“If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” is a well known metaphysical toy question. What is less known is its business corollary: If a start-up makes a splash, but nobody pays attention, did it actually ever really emerge from stealth mode?
It is rather welcome news that the latest Nobel prizes in physics bring some attention to quantum computing, but as always, these machines are presented as a future possibility rather than a commercial reality.
Yet, D-Wave already ships the first commercial quantum computing device, and hardly anybody seems to know. Sometimes this ignorance appears to be almost willful. The company just doesn’t seem to be able to generate ubiquitous mainstream media awareness.
While their device is not a universal quantum computer, it nevertheless can facilitate an extremely useful and versatile quantum optimization, with plenty of real life application usage. The somewhat arcane Ramsey number research already demonstrated the power of the Rainier chip and a recent paper published in Nature shows how NP complex protein folding scenarios can be calculated on their hardware. An interesting wrinkle to this latest research is that the device doesn’t find the optimal solution as reliably as in the Ramsey number case, but that the other solutions are also valid folding modes of the examined protein and provide additional insight.
The importance of this kind of research can hardly be overstated, so why is this company not mentioned every time somebody writes about quantum computing?
Is it a case of crying wolf too many times? Is there a perception that the company may have over-promised and under-delivered in the past? Is it a lingering after-effect of the Scott Aaronson ham sandwich controversy?
Your guess is as good as mine. If you have any thoughts or insights on this please share them in the comments section.