Monday, August 22, 2016

Race for quantum supremacy

Caltech's Spyridon Michalakis writes:
In short, there was no top-down policy directive to focus national attention and inter-agency Federal funding on winning the quantum supremacy race.

Until now.

The National Science and Technology Council, which is chaired by the President of the United States and “is the principal means within the executive branch to coordinate science and technology policy across the diverse entities that make up the Federal research and development enterprise”, just released the following report:

Advancing Quantum Information Science: National Challenges and Opportunities

The White House blog post does a good job at describing the high-level view of what the report is about and what the policy recommendations are. There is mention of quantum sensors and metrology, of the promise of quantum computing to material science and basic science, and they even go into the exciting connections between quantum error-correcting codes and emergent spacetime, by IQIM’s Pastawski, et al.

But the big news is that the report recommends significant and sustained investment in Quantum Information Science. The blog post reports that the administration intends “to engage academia, industry, and government in the upcoming months to … exchange views on key needs and opportunities, and consider how to maintain vibrant and robust national ecosystems for QIS research and development and for high-performance computing.”

Personally, I am excited to see how the fierce competition at the academic, industrial and now international level will lead to a race for quantum supremacy.
The report says:
While further substantial scale-up will be needed to test algorithms such as
Shor’s, systems with tens of entangled qubits that may be of interest for early-stage research in quantum computer science will likely be available within 5 years. Developing a universal quantum computer is a long-term challenge that will build on technology developed for quantum simulation and communication. Deriving the full benefit from quantum computers will also require continued work on algorithms, programming languages, and compilers. The ultimate capabilities and limitations of quantum computers are not fully understood, and remain an active area of research.
With so much govt research money at stake, do you think that any prominent physicist is going to throw cold water on the alleged promise of quantum computers?

I do not think that we will have interesting quantum computers within 5 years, as I do not think that it is even physically possible.

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