Google CEO Sundar Pichai has issued an official blog post regarding the news of Google’s team of researchers achieving their big breakthrough in quantum computing, known as quantum supremacy. Last month a paper by Google computer scientists had appeared on a NASA website, claiming that their quantum computer had demonstrated “quantum supremacy.” But the paper later disappeared from the site. Now, Google is officially claiming the feat.
But not all are accepting Google’s claim as a breakthrough. IBM had already released a blog post questioning the claim of ‘quantum supremacy’ made by Google.
Google and Quantum Supremacy
To put in simple terms, Google’s quantum computer took just over three minutes or around 200 seconds to complete a highly technical and specialised computation, which would have taken a regular computer 10,000 years to work out.
In his official blogpost, which went live, Sundar Pichai called it the “hello world” moment they had been waiting for. He called it, “the most meaningful milestone to date in the quest to make quantum computing a reality. But we have a long way to go between today’s lab experiments and tomorrow’s practical applications; it will be many years before we can implement a broader set of real-world applications.”
Read more: Quantum computing is coming, bit by qubit
Google’s achievement has been published by Nature magazine in its 150th anniversary issue. “This moment represents a distinct milestone in our effort to harness the principles of quantum mechanics to solve computational problems,” wrote Pichai.
He added that Google’s quantum machine successfully performed a test computation in just 200 seconds, that would have taken the best known algorithms in the most powerful supercomputers thousands of years to accomplish. According to him, Google was able to achieve this because “quality of control we have over the qubits,” adding that quantum computers are prone to errors.
Unlike ordinary computers which score information and data as bits of either zero or one, a quantum computer relies on qubits, which can be 1 and 0 at the same time, at least until they are measured, at which point their states become defined.
Each qubit represents two states at once, and therefore the total number of states doubles with each added qubit. As Pichai explained in his post, “if you have two quantum bits, there are four possible states that you can put in superposition, and those grow exponentially. With 333 qubits there are 2^333, or 1.7×10^100—a Googol—computational states you can put in superposition allowing a quantum computer to simultaneously explore a rich space of many possible solutions to a problem.”
Pichai revealed that this effort was part of a 13-year journey for Google and it was back in 2006, Google scientist Hartmut Neven started exploring the idea of how quantum computing will help accelerate machine learning. In 2014, John Martinis and his team at the University of California at Santa Barbara joined Google’s AI Quantum team to help the company’s efforts to build a quantum computer.
According to Pichai, Google has a strong belief that quantum computing will be able to help give more concrete answers to some some of the world’s biggest problems from climate change to disease.
“With this breakthrough we’re now one step closer to applying quantum computing to—for example—design more efficient batteries, create fertilizer using less energy, and figure out what molecules might make effective medicines,” he wrote, but added that the many of these applications are still years away given they still need to build error-corrected quantum computers for these discoveries.
Pichai also said that Google will also continue work on future encryption concerns and continue to publish research and help the broader community develop quantum encryption algorithms using their open source framework Cirq.
IBM’s skepticism over Google’s big claim
IBM, which is also working on its Quantum computers, had issued a blog post earlier, questioning Google’s claims of reaching ‘quantum supremacy.’
The blog post by IBM said that the leaked Google print argued that the “their device reached ‘quantum supremacy’ and that ‘a state-of-the-art supercomputer would require approximately 10,000 years to perform the equivalent task.’ We argue that an ideal simulation of the same task can be performed on a classical system in 2.5 days and with far greater fidelity.”
IBM’s claim is that it would not have taken a classical system to achieve the same in thousands of years as Google has implied. The blog also said that the term “quantum supremacy” is being broadly misinterpreted.
They said the community needs to take the claims that, for the first time, a quantum computer did something that a classical computer cannot with a large dose of skepticism because of the “complicated nature of benchmarking an appropriate metric.”
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