How the CEO of IBM says Quantum Computing Will Change the World

6 Sep 2022

By Zoe Cumming

Arvind Krishna
Arvind Krishna

While the impact of technology on our future lives can seem terrifying, Arvind Krishna, CEO of the multinational technology corporation, IBM, holds an optimistic outlook on the powerful role of technology in driving forward solutions to some of the world’s greatest problems. Mr Krishna recently spoke to a UQ-wide audience about his career development and how he believes that technological development will reshape the world.

Initially drawn to IBM by their focus on diversity, Mr Krishna spoke proudly of how the company continues to focus on ensuring the best talent feel included and can therefore bring their whole person to work. IBM’s success in pioneering the future of artificial intelligence and in particular, quantum computing, make it clear that this approach of attracting and retaining diverse talent is working. 

Mr Krishna also spoke on the emergence of quantum computing, a concept which initially seems exceedingly complex. Yet Mr Krishna described it simply through the example of a caffeine molecule. 

He said: “Caffeine is a pretty simple molecule, at least by pharmaceutical standards. But it is 160 electrons and to work out the shape of that molecule and the properties of the interactions with other molecules, you would require a classical computer that is almost planet sized. The size, the energy, the idea of having such a large computer, and having it remain stable and functional is just not going to happen.”

He went on to say that a quantum computer of just a few thousand qubits could be utilised to map these interactions because, just like electrons, quantum computers are inherently probabilistic.

Mr Krishna explained that because quantum computers can minimize very complicated problems, they could be applied to practical yet incredibly complex real-world applications. 

Mr Krishna stated that currently three percent of the world’s energy consumption goes into producing fertiliser, and yet bacteria is already able to harness nitrogen and produce almost the same effect as fertiliser – we just don’t know how it does this. A quantum computer could potentially help us to work out how this process takes place and save significant amounts of time and money. This is just one of an incredibly large range of applications that could dramatically increase sustainability and ultimately help in resolving the climate crisis. 

It really does sound as though quantum computing will change the world.