Is The United States Falling Behind In Quantum Computing?

Published by whurley (11/02/2017)

Testifying before the House, Quantum Scientists Plead for the U.S. to Take the Lead in Quantum Computing

Earlier this week I wrote about the massive new 92-acre, $10-billion research center for quantum information science that China’s is building in Hefei, Anhui Province. The effects of China leading quantum technology development are chilling to many in the U.S. research community. And with good reason. China’s  2016 launch of the worlds’s first quantum communications satellite puts us in an eerily familiar position. The “space race” began on October 4, 1957, when the Soviets put Sputnik into an elliptical low-Earth orbit. We’ll look back and say the “quantum race” begun on July 15, 2017, when the Chinese sent entangled quantum particles 1200 meters from the Micius satellite to ground. Our scientists know the quantum race is on. That’s why academia and industry testified last Tuesday before the U.S. House Subcommittees on Research & Technology and Energy. The recording of the hearing is lengthy, but I think its worth a listen.

The Experts

The witnesses were broken into two panels.

Panel 1:

  • Dr. Carl J. Williams, Acting Director, Physical Measurement Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • Dr. Jim Kurose, Assistant Director, Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate, National Science Foundation
  • Dr. John Stephen Binkley, Acting Director of Science, U.S. Department of Energy

Panel 2:

  • Dr. Scott Crowder, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Quantum Computing, IBM Systems Group
  • Dr. Christopher Monroe, Distinguished University Professor & Bice Zorn Professor, Department of Physics, University of Maryland; Founder and Chief scientist, IonQ, Inc.
  • Dr. Supratik Guha, Director, Nanoscience and Technology Division, Argonne National Laboratory; Professor, Institute for Molecular Engineering, University of Chicago

What They Had to Say

Here are two memorable quotes from the testimony:

“Now is the time for the federal government to help expedite advancements in [quantum] technology to maximize its benefits for the US.”—Dr. Scott Crowder

“U.S. leadership in quantum technology will be critical to our national security, and will open new doors for private industry and academia while ensuring America’s role as a global technology leader in the 21st century.”—Dr. Christopher Monroe

The most on point comment (imho) came from Dr. Monroe:

“At universities, we don’t build things. We don’t do engineering. On the other hand, industry doesn’t have the engineering background [needed]. Industry is making a big play in this field, but [there is a] big challenge.”

Quantum computing has reached an inflection point. Without the collaboration of the U.S. government, technology investors, scientists, and entrepreneurs, the U.S. will fall behind in the quantum race.  If this were the 1960’s, the president would be announcing a moon shot right about now.  I’m not optimistic, but tell me that’s not what we need.  Tell me it wouldn’t be great for the country to have a national goal.  To drive some innovation and economic growth.  This is our chance to carve out a piece of the quantum future.  I hope our leaders step up.