The Future of Quantum Computing: NISQ and Beyond

Quantum computing stands as a groundbreaking innovation, tapping into the enigmatic realm of quantum physics to execute calculations that lie far beyond the grasp of classical computational systems. Within the heart of quantum computers reside qubits, or quantum bits, entities capable of dwelling within a twilight of two states—0 and 1—simultaneously. This extraordinary duality empowers quantum computers to traverse an expansive labyrinth of possibilities concurrently, unfurling solutions to conundrums that remain impervious to the realm of conventional machinery.



A diagram of a NISQ quantum computer with superconducting qubits



Nonetheless, the landscape of quantum computing remains within its nascent stages, encountering a plethora of obstacles prior to attaining the zenith of its capabilities. Foremost among these hurdles resides the specter of noise—a capricious interplay of fluctuations and discrepancies that ensnare the delicate quantum states of qubits. Noise can cause qubits to lose their coherence and entanglement, which are the essential properties for quantum computation. To overcome noise, quantum computers need to implement error correction techniques, which require a large number of physical qubits to encode and protect a single logical qubit.



This is where NISQ quantum computing comes in. NISQ, an acronym denoting noisy intermediate-scale quantum, characterizes the prevailing era of quantum computing. It encompasses the present iteration of quantum computers, possessing a modest assembly of several dozen to a few hundred qubits that grapple with imperfections, devoid of comprehensive error rectification. Regrettably, NISQ quantum computers remain shy of attaining quantum supremacy—the juncture where quantum might eclipse classical prowess in a given task. Yet, these NISQ marvels retain the capacity to unveil quantum advantage, signifying their adeptness in hastening, streamlining, or enhancing problem-solving in contrast to their classical counterparts.



A graph of the potential applications of NISQ quantum computing in various domains and industries



Potential applications of NISQ quantum computing



Despite their limitations, NISQ quantum computers can offer significant benefits for various domains and industries. Some of the potential applications of NISQ quantum computing are:



Drug discovery: Leveraging their capabilities, quantum computers delve into the intricate choreography and entanglements of molecules on a quantum scale. This prowess finds purpose in the creation of novel pharmaceuticals and the refinement of established compounds. A tangible instance lies in the collaboration between IBM and pharmaceutical titan Merck, as they harness NISQ quantum computers to unravel the tapestry of drug discovery.



Financial modeling: Quantum computers can optimize complex financial portfolios, and perform risk analysis, and price derivatives. For example, JPMorgan Chase has collaborated with IBM to use NISQ quantum computers for option pricing.



Artificial intelligence: Quantum computers can enhance machine learning algorithms by enabling faster data processing, feature extraction, and model training. For example, Google has used NISQ quantum computers to implement a quantum neural network for image classification.



Materials science: Quantum computers can discover new materials and optimize existing ones by simulating their properties and behavior at a quantum level. For example, Microsoft has used NISQ quantum computers to design new catalysts for carbon capture.



Challenges of scaling up NISQ quantum computers



Even as glimpses of promise twinkle in the performance of NISQ quantum computers across certain domains, their journey towards ultimate proficiency remains a considerable distance away. The road to achieving quantum computation that is both expansive and dependable demands a triumphant conquest of numerous hurdles. Among the foremost adversaries encountered on this quest are:



Noise: As previously discussed, noise emerges as the primary wellspring of discrepancies and decoherence within quantum frameworks. Its origins are diverse, encompassing environmental influences, imprecise command pulses, measurement inaccuracies, and even inter-qubit interference. The endeavor to diminish noise mandates quantum systems to function within frigid realms of ultra-low temperatures and embrace the embrace of elevated vacuum conditions. Yet, this pursuit comes hand in hand with augmented expenses and intricate intricacies woven into the fabric of quantum hardware.



Error correction: In the quest to rectify the distortions sown by noise, quantum systems find solace in the arms of error correction techniques. This intricate dance necessitates a voluminous congregation of physical qubits to enshroud and safeguard a solitary logical qubit. For instance, a tentative calculation posits that the realization of a single logical qubit, bedecked with an error rate of 10^-4, demands the allegiance of approximately 1000 physical qubits. Alas, the current landscape is adorned with NISQ quantum computers, graced with a modest retinue of meager dozens to several hundred physical qubits, thereby constricting their endeavors in the realm of error correction.



Cost: Crafting and upholding a quantum ecosystem exacts a substantial toll, demanding the orchestration of intricate hardware elements. Among these, one finds the likes of superconducting enclaves, ion ensnaring mechanisms, laser sentinels, cryogenic coolants, vacuum domains, and the symphony of control electronics. The price tag affixed to a lone qubit paints a spectrum that spans from tens of thousands to a million dollars. Yet, this fiscal tale grows exponentially intricate with the swelling choir of qubits and the refinement of their harmonious quality.



Leading companies in NISQ quantum computing



Several companies are developing and providing NISQ quantum computing services and solutions. Among the forefront contenders within this realm stand:



Google: Within the realm of NISQ quantum computing, Google stands as a vanguard trailblazer. In 2019, Google claimed to have achieved quantum supremacy by using its 53-qubit Sycamore processor to perform a specific task in 200 seconds that would take a classical supercomputer 10,000 years. Google also offers cloud access to its NISQ quantum processors through its Google Quantum AI platform.



IBM: IBM is another leader in NISQ quantum computing. IBM has developed several generations of superconducting qubit processors, such as IBM Q System One, IBM Q Hummingbird, IBM Q Falcon, and IBM Q Eagle. IBM also provides cloud access to its NISQ quantum processors through its IBM Quantum Experience platform. IBM has also announced its roadmap to build a 1,000-qubit quantum computer by 2023.



Rigetti Computing: Rigetti Computing is a startup that specializes in NISQ quantum computing. Rigetti has developed several superconducting qubit processors, such as Rigetti 8Q Agave, Rigetti 19Q Acorn, and Rigetti 32Q Aspen. Rigetti also provides cloud access to its NISQ quantum processors through its Rigetti Quantum Cloud Services platform. Rigetti has also launched a quantum advantage prize of $1 million for the first team that demonstrates quantum advantage using its platform.


IonQ: IonQ is another startup that focuses on NISQ quantum computing. IonQ uses trapped ion technology to create qubits, which are more stable and coherent than superconducting qubits. IonQ has developed several trapped ion qubit processors, such as IonQ 5Q, IonQ 11Q, and IonQ 32Q. IonQ also provides cloud access to its NISQ quantum processors through various platforms, such as Amazon Braket, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. IonQ has also announced its plan to build a modular quantum computer with millions of qubits by 2025.



Best investment opportunities in NISQ quantum computing



NISQ quantum computing is a rapidly growing and evolving field that offers many investment opportunities for investors who are interested in the future of computing. Some of the best investment opportunities in NISQ quantum computing are:



Quantum computing startups: Embarking upon quantum computing startups offers the clearest avenue for immersion within the realm of NISQ quantum computing, entailing the cultivation and dissemination of foundational technologies and remedies within this domain. These nascent ventures have managed to beckon substantial investments from diverse quarters, including venture capitalists, corporate patrons, governmental backers, and halls of academia. Among the illustriously funded pioneers in the quantum computing startup landscape stand IonQ ($222 million), Rigetti Computing ($199 million), PsiQuantum ($215 million), and Xanadu ($145 million).



Quantum computing hardware: At the heart of quantum computing lie the apparatus and contrivances that birth and orchestrate quantum realms. These encompass an ensemble of entities such as qubits, lasers, cryogenic coolers, vacuum sanctuaries, and the electronic architects of control. Within this intricate tapestry, quantum computing hardware assumes a pivotal mantle, dictating the cadence of performance and the grandeur of scalability for NISQ quantum computers. This theater witnesses the presence of formidable entities like Intel ($72 billion), Microsoft ($143 billion), Honeywell ($32 billion), and ColdQuanta ($74 million), all weaving their threads in the symphony of quantum computing hardware.



Quantum software: Within the quantum realm, software emerges as the artistry of programs and applications meticulously crafted to dance upon the stage of NISQ quantum computers or to engage in intimate conversation with their ethereal mechanisms. Quantum software is essential for translating classical problems into quantum algorithms, optimizing quantum circuits, correcting quantum errors, and analyzing quantum data. Some of the companies that are developing quantum software are Zapata Computing ($38 million), QC Ware ($15 million), Cambridge Quantum Computing ($45 million), and Strangeworks ($14 million).



Ethical implications of NISQ quantum computing



NISQ quantum computing stands not just as a technological marvel, but also a societal and human tapestry, weaving within its threads a tapestry of ethical considerations that ripple across our collective existence. Some of the ethical implications of NISQ quantum computing are:



Cybersecurity: NISQ quantum computers pose a threat to the security and privacy of data and communications that rely on classical encryption methods. Consider, for instance, the intriguing panorama where NISQ quantum computers cast their shadow—a realm where the very foundations of public-key cryptography, guardians of secure online transactions, digital imprints, and the tapestry of blockchain, could potentially crumble. In this delicate balance, lies the specter of unveiling Pandora's trove of private data, financial legacies, classified know-how, and the sanctity of national security. Safeguarding this sanctum calls for the birthing and integration of novel encryption methodologies, unfazed by the prowess of quantum onslaughts.



Weaponization: The realm of NISQ quantum computers could also be swayed toward malevolent ends, where the curtain conceals potential avenues for maleficence—ranging from cyber intrusions and covert intelligence endeavors to acts of subversion and the harbingers of warfare. For example, NISQ quantum computers could disrupt critical infrastructure systems, such as power grids, water supplies, or transportation networks. They could also enhance the capabilities of existing weapons systems or enable new ones based on quantum technologies. This could increase the risk of conflict and violence among nations or groups.



Inequality: NISQ quantum computers could also create or widen social and economic inequalities among individuals or communities. For example, NISQ quantum computers could be accessible only to a few privileged actors who have the resources and expertise to use them. This could give them an unfair advantage over others who lack such access or skills. They could also use NISQ quantum computers to manipulate or exploit others who are less informed or protected.



A collage of images that represent the unimaginable possibilities of NISQ quantum computing



How will NISQ quantum computing change the world?



NISQ quantum computing is a transformative technology that will change the world in many ways. Some of the possible impacts of NISQ quantum computing are:



A new era of computing: The advent of NISQ quantum computing will gracefully unfurl a fresh epoch in the realm of computation, soaring past the confines that tether classical counterparts. Within its embrace, the horizon teems with promises of surmounting quandaries long deemed insurmountable or unfeasible for classical brethren—be it the enigma of unraveling sprawling numbers, the pursuit of impeccable solutions, or the symphonic simulation of intricate networks. Yet, beyond these achievements, NISQ quantum computers shall also summon forth novel canvases of computation, where the hues of quantum machine learning, the veils of quantum cryptography, and the measurements of quantum metrology shall dance in the symphony, shaping a wondrous tableau of possibilities.



New solutions to old problems: The emergence of NISQ quantum computing shall unfurl innovative remedies to age-old conundrums that have stood as formidable tests for humanity's ingenuity across the epochs. NISQ quantum computers will help accelerate scientific discoveries, such as finding new drugs, materials, and energy sources. NISQ quantum computers will also help improve social welfare, such as optimizing logistics, transportation, and healthcare. NISQ quantum computers will also help enhance human capabilities, such as creativity, intelligence, and communication.



Unimaginable possibilities: NISQ quantum computing will also open up unimaginable possibilities that have not been explored before. Within the tapestry of NISQ quantum computing lies the genesis of uncharted artistic realms, birthing symphonies of quantum music, enigmatic landscapes of quantum games, and narratives spun from the threads of quantum literature. This transformative force also ventures forth into the terra incognita of wisdom, traversing domains as diverse as quantum physics, the essence of quantum biology, and the profound reflections of quantum philosophy. Moreover, NISQ quantum computers ripple through the very fabric of our perceived reality, ushering in the enigma of quantum teleportation, the interwoven dance of quantum entanglement, and even the tantalizing frontiers of quantum consciousness.



Conclusion



NISQ quantum computing emerges as a beacon of promise, poised to sculpt not only the contours of computing but to forge a path that transcends into uncharted territories. Within its grasp, NISQ quantum computers unfurl an array of alluring prospects, bestowing palpable benefits across diverse domains that defy the grasp of classical counterparts. Yet, amidst the tapestry of potential lies the labyrinth of challenges, requiring triumphant navigation to realize the zenith of capability. Additionally, the realm of NISQ quantum computing bears the mantle of ethics, beckoning contemplation and resolution. This captivating domain stirs fascination and exhilaration, ushering a transformative wave poised to unfurl a world we've yet to envision.



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