Artur Ekert (University of Oxford, National University of Singapore)
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The theory of classical universal computation was laid down in 1936, was implemented within a decade, became commercial within another decade, and dominated the world's economy half a century later. This success story relied on progress in technology. As computers become faster they had to become smaller. The history of computer technology has involved a sequence of changes from one type of physical realisation to another - from gears to relays to valves to transistors to integrated circuits and so on. The unavoidable step to the quantum level will be one in this sequence; but it promises something more exciting as well. For the first time since the invention of the general purpose computer, a change in underlying hardware can give computers qualitatively new functionality. Quantum theory is already important in the design of microelectronic components. Soon it will be necessary to harness quantum theory, rather than simply take it into account. I will describe our quest to understand quantum theory, our efforts to develop quantum technology to support quantum computation, and our surprise and excitement once we discovered that nature already employs coherent quantum phenomena in biological systems. There is so much potential in this fundamentally new way of harnessing nature that it appears as though the age of computation has not yet even begun!
The European Future Technologies Conference and Exhibition 2011 is the second instalment of a new forum dedicated to frontier research in information and communication technologies. fet11 is a unique conference on visionary, high-risk and long-term research in information science and technology. Featuring an exceptionally broad range of scientific fields the event will seed new ideas across disciplines that will reshape the future.