My Quantum Computing Wish List for Christmas 2020 and New Year 2021

Here are my top wishes for developments in quantum computing for Christmas in 2020. Okay, that’s too tall an order with too little time left, so this informal paper lists the quantum computing developments I really want to see in the coming year, 2021. It’s a fun list, but it’s also a real list — these are advances that have a realistic chance of occurring over the coming year.

For reference, here’s my Christmas wish list from last year:

I still want everything from my 2019 wish list since so little of my wishes came true, but this year I tried to come up with a more abbreviated list which was a little more practical and achievable.

All I want to see for Christmas in 2020 and in the New Year 2021 are…

My Top 5 Christmas 2020 wishes

  1. Greater progress towards full, automated, and transparent quantum error correction (QEC) — also known as fault-tolerant quantum computing (FTQC). More research papers for sure, but some experimental work as well. By the end of the year (2021), there should be a sense that we could have full QEC for an 8-qubit (logical qubits!) machine within another two years. People begin to talk more seriously about moving beyond NISQ sooner (within 2–3 years for 8 to 16 qubits.) More algorithm papers focus on use of logical qubits.

My other Christmas 2020 wishes

  1. Much more fundamental R&D. Particularly for new qubit technologies and new programming models. And basic and advanced algorithms, algorithmic building blocks, and application frameworks.

Reviewing my old 2019 Christmas wish list

For reference, here are some of my wishes from last year, 2019, not as formal wishes for this year, but as disappointments from last year:

  1. Will Rigetti ever get their act together and produce a larger machine, if not the 128 qubits they promised over two years ago, at least 64 or 48 qubits? Guys, go big or go home! What’s the problem? Your competitors are leaving you behind in the dust!

Incremental progress? Boring!

Seriously, we really do need simply a lot of relatively boring but incremental progress in so many areas. Incremental progress is very needed, but is also… very boring!

I’ll let other people settle for incremental progress, like 20% to 30% improvements over a year, but I’ll focus my wishes on dramatic gains and outright breakthroughs.

Surprise me!

Seriously, there must be at least a few serious researchers out there who can produce something which really surprises me. Just do it!

That’s all

That’s it! These are all I ask for for Christmas 2020 and the coming New Year 2021. Is that a lot to ask?

I sincerely expect many of those developments to occur in the coming year, but I’ll be quite satisfied if even half of those developments come to pass over the coming year.

Need commitment for 2021

Even if few of my wishes can be granted by Christmas 2020 or early in New Year 2021, what I really would like to see is widespread commitment to tackle all of my wishes in 2021. Maybe not all of them will come to fruition, but I expect that quite a few will, or at least come close.

Still a mere laboratory curiosity

I know people are working really hard and great progres is being made, but even with all of my Christmas and New Year wishes, quantum computing will still remain a mere laboratory curiosity as 2021 ends and 2022 begins. We probably need another two or three years. And we probably need full, automated, transparent quantum error correction — or qubits which are close enough to perfect that QEC is not needed for many algorithms and applications.

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Freelance Consultant

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