Thursday, April 13, 2017

Quantum entanglement technology hype

Last month The Economist had a cover story and large section on commercial technologies based on quantum information.

To give the flavour here is a sample from one of the articles
Very few in the field think it will take less than a decade [to build a large quantum computer], and many say far longer. But the time for investment, all agree, is now—because even the smaller and less capable machines that will soon be engineered will have the potential to earn revenue. Already, startups and consulting firms are springing up to match prospective small quantum computers to problems faced in sectors including quantitative finance, drug discovery and oil and gas. .... Quantum simulators might help in the design of room-temperature superconductors allowing electricity to be transmitted without losses, or with investigating the nitrogenase reaction used to make most of the world’s fertiliser.
I know people are making advances [which are interesting from a fundamental science point of view] but it seems to me we are a very long way from doing anything cheaper [both financially and computationally] than a classical computer.

Doug Natelson noted that at the last APS March Meeting, John Martinis said that people should not believe the hype, even from him!

Normally The Economist gives a hard-headed analysis of political and economic issues. I might not agree with it [it is too neoliberal for me] but at least I trust it to give a rigorous and accurate analysis. I found this section to be quite disappointing. I hope uncritical readers don't start throwing their retirement funds into start-ups that are going to develop the "quantum internet" because they believe that this is going to be as important as the transistor (a claim the article ends with).

Maybe I am missing something.
I welcome comments on the article.


  1. And then Martinis said:

    Quantum supremacy by the end of this year...

    I find this (speaking with reservations at the APS versus full of promises to his funders) troubling - regardless of where the actual path of progress will be.

    1. I agree this is quite troubling.

      Unfortunately, this practise of different messages for different audiences is getting more common.

  2. Hi Ross,

    Did you see this?

    It was reported in the Fin Review, and I heard it on the radio as well I think.

    Over Easter I was out on a bike ride in rural northern NSW. There was a point where I had to cross a ferry ... and while I was waiting a group of about 10 older riders arrived. A couple of them started having a conversation about quantum computers and the CBA.

    I don't know what to think about it all.


    1. Thanks for the comment.
      The CBA/UNSW "quantum computer" is highlighted in The Economist article too.