Did Google Just Achieve ‘Quantum Supremacy’?
Articles,  Blog

Did Google Just Achieve ‘Quantum Supremacy’?


Quantum computers are on the horizon, and
they’ve been stuck there for quite some time. All the theoretical advantages they promise
over classical computers, like speeding up drug development, helping to manufacture room
temperature superconductors, and cracking encryption remain just that: theoretical. However, a leaked paper from Google claims
that for the first time a quantum computer used its unique quantum properties to absolutely
dominate a classical computer in a specific task, demonstrating what’s known as “quantum
supremacy.” The paper was posted in September of 2019
on NASA’s website, since NASA and Google are collaborating on the project. Almost as suddenly as it appeared, it was
taken down again. But this is the internet, and Google of all
companies should know that the internet is forever. The paper was copied and made widely available. Anyone can still read it. I read it. A lot of it was utterly bewildering to me,
a humble internet host, but I still read it for you, dear viewer. Luckily for me and you, actual experts in
quantum computing read it too and weighed in on what it means. First off, they caution that it’s not yet
published in a scientific journal so it may not be the final version or even peer reviewed. We shouldn’t get too ahead of ourselves
and declare this the end of data security as we know it, as some have been suggesting. Experts also point out that Google’s quantum
computer bested a classical computer in a task that was tailor made to exploit the quantum
computer’s strengths. The computer was asked to simulate the outputs
of a pseudo random “quantum circuit,” basically a number generator. I say pseudo-random because due to quantum
interference, some of the numbers it generates should have a higher probability of occurring
than others. If the quantum computer works correctly, it
should produce a cluster of numbers that line up with what we statistically expect to see. Well surprise surprise, according to this
paper the computer that uses quantum phenomena to operate was better at predicting how quantum
phenomena would generate numbers than a classical computer. But you may be shocked to learn just how much
it stomps its supercomputer rivals. While the Google machine churned through a
million randomly generated numbers in 200 seconds, the paper estimates the most powerful
supercomputer on Earth today would do the same task, if it just had 10,000 years to
do it. Not bad for a chip with just 54 quantum bits,
or qubits, one of which wasn’t working. So if the leaked paper is to be believed,
then yes, Google has demonstrated quantum supremacy. No one said the task the quantum computer
demonstrated had to be useful for it to count. And no one said that this means it’s time
to throw our old hardware in the bin either. Quantum computers still have a long way to
go. Namely the biggest problem with them remains
errors caused by qubits decaying and losing information stored on them. To make what’s known as a logical qubit
that’s more coherent requires hundreds or thousands of physical qubits whose errors
cancel each other out. And a quantum computer capable of cracking
encryption would require thousands of logical qubits. Right now the most physical qubits we’ve
ever put together is 72, and that computer was actually too difficult to control. For quite some time it appears encrypted data
will remain uncrackable. But that doesn’t mean that Google’s demonstration
of quantum supremacy in this one esoteric task is insignificant. This is quite a milestone that computer scientists
have been working towards for decades. If their work checks out,it will be a major
step towards putting quantum computers to work solving problems that so far have been
out of reach. Problems that really matter, like developing
life saving drugs faster, or inventing new wonder materials. So if and when this paper gets published,
let’s all act really surprised and congratulate the researchers, okay? Quantum computers rely on superconductors
to function, which have to be kept at extremely low temperatures. If a quantum computer can help develop room
temperature superconductors, that could be a vital step to a quantum PC you could have
at home. If superconductors pique your interest and
you want to know more about the wild possibilities they could unlock, check out Maren’s video
here. Make sure you subscribe to Seeker to keep
up to date will all your quantum news, and as always, thanks for watching.

100 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *