Jeffrey A. Tucker has penned an article to accompany a little-reported research paper that was published last October. The economics writer met with one of the paper’s authors recently to discuss the threat posed to the Bitcoin network by quantum computing.
Quantum Computing Poses Little Real Threat to Bitcoin
After meeting with Gavin K. Brennen, a researcher at the Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore, Tucker has concluded that quantum computing was not nearly the fatalistic threat that many tout it to be to cryptocurrencies.
Quantum computers have often been cited as an irrefutable kill switch for Bitcoin. The idea is that quantum machines, capable of processing data hundreds of times faster than the most advanced computers today, could either brute force signatures in little time or solve proof-of-work algorithms fast enough to pose a threat to the security of the Bitcoin network. This would render Bitcoin and other similar cryptocurrencies entirely useless.
Although Brennan et al. don’t entirely refute this notion in their lengthy paper titled ‘Quantum attacks on Bitcoin, and how to protect against them,’ they do conclude that the threat is not nearly as fatalistic as many perceive it. In fact, given that quantum computing is still being developed, the authors believe that there is plenty of time to protect networks against it.
In the companion article published by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) on Monday, Tucker praises the cryptocurrency community’s adeptness at problem solving:
“If there is a known problem, there are people working on solutions, with tremendous professional awards accruing to the winner.”
He states that the adaptivity of a decentralised governance model excels at developing solutions to problems, particularly when the rewards for doing so are as great as they are with Bitcoin.
In the AIER article, Tucker summarises the position of the paper’s authors. When addressing the issue of quantum machines dominating proof-of-work, he references the original material:
“Future improvements to quantum technology allowing gate speeds up to 100GHz could allow quantum computers to solve the PoW about 100 times faster than current technology. However, such a development is unlikely in the next decade, at which point classical hardware may be much faster, and quantum technology might be so widespread that no single quantum enabled agent could dominate the PoW problem.”
He then addresses the threat of quantum computer brute forcing signatures. He admits that this threat is ‘more real,’ but is ‘not without solutions.’ These solutions are ‘within reach of programmers today’ and there is still the issue of the ten year head start developers have for creating more robust methods to protect against the perceived threat:
“Moreover, there are ten years of lead time to get there and adapt them to the protocol.”
In concluding his article, Brennan states that he believes the ‘quantum threat to Bitcoin is mostly a red-herring.’ He states that the strong incentive to constantly increase the network’s security, along with the collective minds working on it makes any issues entirely fixable.
The closing paragraph of the article is so wonderfully put, you’ll excuse me for including it verbatim:
“As I listened to the paper, and his proposed solutions, it struck me how precise and intense is the brain trust behind this technology as compared with, for example, the Federal Reserve, the banking system, and existing fiat currency. The problems in the fiat status quo are enormous enough to fill whole libraries (starting with certain obvious problems: no one knows how much money the system produces, or how much crisis risk is present at any time, not even the people charged with managing the system). The problems revealed themselves in 2008. The system has not been repaired in a way that can prevent a repeat of that experience.”