Google Calls Dibs On Quantum Supremacy

By Ben Hamill - October 26 2019

Google, among others, has been chasing the quantum supremacy dream for years. And if a statement of findings published very recently in the scientific journal Nature is anything to go by, then the search engine giant as indeed pipped its contemporaries to the supremacy post. According to the findings, Google has at long last created and successfully tested a processor; albeit very much still in an experimental phase; able to complete a calculation in a matter of a few minutes that would take a supercomputer literally thousands of years to perform.

What’s more, according to what Google has chosen to divulge throughout the report detailing its latest findings, not only does the experimental processor perform calculations at dizzying speeds, but also those calculations are actually physically applicable to our physical world and not at all subject to any hidden laws of physics exclusions. The bottom-line, said Google, is that “quantum speed-up is achievable in a real-world system”.

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What Does This Mean For Us?

But to the human mind not necessarily involved in the field of next-generation information technology or quantum mechanics, this may all sound a little mumbo-jumbo. Until one begins to look at the practical applications, that is. A computer that has achieved quantum supremacy may one day be capable of performing tremendously complicated tasks and calculations, enabling the rapid search for new drugs and medical solutions, the optimisation of city and local transport infrastructure planning and even a task as mind-numbing as being able to crack the code to today’s very best cryptography.

With this in mind, one can only begin to imagine the practical applications when talking national security and the world of commerce. Which is why world governments, including the United States, are particularly keen on supporting any form of significant research relating to quantum supremacy. An example of this is the fact that US President Trump in 2018 signed into force a “congressional proposal” that will make available to this particular field of research the sum of $1.5 billion spread out over a federal government research period of 5 years.

What Changes May Come

Google’s research has since the publication of the Wednesday paper of findings, attracted a measure of backlash from the industry. The paper had actually been leaked on a number of platforms some weeks before the big reveal and was viewed by a number of computer scientists before it was swiftly removed again. IBM researchers immediately responded by defending their own IBM-developed supercomputer, saying that Google had in fact underestimated the capabilities thereof in its claim that its quantum processor was able to perform calculations in minutes that would translate to at least 10,000 years in the case of any other standard supercomputer. IBM researchers went on to claim that its own supercomputer is actually able to perform the task detailed in Google’s report in 2.5 days.

Whether or not it was merely a matter of sour grapes on the part of Google’s competition is irrelevant; the search engine and tech giant’s research was after all verified by US Department of industry and NASA. What must in reality be taken away from the situation is that the world as we know it is about to change beyond recognition, and with just a little bit of luck on our side, it will be for the better.

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