A few years ago, researchers in the quantum physics era would have discussions on whether quantum computing would ever do anything useful at all.  (See here, here, and here).  People would argue that the qubits are much too unstable and the challenges of getting them to behave and building them in large quantities was just too difficult to ever do any commercially relevant.

However, in more recent years, the attitude has changed as we wrote in an article in 2017. And progress over the last three years has further confirmed that there is a future in quantum computing and it will be able to do something useful.  And the announcement of Google’s Quantum Supremacy experiment has ended all doubt that we will get there eventually.

But now there is a new debate within the quantum community. Will we ever be able to achieve quantum advantage for an industry relevant application in the NISQ era before fault tolerant error correct quantum computers are available?  There are some who believe this will be possible, yet others who don’t.

To look into that question, Guillaume Verdon, a Quantum & AI Research Scientist at X, ran in informal poll on the topic on Twitter.  We can’t say the poll was conducted with a very rigorous methodology and the number of total respondents was only 174.  However, many of his respondents do work with quantum on a daily basis so the poll can give us a rough idea of what the research community thinks.

The question he asked was:

Odds that any party manages to discover and implement a truly quantum-advantageous industry-relevant application in the NISW era (pre-FT/QEC)?  Share your best estimates in the poll below.

The results are shown graphically below:

Poll - NISQ Era

It was interesting to note that almost half of the respondents (46.6% to be exact) thought that finding a useful relevant application in the NISQ era was Unlikely (i.e. <25%), while only 15.5% of the respondents thought it was Likely (i.e. >75%).  The remaining 38% can be put in the Perhaps (between 25% and 75% odds) category.  Statistically, this data puts the average estimate at around 37%.

It will be interesting what comes out in the next few years.  We know that a number of groups are trying hard to show something commercially relevant before the error corrected quantum computers are available.  We will see if they can succeed.

September 18, 2020