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Quantum Leap Years

Jay Cuthrell
March 4th, 2019 · 3 min read

Fudge Sunday

The topic of quantum computing has steadily moved towards the realm of popular science. As with many other topics within popular science, wider audiences will have varying degrees of awareness and depth – but recognition is certainly on the rise.


Let’s get the TV reference out of the way…

While I never got into the TV show, Quantum Leap is still one of the first things that come to mind when I hear quantum computing mentioned. That is until the Bond series displaced it. My first exposure to the topic came from early fascination with high(er) temperature 123 (YBa2Cu3O7) superconductive materials and getting to work as a lab grunt with postdocs that built SQUIDs.

1989 - Quantum Leap Episode: Genesis - September 13, 1956

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Electric car? Yep. Gratuitous guitar solo? Yep.

2008 - Quantum of Solace

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And yet… a distinct lack of computing references overall but that surface table scene was pretty slick even for just over a decade ago.

The Flavor Flav of Emerging Technologies

Almost 20 years ago, Gartner placed quantum computing on their hype cycle. While many entries on the Gartner Hype Cycle for 2000 are now de rigueur, quantum computing is still situated on the far far left.

Every Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies Since 2000 - Album on Imgur

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Gartner Hype! circa 2000

For example, consider that Gartner also listed “Synthetic Characters” next to quantum computing. Today, “Synthetic Characters” are better known as the dystopian proof-of-concept known as “deep fakes” that many futurists claim will leave the uncanny valley of visual Fibonacci-esque fluid pattern recognition of faces.

The Rest of the World

Trying to gauge more general interests outside of Gartner clientele is a bit more challenging. Even Google Trends indicate that interest in quantum computing has risen and fallen over the years.

Perhaps the least scientific way to gauge interest...

Perhaps the least scientific way to gauge interest…

Zeitgeist estimates aside, the steady uptick in searches for quantum computing would indicate more people wonder what quantum computing is about. Also, in just over 15 years, the interest in quantum computing has risen to the level of demand for summaries targeting CIOs.

2017 - The CIO’s Guide to Quantum Computing - Smarter With Gartner

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Hype! Hype! Hype!

The Anticipation of Commercialization

Several companies have already appeared to market and associate with quantum computing. Notably, there is a stead progression of attempts to differentiate.

2017 - Microsoft to release programming language for quantum computing — now it just needs a quantum computer – GeekWire

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Differentiation via developer tools

2018 - Google AI Blog: A Preview of Bristlecone, Google’s New Quantum Processor

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Differentiation via useful error correction

Two Different Goals: US and Europe

Back in the US, the race to be a leader in quantum computing solidified in two ways.

First, the National Quantum Initiative Act was signed into law. Second, AWS telegraphed potential plans via their blog by recognizing the importance of the past 8 years since they announced AWS QC2 for April Fool’s Day 2010.

2018 - H.R.6227 - 115th Congress (2017-2018): National Quantum Initiative Act | Congress.gov | Library of Congress

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National Quantum Initiative Act became law.

2018 - AWS Blog: National Quantum Initiative Act: An Important Step for American Leadership

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The future involves “free” 2 Day Delivery of Quantum Computer in a cardboard box?

However, in Europe, there are initiatives to harness quantum computing for purposes that will challenge not only nation state surveillance actors but also the platform implications for global consumer advertising juggernauts. In the wake of GDPR, if the secrecy solution is successful the nature of B2C aggregation could get very interesting and have far reaching implications to our notions of privacy and the expectations in the near future.

2018 - Inside Europe’s quest to build an unhackable quantum internet - MIT Technology Review

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Until it isn’t?

2019 Brings Differentiation Double Down

If there is a theme for quantum computing in 2019, the theme is differentiation by adopting maturity oriented marketing terms. For example, there are already references to systems as well as architectural enhancements and developer oriented communities – and it’s only March!

2019 - IBM Unveils World’s First Integrated Quantum Computing System for Commercial Use - Jan 8, 2019

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System oriented marketing language appears

2019 - D-Wave Previews Next-Generation Quantum Computing Platform | D-Wave Systems

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Topology and connected differentiation appear

2019 - Microsoft’s quantum computing network takes a giant leap at Startup Summit – GeekWire

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Birds of a feather, partners, and the wisdom of self-selecting crowds aching to become a community aligned to the funding and long term bets of a cloud computing powerhouse.

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