It’s easy to argue that the microprocessor, or silicon chip, has radically changed the world around us. Yet since its inception in 1947 the fundamental technology itself has barely changed at all. That might all be about to change, however, with a huge impact on the future of work. Enter Quantum computing.
Let me get the techy bit out of the way first; modern computer processors, found in your smartphone and laptop, function using what’s called the binary system which works in bits, 1’s or 0’s, on or off, each representing a single piece of data. Still with me? Good, because this is where things start to get odd. Quantum computers differ from regular computers in that they work via a principle of quantum mechanics called “super positioning”, this means these ‘qubits’ (quantum bits, imaginative I know), can be 1’s and 0’s or any position in the middle at the same time. This theoretically should allow a quantum computer to perform a vastly greater number of calculations simultaneously, than can be achieved by a conventional computer processor.
If at this point if I’ve managed to lose you, don’t panic, because as the theoretical physicist and Quantum computing pioneer Richard Feynman said, ‘If you think you understand quantum mechanics, then you don’t understand quantum mechanics.’
Research into Quantum computing has, until recently, consisted of computer scientist’s in Universities around the world beavering away largely in isolation however the big guns of the technology world including IBM, Microsoft, Google and Intel have now brought themselves to bear on the challenge. IBM, and recently Intel have announced that they have created 17-qubit computer chips (more qubits mean more power) whilst Google are aiming to produce a 49-qubit processor by the end of 2017, which will mean that Quantum computers will have surpassed the processing power of standard computers, a point Google has christened “Quantum supremacy”.
The bottom line is that Quantum computing is going to drastically increase the computer power that we have at our disposal. This increase in power isn’t without its limitations though. Currently, in order to function, a quantum computer needs to be cooled to 15 millikelvin, or -273.14 degrees Celsius (colder than the space between galaxies), which means Quantum computers will be restricted to purpose built facilities for the foreseeable. Despite these physical restrictions, Quantum computers could help to solve a wide range of problems such as discovering new antibiotics, producing a greater understanding of climate change, creating unhackable cybersecurity and assisting in the development of Artificial Intelligence. As result quantum computing will have a major impact on the work force of the future and may potentially result in many administrative ‘white collar jobs‘, which are currently carried out by your fellow humans, being taken over by intelligent machines.
The Future of Work
Should that be the case, does Quantum computing spell doom for workers en-mass, and should we stop investing in our people ahead of this possible cataclysm? The short answer… No.
Humans aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and as Quantum computing becomes main stream and increasingly takes over technical and administrative jobs, for more and more companies the focus will need to shift away from employees performing administrative tasks, to employees providing incredible face-to-face customer experiences in order to maintain their competitive advantage. This change will be reliant on enabling every employee to develop amazing people and interpersonal skills.
At NKD, we may not be quantum physicists, but we do know what makes people tick – so if you want to give your people the right skills to keep ahead of the quantum computing curve, get in touch.