Quantum computing is quickly becoming a reality and will change the cryptocurrency world forever. Eventually, Bitcoin and all other cryptocurrencies will potentially be compromised by the advent of quantum computers; the cryptography securing modern day cryptocurrencies will be quite susceptible to quantum attacks and experts think this is inevitable in the future.
Classical computers function by using bits, which can be represented as 0 or 1. A quantum computer uses qubits (quantum bits) which can be represented as a 0 or 1 or superposition of those two quantum states. Quantum superposition is a fundamental principle of quantum mechanics and states that any two quantum states can be superposed and be another valid quantum state.
A quantum computer with a pair of qubits can be in any superposition of 4 states, and three qubits can be in 8 states, and so and so forth at 2^n quantum states where n is the number of qubits in a quantum processor. This is drastically different than classical computers which only have two states to work with; quantum computers can essentially have infinite states, and if this were to be harnessed properly this could mean infinitely more processing power than classical computers.
Right now quantum computing is in its infancy, but important scientific milestones have been reached which have resulted in the first quantum computers. In March 2018 Google Quantum AI Lap announced the creation of a 72 qubit processor called Bristlecone, which would have an incredible 4.72 X 10^21 quantum superposition states. China is building a 10 billion USD quantum computing laboratory which has the potential to massively accelerate the evolution of quantum computers, this is far more money than the 200 million USD per year the United States spends on quantum computing research.
A quantum computer of sufficiently large size, 128^3 basic quantum operations, could obtain a private key from a Bitcoin public key using Shor’s algorithm. It is estimated that a quantum computer with 1500 qubits is what’s required to break Bitcoin’s cryptography; it is not known how long it will take for such a computer to be developed but some estimates say Bitcoin will be safe until 2030-2040. One study says that the elliptic curve signature scheme of Bitcoin will be completely broken by quantum computers as early as 2027.
The experts agree that quantum computing won’t destroy modern-day cryptocurrencies in the short-term, but they also agree that in the long term it is inevitable. The best solution, according to researchers at the University of Wellington in New Zealand, is an intrinsically quantum blockchain created from quantum information and integrated into a quantum network. They say that all the necessary sub-components to build a quantum blockchain already exist.
This technology will be so completely different from a classical blockchain that Bitcoin’s protocol and blockchain will have to be completely abandoned as there is no way to hard fork it into a quantum protocol. Quantum cryptography is one of the most advanced fields in quantum science and will provide the building blocks for a quantum cryptocurrency.
Although there will be a lot of turbulence during the transition from classical to quantum cryptocurrency, it will be a very positive paradigm shift since cryptocurrency will be more secure and faster than ever before by orders of magnitude.
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