Bitcoin and blockchain expert Andreas Antonopoulos isn’t buying into the fear, uncertainty and doubt over Google’s “quantum supremacy.”
Google has reportedly built a quantum computer that can process certain calculations faster than any other computer on earth. The breakthrough triggered concerns of a hypothetical device powerful enough to crack modern forms of encryption – spelling trouble for Bitcoin and the thousands of other cryptocurrencies that are based on blockchain technology.
In a YouTube video released on Thursday, however, Antonopoulos threw cold water on that idea.
“What is the effect on mining and the crytocurrency world in general? Zip, bupkis, nada, nothing really happens. Quantum supremacy – what Google described – is demonstrating the practical applicability of quantum computers to certain classes of problems. Those classes of problems are not the same class of problem we’re talking about when we talk about breaking cryptography.
And that’s a really good thing because, hey, you know the problem isn’t really Bitcoin. If we get quantum computers that can do thousands of qubits without correction and with consistent results, we have a much bigger problem, and the bigger problem we have is the entire world’s classified communications, confidential communications, financial systems, etc, all depend on classical cryptography today.
And we would need to upgrade all of that in order to make it quantum-resistant, and if anything, many of those systems — these legacy systems — are a lot more difficult to upgrade than an open, public open-source blockchain like Bitcoin is in terms of its signatures.”
Antonopoulos is confident in the Bitcoin community’s ability to upgrade BTC’s digital signature algorithm in sync with the advancements in quantum computing.
The author of Mastering Bitcoin also notes that hashes are even less susceptible to being broken in the future than digital signatures are. And Bitcoin traders themselves, he explains, can do a lot to minimize any future potential risk quantum computing represents.
“No matter what the weakness might be, if you follow the best practice, which is to use a Bitcoin address once and only once, and to immediately spend all the funds in it the first time you sign, and never sign for that address again, what you get is a much higher level of protection, because the moment the public key is recorded on the blockchain, it’s recorded because the funds just got moved and are no longer in that address – the address effectively is empty, zero balance. So, the only time the public key is shown, even if you exploit it, you get nothing because there’s no money in it anymore.
And that’s a really smart trick, because even if quantum computing gets to the point where digital signatures can be compromised, now what that means is someone would have to be able to compromise the digital signature in the time between you transmitting it to the network and it getting confirmed and the money spent, and then break it, sign a different transaction and double spend it in less than 10 minutes.”
Antonopoulos also acknowledges the possibility that Google doesn’t actually have quantum “supremacy” at all.
“There is a small possibility that some intelligence agencies are a decade or more ahead in their ability to do quantum computing. If that is the case, which we can’t really tell, then they might be able to do things in the next decade to break Bitcoin’s digital signature algorithm.
But if they have a secret that important, they’re unlikely to use it to attack something that’s not that important, when that secret is also important for attacking confidential and secured and classified communications of military adversaries or even the keys that control the nuclear weapon systems in order to disarm them and turn them off.”