Quantum Computing & The Future of Food

More people are hungrier now than at any time in history. With any luck, the technological breakthroughs of the last two decades could end all that. Yet what is QC’s role in all this?

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Photo by Randy Tarampi on Unsplash

‘Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio.’

— Thomas Robert Malthus

Famines

It doesn’t bear thinking about, hunger.

Just imagine the feeling of not eating for a few days.

I couldn’t.

But it’s been the reality of millions throughout history.

Take a look at these facts and statistics for a moment:

The Russian Famine of 1921 claimed about five million people.

In the 18th century, on the Indian subcontinent’s southern tip, a reported eleven million souls died in what was to be known as the infamous Chalisa Famine.

And the Persian Famine of 1917/18 — who many historical revisionists blame on the British Empire — was the cause of ten — even up to twelve (in some reports) — million lives being lost.

Tragic, I know.

Events like this, though, just seem like cold statistics, bar or pie charts recorded by academics to boost their intellectual egos. And the faded black and white photos of a terrible bygone era that don’t really affect the likes of the 21st-century Homo-sapien, an automaton for the most part with an iPhone, FaceBook timeline updates and episodes of Meet The Kardashians to keep him or her occupied.

On a personal level, I remember watching the terrible images on BBC News in 1984, when award-winning journalist Michael Buerk reported from Ethiopia on the terrible drought-induced famine there.

That was the first time I saw the real effects of starvation: skeletal babies with distended stomachs. Mothers, boney from hunger and with droopy breasts devoid of life-giving milk, their sunken eyes starring blankly into the TV cameras signalling a message of pure hopelessness.

Those images initiated the popstar Bob Geldof to organize one of the biggest charitable events in history up to that time, Live Aid, in 1985.

But we shouldn’t have to do such things just so people in poorer regions of the world can have access to food. It should be an inalienable right of all humanity to have enough to eat.

One way to stop this from happening is regarding food waste.

Food Waste

The biggest problem we see in the West is not that people don’t have enough to eat but that we produce far too much than we actually need, which in turn creates a system where we throw the excess away.

A big sin.

Another mounting problem is the storage of food that never gets eaten. We hear of massive silos with tons of wheat and grain dotted all over the place from Nebraska to Oklahoma to the black soil earth regions of Ukraine which are kept for an eternity until the rats and other pests eventually get to them.

An even bigger sin.

There is a need, then, of a better way to combat the problem of food waste. A method established that regulates people’s consumption patterns and can reliably transform those statistics into data we can analyze and use for the production, segmentation and distribution of edible produce into an effective supply chain.

For decades scientists, men of commerce and politicians have sought answers to the problems to this.

Technology has helped to some degree, but mostly without success.

Things are different now, though. And with the planet’s population set to reach eight billion by mid-decade, the solution can’t come soon enough.

By mid-century, some social scientists even reckon we’ll be nearing the ten billion mark.

A Malthusian nightmare not worth considering.

The QC Rescue

Blockchain and quantum computing (QC) can solve all these problems and more using the likes of qubits, entanglement, nodes and keys as the tools of the trade to keep the planet from the next great famine.

Sustainability is the name of the game from now on, and blockchain and QC are the way ahead in achieving it.

As TQD is a publication focussed on QC, I will leave the blockchain to another news site more qualified and in line to comment on its advantages in the space.

So how can QC revolutionize food chain technology?

First of all, it is important to establish that the more we see sensors in the mainframe of the Internet of Things (IoT) integrated into the daily functions of manufacturing and business practices, the more data they are set to have access to.

‘Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry.’

— Pope Francis

As we live in an age of data-driven business (some would even go so far to say a paradigm shift has occurred and now we are heading into a ‘data-led scenario’), classical computers are finding it much harder to handle the amount of information that comes their way. Quantum computers, on the other hand, can handle this complexity with ease. The variables and ever-changing models of data can be optimized quickly by quantum computers in a fraction of the time of their antiquated brethren, making such tasks as supply chain management and logistical operations no harder than a child’s ten-piece jigsaw.

No longer would we see food wasted over route planning mistakes or badly designed traffic counter-flow simulations run on classical models. Food supplies would get to where they needed to be on time, with less delay, leading to a scenario where food waste would be eradicated.

The ‘travelling salesman problem’ would be a problem no more with quantum computers used to lead the fight.

Billions —  no trillions —of floating-point operations (routes) could be optimized and tracked per second.

But this is not the only thing that QC would be able to enhance:

Quantum computers are already creating drug simulations for the pharmaceutical industry. So what’s the difference in designing genetically modified food through the interactions between molecules and proteins, as well as chemical simulations?

Attempts to simulate the energy of hydrogen molecules is another example.

So I don’t see one.

The successful implementation of these experiments could possibly create edible, nutritious products for all humanity.

Let us see what the future holds. But with the QC leading the charge closely followed by its cohorts AI, IoT, cloud computing and the blockchain, the problems of feeding humanity could be a thing of the past in a decade or two.