Quantum computing. And the art of the bubble…

Quantum computing is a element of the larger exponential technologies race that is currently driving the top large-cap technology stocks. Every bubble needs a narrative. And it is my experience that one can usually find the bubble by listening to the stories that the market tells itself. Which ever one inspires the most big eyed and breathless response is the one with a chance of blowing a bubble. Usually it is technology or bio technology because those industries are the best dream-salesmen. Remember the tech bubble? Their story was if you believe in the Internet at all you should buy the stocks because the internet is going to change the world. Currently the story that is gaining momentum is related to artificial intelligent. AI is going to change everything.  Yet the same companies can also tell the quantum computing narrative. Or the transportation revolution narrative. Or the photonic computing narrative. Or the big data narrative. Or the Internet of things narrative. Or the block chain technology narrative.   All the best stories are in those leading tech stocks. 


Alan Ho, an engineer in Google’s quantum AI lab, revealed the company’s progress at a quantum computing conference in Munich, Germany. His team is currently working with a 20-qubit system that has a “two-qubit fidelity” of 99.5 per cent – a measure of how error-prone the processor is, with a higher rating equating to fewer errors.

For quantum supremacy, Google will need to build a 49-qubit system with a two-qubit fidelity of at least 99.7 per cent. Ho is confident his team will deliver this system by the end of this year. Until now, the company’s best public effort was a 9-qubit computer built in 2015.

“Things really have moved much quicker than I would have expected,” says Simon Devitt at the RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science in Japan. Now that Google and other companies involved in quantum computing have mastered much of the fundamental science behind creating high-quality superconducting qubits, the big challenge facing these firms is scaling these systems and reducing their error rates.

It is important not to get carried away with numbers of qubits, says Michele Reilly, CEO at Turing Inc, a quantum start-up. It’s impossible to really harness the power of these machines in a useful way without error correction, she says – a technique that mitigates the fickle nature of quantum mechanics.

Ho says it will be 2027 before we have error-corrected quantum computers, so useful devices are still some way off. But if Google can be the first to demonstrate quantum supremacy, showing that qubits really can beat regular computers, it will be a major scientific breakthrough.

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