Don’t Expect Quantum to Bring Us Anything Like the Teleportation Fantasies We See in Science Fiction

By Doug Finke

I was at a recent quantum conference and a woman stood up and asked the following question: “I have a ten year old daughter. Will quantum technology bring a dramatic change to her daily life in much the same way that technology has made big changes since I was ten years old? When I was a kid, our family didn’t have cell phones, social media, video streaming, GPS navigation and other things. Can my daughter expect to see similar big changes happen in her lifetime due to quantum?”

Our thinking is that the impact of quantum technology will be different and not as directly noticeable to the average consumer. The impact will be much more subtle. In a few years, you may be able to walk into an auto dealer to buy a new electric car to replace your old one. Perhaps the old car had a range of 250 miles while the latest ones offer a range of 750 miles due to improved batteries developed using quantum chemistry simulations. Or you may go to a doctor for a medical condition and he or she says, “There’s a new drug that recently came out that will cure you.” And perhaps, the drug was found through quantum-based drug discovery. Or you are using a new road navigation tool call “QWaze” which uses quantum based optimization to recommend the best route for your trip.

Don’t expect to buy a “qPhone” from Apple anytime soon. It is highly unlikely that any of us will have a standalone quantum computer in our pocket during our lifetime. However, our future phones will be able to provide access to a cloud based quantum computer over the cellular network and provide improvements to services, such as digital assistants, that we are using today. But these will improve things that we currently have rather than bringing to consumers completely new capabilities that they didn’t have before.

Quantum computing is really targeted for use by enterprises, rather than individual consumers. It will be an expensive technology for a long, long time and will only make sense either in situations like cloud computing where the capability can be shared across many users or with large corporations like pharmaceutical companies that may require large amounts of quantum computing time to discover the next blockbuster drug that provide them with a large return on investment or for defense applications where security for a nation is paramount.

Artificial Intelligence is different because that is a technology that can be directly usable by an individual consumer. But a discussion of that will need to be reserved for some future article.

February 16, 2024