Could quantum computers be cost-effective by 2036?

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In theory, quantum computers could be much more efficient at some kinds of tasks, which could be potentially disruptive in applications areas such as cryptography. But you know: in theory, theory and practice are the same, but in practice, they are not. So it’s interesting to find applications where quantum computing might possibly be useful and cost-effective in the near(ish) future.

So let’s talk about cell-phone towers. A 5G base station contains a phased-array antenna, that is, a 2-d array of small antennas that can be aimed in a particular direction (for sending or receiving) by adjusting the phase of their signal. And with the superposition principle, this phased-array antenna can simultaneously aim one signal at your iPhone here, while aiming another signal at that Android phone over there, and hundreds more devices all at once. To do that the base station must compute a difficult (NP-complete) combinatorial optimization problem every few milliseconds, as the phones move around. This is called “Massive MIMO,” Massive

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