The “holy grail” of computer technology is slowly but surely making its way to reality. Known as “quantum computers”, the technology utilizes advanced physics to allow information to be calculated at an extremely rapid rate by using the combination of two “quantum states” of matter. Delving into the technology a bit further, the best way to understand the basic concept of quantum computing is to compare it to our current mode of processing. As of today, computers use a concept known as “bits” to represent 1’s and 0’s, which in turn are what comprise the machine language used by computers to process data. Quantum computers on the other hand are not limited to just two states of matter and instead are designed to take advantage of those two quantum states mentioned earlier. Known as, “superposition” and “entanglement” these relatively obscure terms, you may recall from your college physics classes, represent the future of computation. Without going too deeply into the science behind the technology, quantum computers function by utilizing “qubits”, that unlike regular bits, can exist in multiple states simultaneously. (Don’t feel bad if your brain just exploded after reading that.) This allows unheard of speeds when compared to today’s technology and could potentially cause a massive upset in the world financial sector when applied to everything from the stock market to Bitcoin mining.
Right now, there are mixed sentiments about what quantum computing is going to mean for the crypto-currency industry. Some analysts are predicting that the difficulty in developing the hardware and software is going to prevent a major upset in the industry any time soon. Whereas others are predicting that, with so much money currently on the line, it is only a matter of time before an intrepid millionaire or large corporation decides to dump a huge amount of dollars into the pursuit of a quantum mining system. While it is a matter of speculation to assume that it is only a matter of time before quantum computing enters the scene and developers begin to investigate methods for the application of these super computers, the possibility remains that it will happen.
As a general assumption, it is a fairly safe bet to believe that mainstream users are not going to be able to access the technology that is going to be needed in order to implement a cost-effective Bitcoin mining strategy in the next decade. With that taken into consideration and combined with analyst predictions that the entire Bitcoin eco-system is unsustainable due to the limited amount of available coins, the staggering energy costs required to mine, and the costs associated with constantly updating hardware in order to remain competitive – the future of Bitcoin and other similar crypto-currencies remains murky at best.
Another application proposed for quantum computing is their ability to crack complex algorithms intended to prevent hackers from taking over Bitcoin wallets from other users. With this level of computational ability, it will be interesting to see what happens if an advanced hacker or cut-throat company decides to throw caution to the wind and begin forcing their way into thousands of Bitcoin wallets. Thanks to the anonymous nature of Bitcoin, the risk associated with such tactics is extremely low.
Furthermore, Intel recently dropped $50 million worth of investment capital towards quantum computer research and is not expecting a “fully functioning quantum computer for at least another 12 years”. If that prediction ends up being true, Bitcoin miners still have some time before the industry ends up being dominated by whatever company develops the software and hardware required to decrypt the complex algorithms needed in order to generate Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies. This will basically spell doom for independent miners that do not have millions of dollars to invest in setting up their own quantum systems while they wait for the technology to become affordable. With billions of dollars at stake, it is a sure-fire bet that someone is going to put the effort into developing the technology to this end.
In conclusion, while quantum computer is making rapid progress towards becoming a realistic technology, it is going to be quite a long time before any single company has access to even a rudimentary, fully-functional system, and an even longer time before the technology makes it to the mainstream Bitcoin mining community. Quantum computers are definitely going to create a number of issues for crypto-currency and cryptography in general that are going to need to be addressed before any single entity can move forward with any degree of rapidity.
Because the technology is going to be gradually introduced over a long period of time, this will allow the developers of Bitcoin and alternative, future crypto-currencies to devise strategies that will allow them to take into consideration and negate any considerable benefits for firms that can afford to deploy such expensive systems. However, this does not take into consideration the fact that one of the prime motivators of mankind is in and of itself greed and wherever there is a “quick buck” to be had, you can bet someone is going to be reaching for that low hanging fruit.