Smoke ‘Em if You Quantum

This is a blog about technology in science fiction, but I think it’s worth noting that this year heralded some incredible technological feats that sound like they’re straight out of a work of fiction, but which are, for better or worse, very real. Some of these technologies seem like a natural part of this dimension’s timeline; others are so straight-up bonkers that I feel like anyone with a passing interest in speculative fiction should know about them, for fodder for future stories (or panic attacks). For the purposes of this post, I will focus on the one from this year with the best name: the Quantum Internet.

I didn’t know it, but the information I was exchanging while using the internet is what’s referred to as “classical” information, which makes it sounds quaint. This “classical” information is shared and stored in 1’s and 0’s, bits that are parsed by machines. At its most basic, classical information is either a 1 or a 0.

Quantum information uses quantum bits, where 1s and 0s can be superpositions and expressed simultaneously. Quantum bits can be encoded in the certain states of certain particles (no I’m not a physicist, why do you ask?). When these particles become entangled, the information they express cannot be accessed by unintentional recipients without being destroyed, which makes it pretty much the most secure way to share information humans have ever conceived.

That’s what I’ve gathered as a total layperson, at least. You can read more about the quantum internet and other technological breakthroughs from 2020 in MIT’s Technological Review.