Scientist envisages a quantum future at TEDx Glasgow

The extent of technological change the world has experienced in the last 90 years is greater than in the previous one billion, scientist and entrepreneur Dr Graeme Malcolm told the audience at TEDx Glasgow today.

Analogue signals – radio and television – changed our parents’ lives, he said, yet it took radio took 38 years to reach 50 million people; contrast that with television’s 14 years, the Internet’s four, while Facebook gained 200 million users in its first year.

Malcolm is the founder and chief executive of Glasgow-based M Squared. It has begun work with the UK Quantum Technology Hubs and has successfully produced some of the UK’s first commercial quantum technologies. Quantum physics is a gradually emerging area of technology that will transform computing, medical care, navigation and the financial markets. “Quantum physics heralds a new series of technologies,” said Malcolm.

MRI scanners, currently large, expensive and an uncomfortable experience for patients, could be replaced by a simple cap which would discreetly scan the brain and report the results in real time. It could, in theory, enter the consumer market, used to remember our thoughts and remind us at a later stage. “Instead of coming out of the store with just a bottle of wine, I’ll be reminded to get the Brussels sprouts my wife asked me to get,” Malcolm joked.

The quantum computers, capable of many millions more calculations per second than current computers, will increase our understanding of DNA, life’s building block, and how genes transfer between generations. It will help create new pathways to cure diseases such as cancer and Parkinson’s. Infinitely precise navigation and greater understanding of the world’s climate will also be enabled by quantum computing, said Malcolm. “It will change all our lives.”

More than 1,700 people are attending TEDx Glasgow, at the SEC Armadillo, today. A pioneering inventor, product designer at Facebook, war reporter and a forensic psychologist are among the speakers.