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Quantum Computing: Are the Optimists Right?

By Dick Weisinger

Quantum computing has the potential to revolutionize the computing, bringing an exponential order of magnitude gain in speed over the computing power of today’s most capable computers.

The potential is there. But there are problems and naysayers that doubt we’ll be able to overcome those problems for some time.

Mikhail Dyakonov, professor of Physics in France, wrote for IEEE Spectrum and asked “when will useful quantum computers be constructed? The most optimistic experts estimate it will take 5 to 10 years. More cautious ones predict 20 to 30 years. (Similar predictions have been voiced, by the way, for the last 20 years.) I belong to a tiny minority that answers, ‘Not in the foreseeable future.’ Having spent decades conducting research in quantum and condensed-matter physics, I’ve developed my very pessimistic view. It’s based on an understanding of the gargantuan technical challenges that would have to be overcome to ever make quantum computing work.”

The biggest problem of quantum computing is the need to filter out noise.

Chad Rigetti, a physicist and co-founder of Rigetti Computing, said that “it is really the difference between a $100 million, 10,000-qubit quantum computer being a random noise generator or the most powerful computer in the world.”

Jim Clarke, director of Quantum Hardware at Intel, responded to Dyakonov’s criticism, saying that “It will take work. Do not be fooled by shiny tools or by pronouncements that this technology will arrive tomorrow. Every major change in the semiconductor community has happened on the decade timescale: from the transistor in 1947 to the integrated circuit in 1958 to the first microprocessor, the Intel 4004, in 1970.  At the same time, do not be defeated by pronouncements of ‘never.’  The potential is too great, and the stakes are too high to quit at mile one of a marathon.”

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