Signs that the Hype is Overheating. Do We Really Need a Quantum ETF?



We read with curiosity about a new Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) formed by Defiance ETF called the QTUM ETF.  Per their description “QTUM offers investors liquid, transparent and low-cost access to companies developing and applying Quantum Computing and other transformative computing technologies.”  The problem is that their top ten holdings as of September 13, 2018 include AMD, Alteryx, Attunity, IDT, and Lattice who are not currently working in quantum computing as far as we know.  Although the fund does hold assets in some large companies that have ongoing quantum research including Microsoft, IBM, Lockheed Martin, and Northrup Grumman, it will likely be 10-20 years or more before quantum technology has any significant impact on the financial results of these global companies.  Although the overall portfolio seems to be a reasonable mix of several dozen companies that are leaders in various information technology segments, it seems a bit of a stretch to hype this as a quantum computing fund.

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s there was a phenomenon known as the “AI Winter”.  This resulted from the many disappointments and failures of artificial intelligence research that occurred in the early 1980’s and caused disillusionment and a severe cutback of funding in the field.  Happily, for researchers in the AI field recent successes in the past 10 years has renewed the enthusiasm and funding for the field but there is still a nagging worry that the AI hype will be overdone once again and cause another cycle of pessimism.

So now, some folks in the quantum industry are worried about the possibility of a “Quantum Winter”.  Everyone should understand that quantum technology development will require a lot of hard work and be a multi-decades process. So it would behoove the industry to promote realistic expectations and avoid the hype where we can.  Although some cyclicality may be inevitable, perhaps it won’t be as severe as what occurred with AI.