Welcome to the quantum age

The modern world has been shaped by computers. The exponential increase of computing power driven by Moore’s Law, combined with the incredible expansion of data stored in the cloud and developments in machine learning, has led to the rise of AI, which will reshape our world again. And beyond AI and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, quantum computing is now emerging as another significant technology advance that has the potential to fundamentally change our world.

The computing power provided by quantum computing would enable us to make huge strides in understanding and addressing some of the major challenges that we face as a society. By improving our ability to process data about how cancers respond to treatments or how our environment is affected by human activity, this vastly increased computing power will serve as a powerful new tool. However, quantum computers will do more than just improve our ability to run calculations. Because quantum computers are built as quantum systems, they will allow us to model other quantum systems virtually without having to construct them in the real world. This would allow us to easily model the types of experiments currently being conducted in high-energy particle accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, or the types of chemical reactions only currently observable in laboratories, all on a computer. This ability could help us make dramatic progress in, for example, developing a catalyst to remove carbon from the atmosphere, or creating new enzymes to speed food production, or targeting medicine in a highly precise way to treat diseases.

Quantum computing takes a giant leap forward from today’s technology — one that could transform the economic, industrial, academic and societal landscape. It makes use of the way the universe works at the very smallest scale to create a very different type of computer. Where a conventional computer stores information in “bits” in two states, either 1 or 0, a quantum computer uses “qubits” to operate in multiple states at the same time. This ability to encode information in parallel enables quantum computers to solve complex problems in hours or days that would take billions of years using today’s computing techniques.

At Microsoft, we’re taking a three-pronged approach to quantum computing research and development. First, we are pioneering a revolutionary “topological” approach to quantum computing that performs computations longer and more consistently with significantly lower error rates compared with other quantum methods. We’ve also made significant investments in building a global team of researchers who are working at the forefront of quantum research. The team includes some of the leading mathematicians, physicists and computer scientists in the world, bolstered by collaborations with many other across universities and industry. Finally, we are working on every aspect of the quantum computing challenge with the goal of developing a scalable end-to-end quantum computer. This includes developing hardware, software and developer programming tools needed to make quantum computing a reality.

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