Google has announced that its quantum computer, Sycamore, has achieved quantum supremacy. What quantum supremacy means is that it has surpassed the performance of classical binary computers. The firm stated that its computer was able to work out a task in 200 seconds, it said the world’s best supercomputer would take 10,000 years to work out the problem.
The company officially published its paper today although it was leaked last month when it appeared on a NASA website prematurely, which Neowin reported at the time. The paper was quickly pulled from the NASA-run website.
According to a video published by Google, the researchers started with a circuit, ran it on the quantum computer and then simulated what the quantum computer was doing on a classical computer. From there, the difficulty of the circuit was increased until the classical computer failed to keep up.
The Sycamore quantum computer contains 54 qubits but only ran on 53 qubits, while that doesn’t seem like a very high number, what it means is that the computer is parallel processing 2^53 states (equivalent to 10,000,000,000,000,000 states). Its ability to parallel process at this scale is what gives it the ability to process information in such a short space of time.
While Google’s news is definitely an interesting development for the future of computing, IBM has put the dampers on a bit. A blog post from IBM casts doubt on Google’s claim that a classical computer would take 10,000 years to solve the problem in question and argues that in fact “an ideal simulation of the same task can be performed on a classical system in 2.5 days and with far greater fidelity.” It even went on to say that with further refinements, this time could be reduced further.
While IBM’s claims may be valid, it’s important to keep in mind that the firm is working on its own quantum computing project too and could be dismissing Google’s claims to give itself a lead in the race.