Quantum Bayesian Networks

August 23, 2009

The X-Prize for Quantum Computing, Why Not?

Filed under: Uncategorized — rrtucci @ 11:47 am

In his latest blog post, Jack Woehr ponders about the factors that might determine when quantum computers will become practical, to the point where people like him “can play with them”.

In my opinion, quantum computing research is currently mostly a government funded, academic endeavor. Private sector investment in QCs is currently almost nil. It will take an eternity to develop a large scale quantum computer this way. If the private sector were more involved, that would certainly speed up the development of QCs. So the question in my mind is, how can we encourage more private investment in QCs. This reminded me of the great automobile and airplane contests of the early 20th century (Great auto race of 1908, Orteig aviation prize of 1919), and of the current X prizes.

The first X Prize was the Ansari X Prize, announced in 1996, $10 million to the first private company to fly a man to near space (100 km altitude) (twice in two weeks, in the same “reusable” vehicle). 26 teams from around the world participated. It has been estimated that 10 X $10 million was invested in pursuit of the prize. The prize was won in 2004 by SpaceShipOne.

An important goal of the Ansari X prize was to encourage private investment in the space industry, so participants were not allowed to have any government funding.

Since the Ansari X prize, 4 more X prizes have been announced and still lay unclaimed (Google Lunar, Progressive Automotive, Archon Genomics, Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander) and 4 more are in the planning stages (Energy and Environment, Exploration, Education & Global Development, Life Sciences).

As of today, a search of the official X Prize website yields no hits for the keyword “quantum computer”. However, note that there is a very enticing “Propose an X Prize” button on the home page.

Other similar contemporary prizes: DARPA Grand Challenge, etc.

I end with an inspiring quote which I got from this news article. In an interview, Peter Diamandis, co-founder of the X prize, paid tribute to his friend and mentor, Arthur C. Clarke, by relating the following story about Clarke:

“He told me something once that I thought was incredibly valuable. He said, ‘Peter, there are three phases of a good idea. The first phase is, people tell you it’s a crazy idea, it’ll never work. The next phase is, they say, it might work but it’s not worth doing. And the third phase is when people tell you, “I told you that was a great idea all along.”‘

“The X Prize has definitely gone through those three phases, and I think of Arthur every time I talk about that. I’m thankful for his support … and also for his absolute passion regarding the need of the human race to evolve beyond the earth.”



  1. Robert, I didn’t really address the issue of funding of current efforts. As a “one-month-whiz” (qc blog started about 6 weeks ago), I personally do not know enough to comment on that!

    But it’s clear from the papers we can read on the web that those engaged in quantum computing research are predominately theoreticians, and more nitty-gritty devil-take-theory engineering might well be needed, the kind that only comes onto the job when there’s a chance to make the Big Money.

    Your X-Prize idea is awesome.

    Comment by Jack Woehr — August 24, 2009 @ 4:13 am

  2. Sorry Jack. I now realize that my intro was “putting words in your mouth”. I rewrote the intro of the blog post so as to more clearly separate your opinions from mine.

    Comment by rrtucci — August 24, 2009 @ 1:16 pm

  3. No problem, and thanks. Love your idea of an X-Prize. That might stir things up. Went and read the proposer pages, and apparently the app form to propose an X-Prize sort of assumes that the proposer is going to kick in some funding!

    Comment by Jack Woehr — August 24, 2009 @ 1:35 pm

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