Quantum computing is a hot topic now and for the most part has avoided a lot of the hype associated with new technologies. Where there has been overstepping, I’ll attribute that to misunderstandings and the occasional misquotation.
We are now in the time period of what we in the IBM Q program call Quantum Ready. This means that the quantum computers cannot yet do things that can’t otherwise be done using algorithms on classical computers.
However, what we are doing with these real computers is advancing the theory and the engineering to build more powerful quantum machines that can handle larger problems and do them more accurately. We are devising new algorithms to work with the physical quantum bits, or qubits, that we have today.
While it may be decades before we have the “perfect” logical qubits that are assumed in most of the famous quantum algorithms like Shor’s, we believe that having many smart people having access to today’s real quantum computers will drive innovation and accelerate adoption. As part of this, many people are starting to think about where the most important applications will lie.
Getting ready also means learning about the radically new programming model used in quantum computing. So far we have had over 75,000 users run over 2.5 million calculations through the IBM Q Experience. This is how people are getting Quantum Ready.
After the Quantum Ready phase will come Quantum Advantage. We think this might happen in the early 2020s, but we’ll see. The name Quantum Advantage means that in certain key and real application areas we’ll be able to say, we hope, that quantum computing provides significant processing time or memory use advantages over anything we know how to do using classical computing.
Of course, some brilliant person might be able to come up with a new classical algorithm tomorrow that far surpasses what we can do today. Research into quantum and classical algorithms will continue together, and that brings me to my final point.
The future is not quantum or classical, it is both. Quantum and classical computers will be used together. New algorithms may have classical parts and quantum parts. The goal is push us into the next era of computing that can solve the problems important to us as a society.