Hit: Quantum Computing Goes Commercial
In May, D-Wave Systems sold the world’s first quantum computer. The buyer was Lockheed Martin Corporation, who did not disclose how they intend to use the machine. The system, named D-Wave One, employs a 128-qubit chip, called Rainier, and uses superconducting technology to generate “adiabatic quantum computing” (that some claim is not true quantum computing). The cost of the system was not disclosed, but undoubtedly this is one of those cases in which if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it.
It still bothers me (marginally) that the claim that AQC is not “true quantum computing” still festers in the collective conscious. One of the things I’ve learned over the past ten years is that dogma is extremely difficult to dislodge. Opinions and beliefs have tremendous inertia — even ones that are wrong and/or harmful.
I think the gate model of quantum computing set back the field of actually building real quantum computers by 20 years or so. I can imagine a parallel universe where the ideas of experimental condensed matter physicists drove the underlying theory of quantum computation, instead of theoretical computer scientists and mathematicians. In this parallel universe, by now we’d likely have dozens of real working quantum computers of all sorts of types. The main problem with the gate model is that, while it is beautiful for theoretical computer scientists, it is astronomically horrible from the implementation side. Somehow we got into a situation where experimental physicists (ie implementers) bought the story that the gate model was “real” quantum computing and other ideas weren’t.
Someone (I think maybe it was Eric) had a classic line that I sometimes think about when this subject comes up. When questioned about whether what we’ve built was a “real” quantum computer, he said “How about we race our 25,000 Josephson junction superconducting adiabatic quantum computer against your powerpoint deck [editor's comment: powerpoint deck == most advanced gate model quantum computer ever built] and see who wins.”
The point is that no gate model quantum computer has ever been built. I have speculated for some time that no useful gate model quantum computer will *ever* be built, because of a long list of inter-related challenges that no-one — even though lots of smart people have tried — even has the faintest notion of how to solve.