We discussed these trends with David Schatsky, of the Deloitte University think tank, who has recently written on the state of quantum, and pressed him to predict quantum computing’s next important milestone toward commercial viability. Such is the elusive nature of the technology, and in the knowledge how difficult progress has been in its 30 years of existence, that Schatsky swathed his response in caveats.
“I’ll only give you a guess if you include that nobody really has an idea, especially me,” he said good naturedly. “But I think what we’re likely to see is answers to questions arrived at through the application of quantum computing in a laboratory setting first. It could be some kind of research question that a quantum computer has been especially designed to answer, in an R&D kind of setting. I wouldn’t be shocked if we see things like that in a couple of years.”
Actual commercial viability for quantum computing is probably in the 15-year time frame, he said, adding that while quantum computing is expected be used for somewhat tightly focused analytical problems, “if quantum computing becomes a really commercially accessible platform, these things have a way of creating a virtuous cycle where the capability to solve problems can draw new problem types and new uses for them. So I think we may be able to use them in ways we can’t image today.”
More immediate impact from quantum could come in the form of hybrid strategies that merge HPC systems with quantum computing techniques, Schatsky said, attacking HPC-class problems with the infusion of “quantum thinking.”
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