Tech giant Google reports that its quantum computer requires just over three minutes to solve a task that would take the quickest supercomputer on the planet 10,000 years to crack. In a recent blog post from Google, the company refers to the computer’s rapid ability as “quantum supremacy”.
If you don’t already know, the progress of quantum computing has surged forward over the last few years. The fundamental principle of data processing is what makes quantum computers so much more powerful than traditional ones. Rather than storing data as either a 1 or a 0, quantum computers use qubits, where data can have a state of 1, or 0, or both at the same time.
Google is now looking to develop “a fault-tolerant quantum computer” as soon as it can. Quantum processing power is likely to be used in the creation of ultra lightweight batteries, and groundbreaking medicines. However, at the moment the abilities of quantum processing outweigh the challenges that humans have to offer.
“Achieving the necessary computational capabilities will still require years of hard engineering and scientific work. But we see a path clearly now, and we’re eager to move ahead,” Google said in its blog post.
A bold claim or an exaggeration?
Others in the IT industry are not convinced that Google’s claims are as substantial as they’re made out to be. A blog post from IBM at the beginning of this week suggests that Google has oversold the difficulty of the computational challenge. Rather than 10 millennia, IBM claims that the task could be figured out by regular bit processing computers in less than three days.
“We urge the community to treat claims that, for the first time, a quantum computer did something that a classical computer cannot with a large dose of skepticism,” says IBM.
But Google’s Chief Executive Officer, Sundar Pichai, is sticking to the company’s declarations. He compared the achievement with the first time humans took flight due to the efforts of the Wright brothers.
“The first plane flew only for 12 seconds, and so there is no practical application of that,” says Pichai. “But it showed the possibility that a plane could fly.”
With China leading the way in the field of quantum computing technology, some are concerned that a quantum arms race could begin to surface.