

SCIENCE

Quantum Supremacy 

by Michio Kaku (Allen Lane £25, 352pp) 

Here’s a technological advance that will change our lives, make us all richer and healthier and happier and better looking. 

I shall live to 100, climate change will be solved, cancer will be cured, and everything will be for the best in this best of all possible worlds. And if you believe that . . .

Michio Kaku is an American science professor and an arch-populariser of his subject, who has sold so many books over the years that his name appears in larger type than the title on the front cover. 

This one is about quantum computers, the next generation of computer that will make your current laptop look like an abacus and will revolutionise our lives, if only they can sort out a few pesky procedural problems, like making the whole thing work without having to be cooled down to just above absolute zero.

Michio Kaku is an American science professor and an arch-populariser of his subject, who has sold so many books over the years that his name appears in larger type than the title on the front cover Michio Kaku is an American science professor and an arch-populariser of his subject, who has sold so many books over the years that his name appears in larger type than the title on the front cover

Michio Kaku is an American science professor and an arch-populariser of his subject, who has sold so many books over the years that his name appears in larger type than the title on the front cover

Current computers operate on tiny transistors imprinted on the smallest slices of silicon you can possibly imagine. 

Quantum computers will compute, says Kaku, on the tiniest possible object, the atoms themselves. Perhaps sensibly, he doesn’t even try to explain it in detail.

What we do learn is that all the tech giants are pouring billions into researching and building their own quantum computers: Google, IBM, Microsoft, Intel, Honeywell.

Says Kaku: ‘Predictions are being revised all the time to match the unprecedented speed of scientific discovery in this field.’

In other words, we haven’t a clue.

Google has revealed that its Sycamore quantum computer could solve a mathematical problem in 200 seconds that would take 10,000 years on the world’s fastest supercomputer. 

As a glimpse into the future, it's undeniably fascinating, yet also frustrating, as for now it's all little more than well-informed speculation As a glimpse into the future, it's undeniably fascinating, yet also frustrating, as for now it's all little more than well-informed speculation

As a glimpse into the future, it’s undeniably fascinating, yet also frustrating, as for now it’s all little more than well-informed speculation 

Kaku's book is really an extended exercise in hi-tech wish fulfilment, with each chapter detailing a currently intractable problem that the quantums 'may' be able to solve Kaku's book is really an extended exercise in hi-tech wish fulfilment, with each chapter detailing a currently intractable problem that the quantums 'may' be able to solve

Kaku’s book is really an extended exercise in hi-tech wish fulfilment, with each chapter detailing a currently intractable problem that the quantums ‘may’ be able to solve 

Meanwhile, the Quantum Innovation Institute at the Chinese Academy of Sciences says its quantum computer is 100 trillion times faster than an ordinary supercomputer.

So if we can’t understand it, we have to take it on trust, which I think suits Kaku too, as he spends most of the book telling us what extraordinary achievements these machines ‘may’ do. Problems will be solvable that simply haven’t been until now.

It’s not the same as AI, but quantum computers could work together with AI to help cure diseases such as motor neurone and Parkinson’s. 

That’s not ‘treat’, that’s cure, possibly at the very earliest stages before symptoms occur.

Kaku’s book is really an extended exercise in hi-tech wish fulfilment, with each chapter detailing a currently intractable problem that the quantums ‘may’ be able to solve.

As a glimpse into the future, it’s undeniably fascinating, yet also frustrating, as for now it’s all little more than well-informed speculation. 

The book is beautifully written, though, and Kaku’s sheer enthusiasm could probably light a small town.

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