In the early days of quantum computing research, people working in the field routinely encountered skepticism. Twenty years ago eminent physicists told Susan Coppersmith, a theoretical physicist now at the University of New South Wales in Australia, that she was “wasting her time and that quantum computing would never work because of [the difficulties of] error correction.” But advances have led to a gradual shift in attitudes.
John Preskill of Caltech, a leading theorist in the field, says that over the past couple of years he has observed a shift in expectations about commercialization that is “reflected in a ramping up by tech companies and venture capital.” The shift propels progress and creates opportunities for young people, he says. Still, he cautions, “nobody knows when we will have applications running on quantum platforms. I am concerned that the expectations may be inflated as far as time scale.” Predictions for achieving a useful quantum computer span from a few years to a few decades; major players IBM and Google both aim for the end of this decade.

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