Quantum computing is an emerging technology field that allows for computers to solve hyper-complex problems that are impossible on modern-day machines.
The concept is leveraging the roots and properties of quantum mechanics – the fundamental theory in physics that describes the physical properties of reality at subatomic levels.
Serious headway has been made over the last decade in determining the properties and mechanics of reality at the subatomic level, properties that differ significantly from classical physics and have actually led to a failure in the Standard Model.
Nevertheless, the exponential growth rate in technology has allowed for deeper computation to be conducted at the quantum level, leading the world towards fully capable quantum computers.
Major players that are involved in the research and development of quantum computing include many heavy hitters in tech, such as:
As the idea and momentum behind the metaverse continues to take hold, leaders within the tech sector such as Intel’s Raja Koduri stated in an interview with Quartz in December 2021 that the metaverse requires computer chips to have 1,000x the power to support the demands of a true metaverse.
Quantum computing is the natural progression in technological development necessary to achieve these requirements.
Present Day Computing Power
In 1965, Gordon Moore released a paper that famously predicted the exponential growth of transistors that could be packed into an integrated circuit – saying that this number would roughly double every 18 months.
This prediction has rung true for decades now, with the growth in computational power rising considerably. The world has seen an increase in the number of transistors per integrated circuit, rising from roughly 2,300 to over 50 billion transistors in the world’s most capable computers – an increase of over 2 billion percent. The problem here is that exponential growth cannot increase forever and Moore’s Law is no different. We have already begun to observe the slowdown in computing growth.
The End of Moore’s Law
There are multiple elements working against the continued hypergrowth of computational power. The first of these is the physical limitation of integrated circuit sizes. The technology can only go so small before it is impossible to shrink any further. Only so many transistors can be packed onto an ever-increasingly small space.
The other key limitation that computers are facing now is the physical limitations of reality, or better put, the speed of light. In essence, the electrons powering computers can only move so fast through matter. This means that computational speeds have a literal speed limit through traditional computing.
This leads directly into the motivations behind the rise of quantum computing and how researchers are hopeful it could provide a workaround.
Overview of Quantum Computing
Quantum computing is introducing a sophisticated new method in making parallel calculations using computing units called qubits. In traditional computing, bits are either on or off, one or zero. Qubits have the ability to exist in an “in between” state rather than a distinct on or off, allowing quantum computers to be exponentially faster at complex calculations.
This “in between” state is known in quantum physics as superposition. For particles, superposition means that one proton could simultaneously exist in two different states at once. This plays into the thought experiment behind Schrödinger’s cat & the Copenhagen Interpretation. The concept has also often been applied to photons (particles of light) acting as both a particle and a wave. This was physically demonstrated in the double slit experiment.
Additionally, another important concept to note here is that of quantum entanglement. This is when two or more particles are in a single quantum state. For instance, using a particle accelerator, scientists were able to demonstrate this concept physically. Take two different protons that are in a state of quantum entanglement. Because they are entangled, any changes to one proton will instantaneously create the exact same effect in the opposite proton, no matter the distance between them. So, two particles that are entangled could theoretically share information instantaneously, quite literally outpacing the speed of light.
This is precisely what quantum computing is intending to leverage. A future quantum computer utilizing highly conductive nanomaterials (such as graphene or carbon nanotubes) could use the properties of quantum mechanics (superposition and entanglement) to solve hyper complex computational problems that traditional computers could never solve.
Quantum Computing & the Metaverse
The sheer demand of computational power and processing speeds that a full metaverse would require is unfathomable in terms of today’s computing limitations. Running a global metaverse is nothing short of literally powering a world-wide simulation. The metaverse will be tasked with powering a seemingly infinite number of worlds across the entire globe for billions of users in a three dimensional, highly interactive virtual space.
Thus, coming back around to Koduri’s comments about needing 1,000x the power, to truly build out the metaverse requires a high level of innovation in other fields. Luckily, the demand for computing power is increasing at a profound rate which is leading to a high level of investment into the concept of quantum computing and nanotechnology.
A number of powerful technology companies have been conducting research on the issue, including:
- Microsoft through the Azure Quantum project
- IBM’s Quantum systems division
- Publications on quantum computing from Google Research
- Quantum research from Intel Labs
Increasing complexity in the applications and networks we develop requires an evolution in both computational abilities but also security. Unfortunately, quantum computing unlocks new problems for cryptographic hash functions that power the world’s leading cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Bitcoin’s security model relies on the computations necessary to mine blocks and use the network to be difficult to solve. Quantum computers would be able to solve these hash problems exponentially faster than normal machines.
Thus, Quantum computers powering the metaverse will have to leverage quantum-resistant security protocols and blockchains. For the metaverse to be successful and have longevity, security of the system must be considered a critical priority.
There are a high number of complex innovations that must occur for the metaverse to develop in the way many are envisioning. Quantum computing is arguably one of the most critical to long term metaverse development. At this point in modern history, humanity is experiencing rapid expansions in computer science and quantum mechanics that is allowing for research to be conducted and progress to be made.
As Microsoft says, quantum mechanics is the underlying “operating system” of the universe and is being used here to break through physical barriers in computing. It serves as a good model for something like the metaverse – nature requires immensely complex chemical & biological reactions, material formations, & other processes that take place through a seemingly infinite amount of individual data points (starting with plancks all the way up through atoms, particles, etc). The metaverse will require a similar level of complexity that quantum computers will undoubtedly help us achieve in the future.