Future quantum computers will ultimately force blockchain solutions to adopt strengthened quantum safe crypto protocols. Rationally there remains plenty of time to act, but proponents need to get their transition stories in place to avoid being caught out as we near peak quantum hype.
More positively, the nascent blockchain industry also stands to be among the first to benefit from genuine quantum innovation. Early quantum devices promise to create a completely new cryptographic resource – certified public random numbers.
Blockchain technology uses advanced cryptographic and game theory techniques to make possible a new type of digital technology, the distributed ledger – an immutable record that can be updated and verified without the need for a central authority.
The original and highest profile application of blockchain technology has been in the creation of digital currencies. The hype surrounding bitcoin and the cryptocurrency bubble of 2017-18 stands alongside the dot-com boom of 1995-2000, the South Sea bubble of 1720 and the tulip mania of 1634-37. But the skeptics of crypto winter should remember that in the end the internet did reinvent the global economy, the New World was a lucrative trading opportunity and the tulip remains a lovely flower (Ed. note: and a major export for the Netherlands).
The unique technological potential of blockchain goes far beyond cryptocurrencies. Streamlined shared record keeping is finding applications across back offices, supply chains, real estate, healthcare and other sectors. The ability of advanced blockchain applications to embed automated conditional logic (smart contracts) extends its potential scope in financial services, IP rights management and the IoT. In the most expansive version of the vision this leads to a new paradigm for software – a unified world of decentralized applications (DApps) running decentrally across an open network.
Quantum technology is one of the other great disruptive revolutions of the current era. Quantum computing in particular promises to move our capabilities beyond the limitations of binary 1 and 0. Quantum information processing challenges many of the assumptions of the current digital world.
How will blockchain technology and quantum technology interact?
The diversity and innovation of the blockchain sector can make it appear dauntingly complex. Likewise, quantum technology can seem impenetrable to the uninitiated. Popular headlines make claims such as ‘quantum computing could break bitcoin’. But many blockchain enthusiasts seem less concerned. What is the informed picture? This briefing examines the potential interaction of these technologies across the four key components that make blockchains work.