(Singularity) Google’s recent announcement that it had achieved quantum supremacy has translated into a massive investment boost in the technology, but it might be a double-edged sword.
It’s a long journey from that quantum speedup to more useful problems, but despite the long timescales it will take for this to happen, money has been pouring into the field.
Much of that money is coming from VC funds, raising the prospect of the same kind of boom as was seen in AI at the turn of the decade. But given that most experts think it’s still a long road to doing anything practical with quantum computers, there’s growing fear that all this excitement could lead to a “quantum winter.”
The term borrows from the AI industry, which prior to its recent boom has experienced two “AI winters.” Hype and unrealistic expectations led to a huge surge in interest followed by a dramatic retraction after disappointing progress saw investors pull out.
A more pernicious problem is the danger of a brain drain as companies flush with investor cash lure the best minds out of academia in a mirror of what has happened in AI. Given that there are still fundamental questions that need to be answered about quantum computing, in a field as small as it is that could severely hamper progress.
There’s aconsiderable foresight about the potential for a quantum winter from within the industry. Michael Marthaler, co-founder of startup Heisenberg Quantum Simulations, told The Economist he’s already expecting one and is just hoping his firm is established enough by then to “hibernate.” Matthew Kinsella, managing director at Maverick Ventures, told Business Insider he’s preparing for a retraction despite having invested in a quantum technology company.