Motown had a big hit with Edwin Star's song "War" in 1970 at the height of opposition to the Vietnam War. I understand where this sentiment came from at the time, and some may be wondering the same thing about quantum computing today.
What is it good for anyway? There still is no viable commercial quantum computer on the market as of 2021. Yet we hear about quantum computing as though it was the solution to all our scientific problems that have held humankind back for generations.
Here are some facts about quantum computing that have helped to raise some healthy skepticism.
- No equivalent of a classical computer terminal to read and display data.
- No ability to read and write text or data files.
- No ability to access a database to read, write, update, or query data.
- No ability to access data over a network.
- No ability to send or receive data from web services over a network.
- No real-time sensor access. (courtesy of https://jackkrupansky.medium.com/what-applications-are-suitable-for-a-quantum-computer-5584ef62c38a)
Well then, what in the world is quantum good for anyway?
A post on quantum computing research at https://research.aimultiple.com/quantum-computing-applications/ suggests that these are possible applications for quantum computing.
- 1- Optimizing large autonomous fleets
- 2- Utilization prediction
- 3- Grid optimization
- 4- Weather forecasting
- 5- Automated trading (e.g. predicting financial markets)
- 6- Risk analysis
- 7- Portfolio optimization
- 8- Fraud detection
- 9- Valuation of instruments, premiums in complex cases
- 10- Supply chain optimization
- 11- Inventory optimization
- 12- Design optimization (e.g. batteries, chips, vehicles, etc.)
- 13- Drug interaction prediction
- 14- Personalized medicine taking into account genomics
- 15- Machine learning
These are very specialized and highly focused types of applications far from general computing needs.
So in the end, it turns out that there are a number of very useful applications for quantum computing, but we are still 5-10 years away from mainstream quantum computing. In the meantime, we have plenty of options for fast computing using traditional microprocessors to solve today's problems.
This is a photo of a Google Quantum computer under development. Admittedly, today's quantum computers look a bit more like fancy heaters or AC units than computers.