As the startup funding and VC pendulum has switched to tightening and bearish, what is the state of Quantum Computing heading into 2023?
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Quantum computing is developing rapidly, with government and business investment reaching $35.5 billion globally, but the technology has not reached maturity yet. - World Economic Forum
Year of the Quantum Pilots
According to TechTarget, in an ESG IT spending survey, 11% of respondents indicated their organizations were piloting quantum for a few applications, 17% indicated they are testing and 24% of respondents have begun research but are years away from production apps. Finally, 27% have expressed an interest in quantum computing but have not taken any action toward embracing it.
Quantum computing is seen as a strategic technology by the world’s leading economies, governments, military and cybersecurity professionals.
FOMO with Quantum Computing is Real
Funding Slowdown and Talent Shortage Looms
But even at the end of 2022, adoption in actual industry and companies remains very low. Furthermore a talent shortage is likely on par with the cybersecurity domain for Quantum computing professionals. Funding since 2019 really got ahead of the reality, it appears.
For many, its potential to render common cryptographic technologies obsolete, its economic potential and its impact on global digital economy make it geopolitically strategic. However it’s more than that, it could be a way to accelerate some aspects of machine learning with quantum machine learning and unique simulation advantages.
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Image source: IBM
Emergent Potential of Quantum Computing
Thus Quantum computing has emergent potential, an ability to transform and reshape fundamentally other industries. It is not like blockchain, IoT, VR, extensions of our existing frameworks and layers of the internet, but rather an upgrade of our computing, R&D and ability to innovate, optimize and make more efficient our current business models.
This puts Quantum computing in rare company as a nascent technology.
But how “new” is Quantum computing? According to the WEF report, Quantum technologies refer to a range of technologies based on our growing ability to see and control reality on a subatomic (“quantum”) level to build sensors and an entirely new form of computing and communications.
Many corporations are doing pilots with the technology to improve their ability to do powerful simulations that help them predict their supply-chains and open up new possibilities in R&D. This then is a technology that has a “hype” factor in many areas, including Cloud computing leaders like AWS, Azure and Google Cloud.
The U.S. doesn’t even frequently admit how much more China has spent on quantum technology R&D. What kinds of Quantum startups in stealth operate in China in the 2020s?
Hype in the “Demonstration” Phase
Even as I cover startups, PR and news in the space, I think we are sometimes forgetting that actually even as we head into 2023, the technology is still in the research and development and demonstration phase, making it hard to predict exact time horizons and applications – leading to various beliefs and bets in the market. That is, it’s a highly speculative nascent industry, without even an idea of the optimal method to achieve scalability and large scale quantum machines.
The attention of the Media, Governments, Venture Capital and BigTech giants does not mean the nascent industry will end up being a major catalyst to technological progress. It could fall flat, there’s no guarantee.
Best in Class Applications
Even its “best in class” applications in research and industry are debatable:
- Molecular simulation and discovery in materials science and biology
- Optimization and risk management in complex systems
- A bi-directional impact on existing technology areas such as AI, security and blockchain.
I think realistically Quantum computing could be a reasonably important catalyst at the intersection of healthcare and artificial intelligence. Drug discovery is the low hanging fruit here.
According to McKinsey, the pharma industry is at the learner level of quantum maturity, meaning it has already begun to hire quantum scientists to support possible use cases for quantum simulation in drug design, for instance. I personally assume that biotechnology, genomics and healthcare as a whole will have the highest ROI for quantum computing, simulations and quantum machine learning eventually.
So Quantum tech will actually help power the A.I. of healthcare in the next 15 years.
The diversity of potential applications makes Quantum computing more of a FOMO candidate than many flashier hype trends in technology we are witnessing including crypto, VR and immersive “Metaverse” worlds.
Despite uncertainty over when quantum computers will be ready at scale, governments and businesses must act now, as quantum security risks and business opportunities cannot be ignored, according to Google spun out Sandbox AQ and National Defense and cybersecurity analysts. Interestingly they haven’t disclosed their total funding.
According to the WEF report then, all in all, quantum computing is positioned to complement classical computing and be applied to certain tasks outside the reach of today’s supercomputers, carving out its powerful computational niche that didn’t exist before, eventually expanding modern research and development and business horizons.
Their report is 42 pages in a PDF and worth a look.
China and Quantum Computing
Quantum technologies could be the key to resolving global issues from climate change to improving drug-delivery times. China has committed $15.3 billion in public funds in quantum computing investments, which is more than double that of EU governments ($7.2 billion) and eight times what the United States has pledged to spend ($1.9 billion).
Yet following the U.S. based PR on Quantum computing, we wouldn’t know it with virtually no serious coverage.
As an accountability indie journalist on the future, I find this a bit troubling. Coverage of quantum computing remains bloated with hype and Venture Capital motivations and the greed of physicists, but what will it really become? Will it augment the future iterations of machine learning and pair our future with a quantum machine learning supercomputer version of A.I. that surprises humanity?
If such a reality does come to pass, there’s a good chance it comes to us out of China.