IBM HAS DONE called BS on Google's claims that it has achieved quantum supremacy in the heady world of quantum computing.
Before we go further, first let's tackle 'quantum supremacy'; it's an idea cooked up by Caltech professor John Preskill, who claims 'supremacy' is achieved when a quantum computer can do something that a traditional computer - we're talking supercomputers here - cannot do.
Google reckons it's managed to achieve quantum supremacy with its 53-qubit (quantum bits, folks) ‘Sycamore' processor.
This supremacy came in the form of a statistical mathematical problem, previously leaked in September and detailed in Google's "Quantum supremacy using a programmable superconducting processor" paper published in Nature. The search giant said the problem could be completed by Sycamore in 200 seconds as opposed to the 10,000 years it would take Summit, the world's fastest supercomputer, to do.
"We are able to achieve these enormous speeds only because of the quality of control we have over the qubits," explained Google boss man Sundar Pichai.
"Quantum computers are prone to errors, yet our experiment showed the ability to perform a computation with few enough errors at a large enough scale to outperform a classical computer."
That's a bold claim, and one that IBM, which happened to help develop the Summit supercomputer, refuted.
Big Blue reckons that given time to properly implement the mathematical problem, Summit would be able to solve it much, much faster; likely a couple of days. And thus Sycamore isn't able to claim quantum supremacy as a supercomputer could still do what its quantum counterpart can.
"Because the original meaning of the term "quantum supremacy," as proposed by John Preskill in 2012, was to describe the point where quantum computers can do things that classical computers can't, this threshold has not been met," wrote some IBM smart folks.
But IBM didn't completely slate Google's efforts: "Building quantum systems is a feat of science and engineering and benchmarking them is a formidable challenge. Google's experiment is an excellent demonstration of the progress in superconducting-based quantum computing, showing state-of-the-art gate fidelities on a 53-qubit device, but it should not be viewed as proof that quantum computers are "supreme" over classical computers."
It's worth noting that IBM has a paper that basically refutes Google's quantum supremacy claims, but neither that or the search giant's paper have been peer-reviewed. So we'll have to wait and see who's side the world of academia and quantum computing boffins come down on.
Supremacy or not, quantum computing seems to be advancing all the time, and while it's aimed at use in very specific and demanding industrial and academic tasks, it's promising to see the tech advance.
Perhaps one day we'll have quantum chip-powered desktop PCs able to render graphics and insanely detailed worlds with ease; for the time being Nvidia's GeForce RTX 20-series graphics cards are the close we're going to get to that. µ
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