Risk Is Rising for a Quantum Winter for Quantum Computing in Two to Three Years

  1. In a nutshell — A Quantum Winter is unlikely in two to three years, but…
  2. A Quantum Winter is unlikely in two to three years based on my personal expectations for progress, but… I’m an optimist, but… I’m also a pragmatic realist and the risks are rising
  3. Definition for technological winter
  4. Definition for Quantum Winter
  5. Technological seasonal cycle: winters, springs, summers, and falls
  6. Quantum winters, springs, summers, and falls
  7. The life of a technology can have any number of cycles of winter, spring, summer, and fall
  8. Quantum computing will have any number of cycles of winter, spring, summer, and fall
  9. Seasonal cycles are typical for advanced technologies, so why should quantum computing be any different?
  10. Definition for a technological summer
  11. Definition for a quantum summer
  12. Definition for a technological spring
  13. Definition for a quantum spring
  14. Technological falls
  15. Quantum falls
  16. Definition for a technological fall
  17. Definition for a quantum fall
  18. A technological winter is not the end of a technology but simply the end of one cycle of growth of the technology
  19. A Quantum Winter is not the end of quantum computing but simply the end of one cycle of growth of quantum computing
  20. A Quantum Winter is more of a pause or timeout than an ending
  21. Stages of a Quantum Winter
  22. A Quantum Winter is largely psychological in nature
  23. Sentiment matters
  24. Onset — How does a Quantum Winter start?
  25. What might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?
  26. How might it get started?
  27. A Quantum Winter is less than likely, but… risk is there and gradually growing
  28. Yellow flags — Rising concerns about quantum computing
  29. Red flag: Hype and expectations are growing faster than the technology itself
  30. Still a mere laboratory curiosity
  31. Still more appropriate for the lunatic fringe rather than mainstream application developers
  32. How patient will investors and managers be if advances are not as rapid as expected?
  33. Patience will be the key factor determining the onset of a quantum winter
  34. Chief characteristics of a technological winter
  35. What will it be like while it’s happening?
  36. Telltale advance signs that a technological winter may be brewing
  37. So far, so good, but…
  38. Some telltale technical signs indicating rising risk of disappointment in quantum computing
  39. Non-technical warning signs for quantum computing
  40. Rising deficit of promises not yet fulfilled
  41. My disappointment with the IBM 127-qubit Eagle
  42. Attention quantum aficionados at large corporations — make sure your management and executive teams are well aware of these risks
  43. Stagnation? Not so far
  44. Will achieving The ENIAC Moment be critical to avoiding a Quantum Winter?
  45. Really need to hit The ENIAC Moment before people can finally feel that quantum computing is real and not a vague and distant promised land
  46. Is quantum error correction (QEC) needed to avert a Quantum Winter?
  47. If we don’t have quantum error correction, then we do need near-perfect qubits to avoid a deep Quantum Winter
  48. Will lack of higher qubit fidelity and enhanced qubit connectivity in IBM’s 433-qubit Osprey be enough to trigger a Quantum Winter?
  49. What will Osprey deliver?
  50. How far can we get without a high-level programming model and rich set of algorithmic building blocks?
  51. Current technology has plenty of runway to avoid a Quantum Winter
  52. Advances we need to see over the next two years to stay on track
  53. Yes, we can indeed count on further progress, but will it be enough to keep us on track and to sustain momentum?
  54. Sustaining momentum is everything — a slip in momentum can trigger a Quantum Winter
  55. Will there be a quantum winter? Or even more than one?
  56. But occasional Quantum Springs and Quantum Summers
  57. Quantum Falls?
  58. In truth, it will be a very long and very slow slog
  59. No predicting the precise flow of progress, with advances and setbacks
  60. Is a Quantum Winter likely in two to three years? No, but…
  61. Critical technical gating factors which could presage a Quantum Winter in two to three years
  62. Some technical walls could get hit
  63. Will trapped-ion qubits and neutral-atom qubits save the day?
  64. Will new and innovative qubit technologies appear on the scene and save the day?
  65. Premature commercialization is probably the single biggest risk for stumbling into a Quantum Winter
  66. Might we simply sleepwalk into a Quantum Winter?
  67. Different audiences and sectors will experience a Quantum Winter differently or maybe even not at all
  68. Risk of Quantum Winter is primarily for those engaged in premature commercialization — those involved with research and pre-commercialization should be fine
  69. Quantum Ready — All dressed up and no place to go
  70. We’re still in the full-on bliss of the honeymoon, but for how long?
  71. Saving grace: Nobody is calling quantum a mania or a bubble, yet
  72. What will assure that we can avoid this impending Quantum Winter?
  73. Even minimal quantum advantage may remain out of reach in two to three years, but achieving it could avert a Quantum Winter
  74. Single best way to avoid a Quantum Winter: Hold off on commercialization but double down on pre-commercialization
  75. Focus on research
  76. Wildcards
  77. What single advance within three years could turn the tide?
  78. Configurable packaged quantum solutions are the greatest opportunity for widespread adoption of quantum computing
  79. Roadmaps would help avoid disappointment — if they are informative and reasonably accurate
  80. My personal disappointments
  81. No quantum applications yet — a great unrealized promise
  82. General lack of scalable quantum algorithms and applications — they don’t seem to be a priority
  83. Will Shor’s factoring algorithm be able to factor even 8 to 12-bit semiprime integers?
  84. When might a Quantum Winter start?
  85. How long might a Quantum Winter last?
  86. It takes a protracted period of time to restore confidence
  87. What ends a Quantum Winter?
  88. Innovation to end a Quantum Winter
  89. Why haven’t we seen a Quantum Winter yet even though past progress over the past 25 years was frequently quite slow?
  90. My original proposal for this topic
  91. Summary and conclusions

In a nutshell — A Quantum Winter is unlikely in two to three years, but…

  1. A Quantum Winter is unlikely in two to three years based on my personal expectations for progress, but… I’m an optimist, but… I’m also a pragmatic realist and the risks are rising.
  2. Quantum Winter is unlikely, but… Quantum computing is making great progress, but it is uneven and there are warning signs that if left unchecked could lead to a Quantum Winter in two to three years.
  3. The tsunami is building slowly — but surely. Fueled by the raw energy of the massive hype and exaggerated and unrealistic expectations. Or large expectations which may be met, but might not be fully met. Maybe progress will be deep enough in two years that the energy of the tsunami will be distributed widely and not in some great wave that triggers a deep Quantum Winter which wipes out the field for many months or even years, or maybe it actually will be a wipeout. Flip a coin?
  4. Patience will be the key factor determining the onset of a quantum winter. Those with great patience will not be causing — or experiencing — a Quantum Winter. Patient capital will prevail.
  5. A Quantum Winter is largely psychological in nature. Sure, it’s based on issues with the technology, but it is the impact on human psychology that permits the technical issues to drive people into a Quantum Winter.
  6. Sentiment matters — positive sentiment is needed. Too much negative sentiment — two to three years from now, as opposed to today — could easily trigger a Quantum Winter. Too much neutral or indifferent sentiment could cause a Quantum Winter as well.
  7. If we do see a Quantum Winter it will be after we spend two years to presumably get to being on track for production-scale quantum applications, and then one year for disappointment and disenchantment to unfold into deep depression if it turns out that we are not on track after two years from now.
  8. Nominally in two years if not enough progress. Need near-perfect qubits — four or 3.5 nines. Need closer to full connectivity. Need coherence sufficient for fairly deep circuits. Need fine granularity of phase for 20 to 40-qubit quantum Fourier transform (QFT) and quantum phase estimation (QPE).
  9. Could start earlier than two years. If insufficient progress and rising disenchantment and disillusionment.
  10. Could start later than two years. If reasonable progress, but a few lingering key items and it just takes another few months or a year to realize that those items are just not as imminent as promised.
  11. People are starting to drink way too much of the marketing Kool-Aid. The elixir of impending commercialization is beginning to take root. And people are reluctant to commit to the hard work and slow slog of pre-commercialization, especially calm and gradual research.
  12. Still a mere laboratory curiosity. Quantum computing is still at the stage of being a mere laboratory curiosity, not even close to being ready for development and deployment of production-scale practical real-world quantum applications.
  13. Still more appropriate for the lunatic fringe rather than mainstream application developers.
  14. Premature commercialization. Single best way to cause a Quantum Winter is to pursue premature commercialization before the technology actually is ready to develop and deploy production-scale practical real-world quantum applications.
  15. Best way to avoid Quantum Winter is to hold off on commercialization and double down on pre-commercialization. Single best way to avoid a Quantum Winter is to avoid premature commercialization and double down on per-commercialization instead, particularly research. Focus on research, prototyping, and experimentation. It’s not yet time to get commercial efforts underway.

A Quantum Winter is unlikely in two to three years based on my personal expectations for progress, but… I’m an optimist, but… I’m also a pragmatic realist and the risks are rising

Definition for technological winter

  • A technological winter is a period of stagnation in the progress of a technology.
  • Alternatively, a technological winter is a period of reduced funding and interest in a technology.

Definition for Quantum Winter

  • A Quantum Winter is a period of stagnation in the progress of quantum computing.
  • Alternatively, a Quantum Winter is a period of reduced funding and interest in quantum computing.

Technological seasonal cycle: winters, springs, summers, and falls

Quantum winters, springs, summers, and falls

The life of a technology can have any number of cycles of winter, spring, summer, and fall

Quantum computing will have any number of cycles of winter, spring, summer, and fall

Seasonal cycles are typical for advanced technologies, so why should quantum computing be any different?

Definition for a technological summer

  • A technological summer is a period when a technology flourishes with great success.
  • Alternatively, a technological summer is a period of increased funding and interest in a technology.

Definition for a quantum summer

  • A quantum summer is a period when quantum computing flourishes with great success, presaged by a quantum spring and presaging a quantum fall.
  • Alternatively, a quantum summer is a period of increased funding and interest in quantum computing.

Definition for a technological spring

  • A technological spring is a period of birth or renewal, when a technology begins to flourish with success, typically presaging a technological summer, and likely or possibly presaged by a technological winter.
  • Alternatively, a technological spring is a period of increasing funding and interest in a technology, typically presaging a technological summer, and likely or possibly presaged by a technological winter.

Definition for a quantum spring

  • A quantum spring is a period of birth or renewal, when quantum computing begins to flourish with success, typically presaging a quantum summer, and likely or possibly presaged by a quantum winter.
  • Alternatively, a quantum spring is a period of increasing funding and interest in quantum computing, typically presaging a quantum summer, and likely or possibly presaged by a quantum winter.

Technological falls

Quantum falls

Definition for a technological fall

  • A technological fall is a period of gradual decline after a technological summer, when a technology peaks, loses its luster, and begins to decline, presaging a technological winter.
  • Alternatively, a technological fall is a period of decreasing funding and interest in a technology after a technological summer, presaging a technological winter.

Definition for a quantum fall

  • A quantum fall is a period of gradual decline after a quantum summer, when quantum computing peaks, loses its luster, and begins to decline, presaging a quantum winter.
  • Alternatively, a quantum fall is a period of decreasing funding and interest in quantum computing after a quantum summer, presaging a quantum winter.

A technological winter is not the end of a technology but simply the end of one cycle of growth of the technology

A Quantum Winter is not the end of quantum computing but simply the end of one cycle of growth of quantum computing

A Quantum Winter is more of a pause or timeout than an ending

Stages of a Quantum Winter

  1. How does it actually start, the first moment? Such as trigger events.
  2. What keeps it going? Lack of reasonable progress.
  3. How long might it last? Months, years, or…?
  4. What ends it? Such as trigger events of innovation or renewed flows of money.
  5. What’s next? Quantum Spring of the next stage of growth.

A Quantum Winter is largely psychological in nature

  1. Disappointment.
  2. Disenchantment.
  3. Disillusionment.
  4. Despair.
  5. Depression.

Sentiment matters — positive sentiment is needed

  1. Positive.
  2. Neutral.
  3. Negative.
  1. Open-minded.
  2. Positive.
  3. Interested.
  4. Optimistic.
  5. Accepting.
  6. Committed.
  7. Buoyant.
  8. Enthusiastic.
  9. Energized.
  10. Ecstatic.
  11. Euphoric.
  1. Undecided.
  2. Neutral.
  3. Indifferent.
  4. Disinterested.
  5. Skeptical.
  6. Open-minded.
  7. Noncommittal.
  1. Skeptical.
  2. Pessimistic.
  3. Cynical.
  4. Opposed.
  5. Anxious.
  6. Disappointed.
  7. Disenchanted.
  8. Disillusioned.
  9. Depressed.

Onset — How does a Quantum Winter start?

  1. Trigger events. Just feels that something isn’t quite right. Bad events, or failure of good events to happen.
  2. Warning signs. Telltale advance signs that something bad is going to happen. People are just acting a bit odd and out of character.
  3. How it feels. A visceral sense that something is’t right and that bad things are beginning to happen.
  4. Consequences. The effects of trigger events.
  5. Appearance. What it looks like — and something just doesn’t look right.

What might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?

  1. Some high-profile commitment to achieve some grand goal by some particular date — and then failing to achieve it. Such as heavy PR for a failed attempt at The ENIAC Moment.
  2. Bankruptcy or shutdown of a high-flying startup or corporate joint venture.
  3. Some high-flying startup fails to close a massive funding round.
  4. Failure of some large government-sponsored project.
  5. Qubit fidelity could be only so-so or actually okay, but transmon qubit fidelity may still be very weak. And trapped-ions may have great connectivity, but still mediocre qubit counts.
  6. Inability to achieve nontrivial quantum Fourier transform (QFT) or quantum phase estimation (QPE).

How might it get started?

  1. Enough people have bought into the euphoria and gotten convinced to expect real results within six months.
  2. If a critical mass of people hit that six month milestone and are very disappointed in mediocre or even nonexistent results, that could trigger the beginning of the slide down the slippery slope to a Quantum Winter.
  3. Rinse and repeat.

A Quantum Winter is less than likely, but… risk is there and gradually growing

Yellow flags — Rising concerns about quantum computing

  1. Despite dramatic advances, still not close to commercial readiness.
  2. Still a mere laboratory curiosity. Quantum computing is still at the stage of being a mere laboratory curiosity, not even close to being ready for development and deployment of production-scale practical real-world quantum applications.
  3. Still more appropriate for the lunatic fringe rather than mainstream developers.
  4. Irrational exuberance and hype. High and rising.
  5. Hype and expectations are growing faster than the technology itself.
  6. Technical concerns not being addressed rapidly enough.
  7. Lots of qubits, but not so usable.
  8. Technical risks are quite daunting.
  9. Key and essential technical hurdles don’t have clear and compelling roadmaps.
  10. Rush to premature commercialization.
  11. Too much money chasing two few real opportunities.
  12. Too many research questions remain outstanding.
  13. The technology just doesn’t feel ready for commercial use despite the advances.
  14. Dearth of 40-qubit algorithms.
  15. No sense of real and substantial quantum advantage.

Red flag: Hype and expectations are growing faster than the technology itself

Still a mere laboratory curiosity

Still more appropriate for the lunatic fringe rather than mainstream application developers

How patient will investors and managers be if advances are not as rapid as expected?

  1. Projects could get canceled.
  2. Budgets could be slashed.
  3. Hiring could be curtailed.
  4. Staff could be cut.
  5. Investment flows could dwindle.

Patience will be the key factor determining the onset of a quantum winter

Chief characteristics of a technological winter

  1. Disappointment with the technology. Lost some or all of its luster.
  2. Failure of the technology to deliver on its promises.
  3. Rising prospect or concern that the technology will fail to deliver on its promises in the future. The future no longer feels as bright or even bright at all.
  4. When predictions fail to materialize.
  5. Stagnation. Lack of palpable progress or technical advances. It needs to feel and look like the the technology is progressing at some reasonable pace.
  6. Over-investment and over-enthusiasm.
  7. Rising prospect that projects will fail to deliver on their promises.
  8. Expectations feel unfulfilled.
  9. Feeling a lack of progress. Or feeling of dramatically less progress than expectations,
  10. Diminished enthusiasm and excitement.
  11. Rising frustrations.
  12. Intense frustrations.
  13. Essential technical capabilities not achieved.
  14. Key technical milestones not achieved.
  15. Getting bogged down with technical speed bumps. Can see a path forward but unable to readily achieve it.
  16. Hitting technical walls. No clear path forward.
  17. Progress has halted. Any number of causes.
  18. Progress has dramatically diminished. Any number of causes.
  19. Progress is haphazard. Uneven and not meeting expectations.
  20. Fewer articles and papers published.
  21. Progress without results. Sense of at least some progress in terms of expenditure of effort and money but with a lack of palpable and visible results which deliver significant business value to the organization.
  22. Anxiety. General feeling that things could get worse. Feeling that things are beginning to fall apart.
  23. Despair and even depression. General feeling that things are not going to get better. Feeling that things are likely to get much worse.
  24. Curtailment of projects. Existing projects are limited or trimmed, or even canceled. New projects are not approved or funded, or receive dramatically less funding.
  25. Less money readily available.
  26. Curtailment of money flows. Less investment in startups. Limited or canceled budgets.
  27. Limitations on hiring. Due to curtailment of projects and money flows. Fewer open positions. Less easy to find work. Less easy to hop between companies.
  28. Trimming of research funding. Although generally research will be impacted less than commercial projects — unless things are really bad.
  29. General collapse of the field. Insufficient demand for so many vendors, customers, projects, staff, initiatives, office space, furnishings, equipment, budgeting, and investment.

What will it be like while it’s happening?

  1. All or most current hardware will still be operational. Some may get shut down.
  2. Less frequent advances.
  3. More inverse hype — disappointment and despair. The opposite of euphoria.
  4. Less money sloshing around. And less enthusiastically.
  5. Fewer job opportunities.
  6. Fewer new projects.
  7. Fewer new startups.

Telltale advance signs that a technological winter may be brewing

  1. Rampant hype.
  2. Over-inflated promises.
  3. Unnaturally high expectations.
  4. Excessive hype coupled with nonexistent practical solutions.
  5. Excessive promotion by the media.
  6. Enthusiasm and optimism for the technology has spiraled out of control.
  7. Irrational exuberance and hype. High and rising, faster and faster.
  8. Enthusiasm for the promise of the technology has spiraled out of control. Even before the technology is actually available.
  9. Rate of progress is failing to meet expectations.
  10. Despite dramatic advances, still not close to commercial readiness.
  11. Technical concerns not being addressed rapidly enough.
  12. Technical risks are quite daunting.
  13. Key and essential technical hurdles don’t have clear and compelling roadmaps.
  14. Rush to premature commercialization.
  15. Too much money chasing two few real opportunities.
  16. Too many research questions remain outstanding.
  17. The technology just doesn’t feel ready for commercial use despite the advances.

So far, so good, but…

Some telltale technical signs indicating rising risk of disappointment in quantum computing

  1. No 40-qubit algorithms. No algorithms approaching production-scale that can be run on simulators even if real quantum hardware is not yet available.
  2. Quantum volume stuck below 16M (24 qubits). Not even close to 16 bits or 20 bits.
  3. Few 24-qubit algorithms. Currently none. Max at 21 to 23 qubits.
  4. Mediocre qubit fidelity. Low qubit fidelity. Qubit fidelity stuck below 3.5 nines (99.95).
  5. Quantum error correction (QEC) is a distant future. The promised land of perfect logical qubits, but not in the near future. Too far in the future for most people to relate to it.
  6. Near-perfect qubits are still too far in the future. A fair chance that we will see them in two to three years, but a risk that we won’t see them until it’s too late to prevent confidence from falling off a cliff into a Quantum Winter. But, if we see them within a year to 18 months, a Quantum Winter can be averted, assuming other factors are also addressed in an equally timely manner.
  7. Weak connectivity for transmon qubits. Stuck with nearest neighbor connectivity. Although trapped-ion qubits have full any to any connectivity.
  8. Lack of fine granularity of phase and probability amplitude. Needed to enable quantum Fourier transform (QFT) and quantum phase estimation (QPE) for nontrivial use cases, especially for quantum computational chemistry.
  9. No common use of quantum Fourier transform (QFT) or quantum phase estimation (QPE) for nontrivial use cases. Nothing using 16 or 20 or 24 or 28 or 32 or 40 bits, let alone 64 or 80 or 96 bits.
  10. No significant quantum advantage. Not even minimal quantum advantage (1,000X classical solutions), let alone substantial quantum advantage (1,000,000X), and definitely not close to dramatic quantum advantage (one quadrillion X.)
  11. No sense that The ENIAC moment is coming any time soon. Nothing even remotely close to a production-scale application.
  12. No rich set of algorithmic building blocks. Makes it very difficult to construct large, complex, and more sophisticated algorithms.
  13. No high-level programming model. Extremely low-level programming model. How far can we get with the current low-level programming model? Or as I used to say back in the 1970’s, how much can you expect people to do with bear skins and stone knives.
  14. General lack of scalable quantum algorithms. Doesn’t seem to be a priority.
  15. No quantum applications yet. A great promise for the future, but not realized in any way yet.
  16. Mediocre and limited simulators. Classical simulation of quantum circuits is a very powerful tool. We could be doing much better, especially performance, capacity, and debugging and analysis tools.
  17. Weak debugging capabilities and analysis tools. We are getting by since our algorithms are currently quite small and simple. Much larger, complex, and more sophisticated algorithms will require dramatically greater debugging and analysis tools.
  18. Disappointment with IBM 127-qubit Eagle. Plenty of qubits, but only a quantum volume of 64. Mediocre qubit fidelity. Weak qubit connectivity.
  19. Low confidence in the IBM 433-qubit Osprey due later this year. The disappointment in Eagle makes it difficult to have much confidence in Osprey. This is exactly the kind of falling confidence that can bring on or accelerate a Quantum Winter.
  20. Rigetti just introduced 40 and 80-qubit processors, but with similar limitations as IBM Eagle. Four years ago they promised 128 qubits within a year.
  21. IonQ is making sluggish and haphazard progress. Not clear when they will have a production-scale machine, capable of production-scale 40 to 80-qubit algorithms and applications.
  22. Honeywell (now Quantinuum) made a big splash but with too few qubits. They did promise to improve quantum volume by an order of magnitude each year, but that’s only an average of 3.25 additional qubits each year (log2(10) = 3.32) — with 12 qubits now, that would be 18 to 20 qubits in two years and maybe 22 qubits in three years, which is not so inspiring of the great confidence which will be needed to avoid a Quantum Winter.
  23. Still too many new papers with algorithms using only five to eight qubits. Where are the 40-qubit algorithms — which can be simulated even if high-fidelity real quantum hardware is not yet available?

Non-technical warning signs for quantum computing

  1. Excessive hype coupled with nonexistent practical solutions.
  2. Plenty of decent advances in recent years, but the pace of growth of hype and expectations exceed the pace of technical advances.
  3. Over-investment and over-enthusiasm. Feels like we might be on the cusp of that over the next 18 months.

Rising deficit of promises not yet fulfilled

Where are all of the 40-qubit algorithms?

My disappointment with the IBM 127-qubit Eagle

Attention quantum aficionados at large corporations — make sure your management and executive teams are well aware of these risks

  1. Best defense from getting slammed by a Quantum Winter is to be preemptive.
  2. Best if management hears this from you first. The best defense is a strong offense. Once you’re on the defensive, you lose.
  3. Lower expectations. Try really hard to set lower expectations and focus on research, prototyping, and experimentation — pre-commercialization — rather than prematurely pushing for commercialization.

Stagnation? Not so far

Will achieving The ENIAC Moment be critical to avoiding a Quantum Winter?

Really need to hit The ENIAC Moment before people can finally feel that quantum computing is real and not a vague and distant promised land

Is quantum error correction (QEC) needed to avert a Quantum Winter?

If we don’t have quantum error correction, then we do need near-perfect qubits to avoid a deep Quantum Winter

Will lack of higher qubit fidelity and enhanced qubit connectivity in IBM’s 433-qubit Osprey be enough to trigger a Quantum Winter?

What will Osprey deliver?

  1. Qubit fidelity. Will it be high enough?
  2. Qubit connectivity. Will it be great enough?
  3. Fine granularity of phase and probability amplitude. How large a quantum Fourier transform (QFT) or quantum phase estimation (QPE) will be supported?

How far can we get without a high-level programming model and rich set of algorithmic building blocks?

Current technology has plenty of runway to avoid a Quantum Winter

Advances we need to see over the next two years to stay on track

Yes, we can indeed count on further progress, but will it be enough to keep us on track and to sustain momentum?

Sustaining momentum is everything — a slip in momentum can trigger a Quantum Winter

Will there be a quantum winter? Or even more than one?

  1. Near-perfect qubits. High enough qubit fidelity — low enough error rate — that many applications don’t even need quantum error correction (QEC). And that also enables efficient quantum error correction.
  2. Sufficient qubit fidelity to support efficient quantum error correction (QEC).
  3. Achieving quantum error correction efficiently and accurately — even for a relatively small number of qubits.
  4. Achieving enough physical qubits to achieve a sufficient capacity of logical qubits through quantum error correction.
  5. Achieving sufficiently fine granularity of quantum phase and probability amplitude to enable quantum Fourier transform (QFT) and quantum phase estimation (QPE) for a reasonably large number of qubits sufficient to enable quantum computational chemistry.
  6. Conceptualizing — and developing — a diverse and robust library of high-level algorithmic building blocks sufficient to enable complex and sophisticated quantum algorithms and applications.
  7. Achieving The ENIAC Moment for even a single production-scale application.
  8. Achieving The ENIAC Moment for multiple production-scale applications.
  9. Conceptualizing — and developing — sufficiently high-level programming models to make quantum algorithm design practical for non-elite teams.
  10. Conceptualizing — and developing — high-level quantum-native programming languages to support the high-level programming models using high-level algorithmic building blocks to make it easier for non-elite teams to design quantum algorithms and develop production-scale quantum applications.
  11. Achieving The FORTRAN Moment for a single production-scale application.
  12. Achieving The FORTRAN Moment for multiple production-scale applications.
  13. Opening the floodgates for exploiting The FORTRAN Moment for widespread production-scale applications.

But occasional Quantum Springs and Quantum Summers

Quantum Falls?

In truth, it will be a very long and very slow slog

No predicting the precise flow of progress, with advances and setbacks

Is a Quantum Winter likely in two to three years? No, but…

  1. Critical technical metrics not achieved. Such as low qubit fidelity and connectivity, or still no 32 to 40-qubit algorithms.
  2. Quantum Winter alert. Early warning signs. Beyond the technical metrics. Such as projects seeing their budgets and hiring frozen.
  3. Quantum Winter warning. Serious warning signs. Failure of some high-profile projects.
  4. Quantum Winter. Difficulty getting funding for many projects. Funding and staffing cuts. Slow pace of announced breakthroughs.
  5. Severe Quantum Winter. Getting even worse. Onset of psychological depression. People leaving projects. People switching careers. Conferences being canceled.

Critical technical gating factors which could presage a Quantum Winter in two to three years

  1. Lack of near-perfect qubits.
  2. Still only nearest-neighbor connectivity for transmon qubits. Transmon qubits haven’t adapted architecturally.
  3. Lack of reasonably fine granularity of phase. Needed for quantum Fourier transform (QFT) and quantum phase estimation (QPE) to enable quantum advantage, such as for quantum computational chemistry in particular.
  4. Less than 32 qubits on trapped-ion machines.
  5. Dearth of 32 to 40-qubit algorithms.
  6. Failure to achieve even minimal quantum advantage.
  7. Rampant and restrictive IP (intellectual property) impeding progress. Intellectual property (especially patents) can either help or hinder adoption of quantum computing.

Some technical walls could get hit

  1. Qubit fidelity.
  2. Qubit connectivity.
  3. Coherence time.
  4. Granularity of phase and probability amplitude.
  5. Limits to quantum Fourier transform (QFT) and quantum phase estimation (QPE) precision.

Will trapped-ion qubits and neutral-atom qubits save the day?

  1. Generally higher qubit fidelity.
  2. Full any to any qubit connectivity.

Will new and innovative qubit technologies appear on the scene and save the day?

Premature commercialization is probably the single biggest risk for stumbling into a Quantum Winter

  1. Model for Pre-commercialization Required Before Quantum Computing Is Ready for Commercialization
  2. https://jackkrupansky.medium.com/model-for-pre-commercialization-required-before-quantum-computing-is-ready-for-commercialization-689651c7398a

Might we simply sleepwalk into a Quantum Winter?

Different audiences and sectors will experience a Quantum Winter differently or maybe even not at all

Risk of Quantum Winter is primarily for those engaged in premature commercialization — those involved with research and pre-commercialization should be fine

Quantum Ready — All dressed up and no place to go

We’re still in the full-on bliss of the honeymoon, but for how long?

Saving grace: Nobody is calling quantum a mania or a bubble, yet

What will assure that we can avoid this impending Quantum Winter?

  1. The ENIAC Moment. A production-scale practical real-world quantum application can be demonstrated.
  2. Minimal quantum advantage is achieved. At least 1,000X a classical solution.
  3. Four nines of qubit fidelity. 99.99% reliability of two-qubit quantum logic gates and measurements.
  4. Full any to any qubit connectivity.
  5. At least one million gradations of phase and probability amplitude. If not a billion.
  6. Quantum Fourier transform (QFT) and quantum phase estimation (QPE) for at least 20 if not 30 qubits.
  7. Circuit depth of 2048 gates. Or is that still too low?
  8. 48 to 64 qubits with all of these qualities.

Even minimal quantum advantage may remain out of reach in two to three years, but achieving it could avert a Quantum Winter

Single best way to avoid a Quantum Winter: Hold off on commercialization but double down on pre-commercialization

Focus on research

Wildcards

  1. New qubit technologies. Possibly with qualities not yet imagined.
  2. New transmon architectures. Like some sort of dynamic bus for quantum state.
  3. Dramatic improvements in trapped-ion qubits. And architectures.
  4. Neutral atoms could address all of the concerns. Currently a great unknown, just great promises.
  5. Distributed quantum computing and quantum networking. Computing with distributed quantum state could change everything.

What single advance within three years could turn the tide?

Configurable packaged quantum solutions are the greatest opportunity for widespread adoption of quantum computing

Roadmaps would help avoid disappointment — if they are informative and reasonably accurate

My personal disappointments

  1. Qubit fidelity. Not clearly stating qubit fidelity as top priority.
  2. Near-perfect qubits. Not focusing on the need for near-perfect qubits.
  3. Qubit connectivity. Not focusing on weak qubit connectivity of transmon qubits.
  4. Quantum Fourier transform (QFT) and quantum phase estimation (QPE). Not focusing on quantum Fourier transform (QFT) and quantum phase estimation (QPE) and their need for fine-grained phase and probability amplitude.
  5. Disappointment with IBM 127-qubit Eagle. Plenty of qubits, but only a quantum volume of 64. Mediocre qubit fidelity. Weak qubit connectivity. Hardly better than the 27-qubit Falcon.
  6. Weak documentation and specifications. General lack of detail and precision.
  7. Lack of a high-level programming model.
  8. Lack of a rich collection of high-level algorithmic building blocks.
  9. Not pushing and enhancing simulators strongly enough. Need for performance, capacity, configuration, and debugging, testing, and analysis tools.
  10. General lack of scalable quantum algorithms. Doesn’t seem to be a priority.
  11. Premature commercialization. Far too much “drinking the Kool-Aid” and engaging in premature commercialization.
  12. Research. Not enough focus on research.
  13. Pre-commercialization. Need to shift away from commercialization, back to pre-commercialization, with emphasis on research, prototyping, and experimentation.
  14. Much research remains to be done. Research is beginning to suffer as too many people focus on commercialization.
  15. No quantum applications yet. A great promise for the future, but not realized in any way yet.
  16. Configurable packaged quantum solutions. Best focus for implementing general-purpose quantum applications. Would focus attention on areas needing research, address the major technical deficits, and help build positive excitement and enthusiasm which could avoid a Quantum Winter.

No quantum applications yet — a great unrealized promise

General lack of scalable quantum algorithms and applications — they don’t seem to be a priority

Will Shor’s factoring algorithm be able to factor even 8 to 12-bit semiprime integers?

  • Need for higher qubit fidelity.
  • Need for greater qubit connectivity.
  • Need for finer granularity of phase and probability amplitude.
  • Need for quantum Fourier transform (QFT) and quantum phase estimation (QPE).
  • Need for greater circuit depth. Need for greater coherence time and/or faster gate execution time.

When might a Quantum Winter start?

  1. Six months. Nope.
  2. One year. Very unlikely.
  3. 18 months. Unlikely. But it is possible.
  4. Two years. Possible.
  5. Two and a half years. Very possible.
  6. Three years. Very possible.
  7. Four years. Possible.
  8. Five years or longer. Possible.
  9. Seven years or longer. Possibly a second Quantum Winter.

How long might a Quantum Winter last?

  1. A few months.
  2. Six months.
  3. Less than a year.
  4. One year. Possibly. Likely longer.
  5. 18 months. Possibly.
  6. Two years. Maybe more likely.
  7. Two and a half years. Maybe more likely.
  8. Three years. Maybe more likely.
  9. Four to five years. Less likely. Shouldn’t be that long.
  10. Five to seven years.
  11. Seven to ten years.
  12. Even longer, maybe.

It takes a protracted period of time to restore confidence

What ends a Quantum Winter?

  1. A basic advance. Something simple but essential.
  2. A technological breakthrough innovation. Something really dramatic.
  3. Availability of funding.
  4. Appearance of a problem which requires the technology for its solution.
  5. Entry of new persons with fresh new motivation and fresh ideas.

Innovation to end a Quantum Winter

  1. The innovation is conceptualized. The idea.
  2. The innovation is realized. Implementation.
  3. Prototyping with the innovation.
  4. Experimentation with the innovation.
  5. Decision to adopt the innovation.
  6. Process of adopting the innovation.
  7. Promotion of the innovation.
  8. Acceptance of the innovation.
  9. Practical adoption of the innovation.
  10. Gradual reacceleration of investment, budgets, projects, and products based on the innovation.

Why haven’t we seen a Quantum Winter yet even though past progress over the past 25 years was frequently quite slow?

My original proposal for this topic

  • Risk Is Rising for a Quantum Winter for Quantum Computing in Two to Three Years. Be prepared for a possible Quantum Winter in 2–3 years as promised and expected technology just isn’t ready yet or as capable and easy to use as expected. Many organizations will have invested significant resources with an expectation of getting a dramatic return on their investment by then. Investors, executives and managers may begin losing patience, especially as planners are unable to project how many more years and additional resources before the technology really is ready for production-scale deployment.

Summary and conclusions

  1. Quantum Winter is unlikely.
  2. Quantum Winter is not imminent in the coming months or year.
  3. A Quantum Winter is unlikely in two to three years based on my personal expectations for progress, but… I’m an optimist, but… I’m also a pragmatic realist and the risks are rising.
  4. But quantum winter is a very real risk two to three years out.
  5. Risk seems to be increasing. Rising concerns. As hype and expectations rise faster than reality.
  6. The tsunami is building slowly — but surely. Fueled by the raw energy of the massive hype and exaggerated and unrealistic expectations. Or large expectations which may be met, but might not be fully met. Maybe progress will be deep enough in two years that the energy of the tsunami will be distributed widely and not in some great wave that triggers a deep Quantum Winter which wipes out the field for many months or even years.
  7. Patience will be the key factor determining the onset of a quantum winter. Those with great patience will not be causing a Quantum Winter. Patient capital will prevail.
  8. A Quantum Winter is largely psychological in nature. Sure, it’s based on issues with the technology, but it is the impact on human psychology that permits the technical issues to drive people into a Quantum Winter.
  9. Sentiment matters — positive sentiment is needed.
  10. Next year should be fairly clear sailing.
  11. Maybe some hint of rising risk in 15 to 18 months or so.
  12. If we do see a Quantum Winter it will be after we spend two years to presumably get to being on track for production-scale quantum applications, and then one year for disappointment and disenchantment to unfold into deep depression if it turns out that we are not on track after two years from now.
  13. Palpable sense that all is not okay in two years.
  14. Either progress accelerates in second year — and third year — or feeling of impending quantum winter takes root and takes off.
  15. If a quantum winter does take root, figure two to five years before subsequent Quantum Spring.
  16. Quantum computing is still at the stage of being a mere laboratory curiosity, not even close to being ready for development and deployment of production-scale practical real-world quantum applications.
  17. Still more appropriate for the lunatic fringe rather than mainstream application developers.
  18. Single biggest risk for triggering a Quantum Winter is premature commercialization.
  19. People are starting to drink way too much of the marketing Kool-Aid. The elixir of impending commercialization is beginning to take root. And people are reluctant to commit to the hard work and slow slog of pre-commercialization.
  20. Single best way to cause a Quantum Winter is to pursue premature commercialization before the technology actually is ready to develop and deploy production-scale practical real-world quantum applications.
  21. Single best way to avoid a Quantum Winter is to avoid premature commercialization and double down on per-commercialization instead, particularly research, as well as prototyping and experimentation.
  22. Everything we can do to get people much more focused on research, prototyping, and experimentation rather than commercialization will help to avoid falling into a deep Quantum Winter caused by premature commercialization.
  23. Many or most advanced technologies inevitably experience seasonal cycles of some sort, with one or even more technological winters, so it may be unrealistic to expect that quantum computing won’t have its own share of seasonal cycles.

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Freelance Consultant

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Jack Krupansky

Jack Krupansky

Freelance Consultant

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