We occasionally see articles in the popular press with dramatic headlines like “Quantum Computing Will Change Everything”. You can see some examples of this here, here, and here.

Although quantum computing will have a significant impact in the coming years, we do not agree with these types of over-hyped statements. In fact, we believe the impact of quantum computing will be subtle and not immediately apparent to the average person. Our expectation is that quantum computing’s biggest impacts will be to make the products and services we purchase today either more effective or less costly rather than to create entirely brand new product categories. It will not be as noticeable a change as inventions like the personal computer or smartphone or social media which have had a dramatic impact on our daily lives.

Here are some possible scenarios where quantum computing may affect an end user without their realizing it. Imagine a scenario five or ten years from now where someone walks into an auto dealer to replace their electric car and discovers that the newer cars’ ranges have increased from 300 miles to 400 miles due to better battery chemistry. Or perhaps, they go to a doctor who gives them a prescription for a new drug that is more effective or has less side effects than a previous drug. Or possibly, they catch a taxi to the airport which takes a different route than normal because the taxi is receiving directions from a quantum computer that is using an optimization algorithm to simultaneously route all traffic to minimize traffic jams.

It is probable that the implementation of quantum resistant cryptography will have a slightly more direct impact on the average person, but not by very much. It will be important for everyone to upgrade the communications functions in their digital devices to use either the software based Post-Quantum Cryptography (PQC) or the hardware based Quantum Key Distribution (QKD). But for most folks, the new PQC algorithms will be incorporated in newer versions of their operating systems which will just require installing software updates on their devices which they already do today on a regular basis. Apple, Android, Microsoft, and the others will all be supplying future versions of their operating systems with quantum resistant communications functionality built-in.

Possibly, the people who would be most affected by quantum computing, outside of those directly working in the industry, would be IT and Data Center Managers. For those folks, upgrading their digital communications infrastructure will be more complicated. Many of them will elect to use QKD technology which will entail installing and testing new hardware instead of just a simple software upgrade.

Although the effect of quantum computing on society will be substantial in the coming decades, the impact will be slow and subtle. And it will augment, but not replace, the classical computing technology we have today. So if you are expecting Apple to announce the iPhone-Q any time soon, you may need to wait a very, very long time.