Richard Murray is the co-founder and CEO of ORCA Computing. In this interview, we discuss the spooky and baffling effects of quantum mechanics, how ORCA is harnessing these effects to build quantum computers, and why success will be our generation’s moonshot.
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The post-war period has seen an explosion in computing power. The principle underpinning modern digital computers was developed by Alan Turing in 1936 with his paper “On Computable Numbers”. The concept was that programs with instructions would be stored in memory, which would enable the computer to be programmable.
Since then, digital computers have continued to evolve at a pace. Gordon Moore (who was co-founder and CEO of Intel) predicted in 1975 (revising an earlier 1965 prediction) that the number of components in each integrated circuit would double every two years. This became known as Moore’s Law and has largely held true.
Innovative chip engineering has resulted in increases in computational power since the war that can be measured in the trillions. This is why our society has changed beyond recognition. And yet, there are limits to what we can do with computers, and limits to continued progress. A single Dutch company, ASML, provides the ultraviolet lithography machines needed to keep pace with Moore’s Law. We are reaching the physical limits of increasing transistors to further computational power.
A potential solution to this barrier could be by using the spooky effects of quantum mechanics. Computers work using a binary system, where computation has 2 possible discrete answers: 0 or 1. The effect of quantum mechanics means a computation can dispense with the discrete answer: the solution can be 0 or 1, or any combination of 0 and 1 at the same time. Harnessing this will turn the rapid evolution of computer science into a rapid revolution.
When we can access unimaginable computational power what will be possible? In our specific sphere, what does this mean for Bitcoin mining and encryption more broadly? What does this mean for wider society? What are the ethical ramifications? All of these are questions that we should be grappling with, even though nobody can still explain what causes the spooky phenomena in quantum mechanics!