(CNN)  Physicists, engineers and computer scientists are trying to harness the counterintuitive behavior of quantum mechanics to build quantum computers, leading eventually to a quantum internet.

NOTE: Don Lincoln, senior scientist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, is the author of this extensive opinion article discussing the science of quantum computing and the potential future uses & benefits of the technology. The article is summarized here, but worth reading for insight into thoughts of one of the senior scientists in the field.
Quantum computing has been identified by the US government as an important national initiative. Federal agencies have begun to lay out the framework for an American quantum infrastructure. The Department of Energy, for example, plans to link together its laboratories with a quantum internet.
A quantum internet is both similar and different to the ordinary internet. It is similar in that it connects computers, although only quantum ones. It is different because the way these computers interact is essentially unhackable.
A quantum internet is both similar and different to the ordinary internet. It is similar in that it connects computers, although only quantum ones. It is different because the way these computers interact is essentially unhackable.
The first working quantum computer was demonstrated in 1998. It was very primitive, but it was a baby step. Quantum computing has strengths and weaknesses. For most problems, a quantum computer isn’t really faster than high-end ordinary computers. However, for certain problems — like code breaking — quantum computing leaves regular computers in the dust.
When advanced quantum computers are a reality, they will be able to break codes incomparably faster than currently possible.
What’s more, quantum computers not only excel at decryption; they also excel at encryption. Quantum algorithms have been developed that are thought to be unbreakable. It is these cryptographic capabilities that interest both nations and corporations involved in e-commerce.
It is still very early in the history of quantum computing and it is unclear exactly where it is going. Its proponents are very enthusiastic about its future, while others (including myself) view it cautiously. However, there is no question that its codemaking and -breaking capabilities make it an interesting prospect in the landscape of online protection and hacking.
Where will quantum computing be in a decade? It is hard to say. But we have a long history of impressive scientific feats to make us optimistic.

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