IonQ Quantum Computers Versus Skeptics

IonQ has received over $400 million in funding from Venture capitalists and an IPO. They presented their work at the 2021 QBWare conference. I, Brian Wang, will go going to the 2022 QBWare conference.

IonQ indicates that their near term quantum computing systems can reach qubit fidelity of 99.98%. This means they are close to reaching the threshold of 70+ algorithmic useful qubits. They also have a quantum error correcting system that can provide meaningful improvement with only a 16 physical qubits to 1 error corrected qubits. IonQ can also adjust the level of error correction to match the needed level of adjustment.

There is a popular science and physics YouTuber, Sabine Hossenfelder who is a massive quantum computing skeptic. She thinks she is smarter than all of the experts at Quantum computer companies and all of the technology Venture capitalists. She thinks that all of the quantum computer companies will fail and that no useful work will be done by quantum computers. She exaggerates all of the science problems and technical problems. She dismisses, ignores or seems to straight up lies about what useful work has been accomplished.

Sabine implies that quantum computing researchers are exaggerating their results. This is an extraordinary claim that needs extraordinary evidence. She predicts that all of the small companies will miss their milestones and fail. She predicts their will be companies doing research and sucking up government grant money but there will be no useful commercial applications. She says that the largest prime number factorization on quantum computers is 21.

There are research papers with far larger quantum computer factorizations by DWave Systems using adiabatic algorithms. They have talked about getting to 6 digit prime factoring in a 2018 paper using a fraction of the qubits in their latest system.

There are research papers considering whether adiabatic quantum solvers could reach the full computational capabilities of classical systems.

5 thoughts on “IonQ Quantum Computers Versus Skeptics”

  1. Dr Hossenfelder is an actual quantum physicist who knows what she’s talking about. I am also a research scientist with a background in many particle quantum mechanics. I currently work with characterizing current quantum architectures. Basically everything she said is correct, it will take drastic, non incremental advances in order to make many high quality, long lived, logical qubits required to compete with current classical computers. Even for Ionqs definition of “Algorithmic” qubits (which would not be useful for real simulations of the kinds of problems we can’t solve on classical computers now), they are not even close to 70 AQ. A 70 AQ calculation with ~5000 two qubit entangling gates would have a naive guess for fidelity, based only on two qubit errors of 0.9998^5000~ .37, which is a failure by the AQ metric put forth by Ionq. I’m not as pessimistic as the good Dr, but useful applications of quantum computers is more than a decade off.

  2. I pointed to one of her mistake at her video of delayed choice quantum eraser. She has not even answered. I realized other times too, that she has a tendency to neglect what does not fit into her imagination. She is smart, but I guess she is rather a forever sceptic than an explorer.

  3. I’ve just watched the video. She’s intellectually honest and she’s not arrogant at all. She’s just brilliant

  4. The future of quantum computing depends on scalability. PsiQuantum, a company that uses optical quantum computing, says that a commercial quantum computer must support 1 million qubits or more and that ion-based or superconducting quantum computers cannot be scaled to this magnitude.

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