Quantum computing about to experience crossing the desert?
While advances in the field of quantum computing seem promising, many specialists are investigating whether quantum computers can replace classical computers in the medium term. Are today’s quantum machines on the verge of achieving significant breakthroughs beyond the reach of traditional computers? Or have their abilities been overplayed, so they won’t change our daily lives, even in the distant future?
Multiple advances in quantum computing
The Financial Times raised the question of the interest of quantum computing for the general public. In the last six years, there has been a lot of progress in this area. Quantum communication networks were developed, many quantum computers were developed and pillars of the sector emerged such as the American IBM. China, the United States, France and the wider European Union have all released funds to promote research in the field.
Over the years, the exploits have multiplied. The Chinese have long claimed that they have the most powerful quantum machine, and IBM recently countered by laying out its plan for quantum. Two computers of 1,121 and 4,158 qubits are planned, respectively for 2023 and 2025, reaching technically unprecedented power. For your information, qubit is a unit like bit for classical computing, which makes it possible to store quantum information.
Recently, a new breakthrough was discussed. 24 Chinese academics have succeeded in developing a powerful quantum algorithm. It could break RSA encryption, which is still used on the internet today, using a 372 qubit computer. This decryption method is considered a potential risk for the future of the Internet.
A decline due to the lack of concrete applications for the general public
Four years ago, John Preskill, professor of theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology, predicted that quantum systems would begin to perform better and better. He said that once they reach the size of 50 to 100 qubits, they can be sold to the general public and thus, replace traditional computers. The future will prove him wrong because the most efficient quantum computers have 5 to 10 times as many qubits and none of them are for sale.
He is more careful than in 2019 with Financial Times. For him, the commercialization of some applications could be possible if quantum computers could be fault-tolerant and automatically correct their errors, which they do not currently do.
Actually, at the moment, quantum computers have no practical use that could be suitable for the general public. In addition, they are not suitable for simple and quick use, unlike conventional computers. Then some specialists warn players in the sector: 2023 could be the beginning of a quantum winter. This is a phenomenon that occurs when large companies put the brakes on their development programs and investments in start-ups become more frequent.
A quantum winter to start over better?
These withdrawal phases were often surpassed by artificial intelligence in the 70s and 80s. Within twenty or even thirty years, the sector’s research programs came to an abrupt halt, victims of many failures and dead ends. . Despite this, AI caught on in the 90s and 2000s and simply exploded in the 2010s.
The two main scenarios that could be the source of a quantum winter are the cessation of developments in the sector or the cessation of investments by one of the leaders in quantum computing, such as IBM for example. The third reason mentioned by Constantin Gonciulea, director of advanced technologies for Wells Fargo, is that ” hype around this technology. The expectation will be so strong that it will generate massive disappointment and the apathy of the general public.