Google has set the IT and crypto worlds alight by posting and then quickly removing a research paper on the NASA website that revealed that they had created the world’s first quantum computer that has the ability to carry out calculations beyond the ability of today’s most powerful supercomputers. The technology, which has the potential to crack Bitcoin’s SHA256 encryption method, represents to some in the crypto world a kind of apocalyptic doomsday scenario, and with the technology potentially arriving quicker than anyone thought, is crypto Armageddon suddenly on the horizon?
Google has recently said they have a quantum computer running that can do calculations 20,000 faster than current computers. If someone turned this on Bitcoin pow they could rewrite the whole block chain making your bitcoin worthless !!
— Smiffy100 (@Smiffy100) September 22, 2019
Required Rate 2-3 Years Away
Google’s post stated how their quantum processor was able to perform a fiendishly complex calculation that would take Summit, today’s most advanced classical computer, approximately 10,000 years, in just three minutes and 20 seconds. This kind of computing power would make mincemeat of Satoshi Nakamoto’s carefully planned out 132-year mining schedule and could rewrite the entire Bitcoin blockchain, turning the network into a messy binary pulp. This got crypto Twitter all hot and bothered, leading to several alarmist tweets and articles foretelling the end of cryptocurrency and even military secrets, but the numbers don’t back this up yet – Google’s new computer is itself not powerful enough to crack the SHA256 encryption algorithm, but they predicted that the processing rate will advance at a “double exponential rate”, meaning that, in theory, this rate could be breached in 2-3 years. However, even once this rate is cracked in a lab, the time it will take to stabilize these speeds, manufacture a chip, design and make a computer to fit it, write software for the computer, and then finally write specific software for cracking the Bitcoin blockchain adds yet more years to this number, without even considering whether cracking the Bitcoin blockchain will be the most immediate use for this new technology compared to, say, trying to hack the Pentagon or GCHQ.
In summary, while there is a theoretical chance that the hardware to break the Bitcoin blockchain could exist in 5-6 years, it will be in its infancy and the odds of any single entity having the means, motive, and opportunity to do so is highly unlikely. This also gives Bitcoin techs the same amount of time to come up with a way of protecting against it, so there’s no need to press the panic button just yet.