Google’s new supercomputer is ahead of others by… 47 years!


JULY 4, 2023

Google has recently announced a significant breakthrough in the development of quantum computers, claiming to have achieved “quantum supremacy.” They assert that their quantum computer can perform super complex calculations within seconds that would take the fastest supercomputers from their rivals about 47 years to complete.

Experts believe that quantum computers will replace traditional computers in our daily lives and bring about a revolution within the next few decades. By harnessing the peculiarities of quantum physics, these advanced machines are expected to accelerate machine learning, tackle climate change, and facilitate the discovery of new drugs.

Not the first time that Google has made such a claim

This is not the first time Google has made such a claim. In 2019, they proclaimed quantum supremacy, but sceptics questioned the validity of their assertion. IBM, their rival, argued that the task accomplished by Google’s Sycamore quantum computer was not particularly challenging and could technically be performed by a classical machine, albeit at a much slower pace.

However, Google now asserts that they have developed a more powerful quantum computer that surpasses classical machines, thus achieving quantum supremacy.

The exact cost of developing this quantum computer remains unknown at present, but Google has been approached for additional information. The Google researchers behind this achievement explain in their paper, which is published on the arXiv pre-print server (yet to undergo peer review), that quantum computers have the potential to perform tasks that are beyond the capabilities of classical computers.

They further emphasize that their experiment surpasses existing classical supercomputers when evaluating the computational cost against improved classical methods.

How do quantum computers work?

Quantum technology exploits the mysterious effects of quantum physics to significantly enhance information processing speed, potentially leading to the creation of the most powerful computer on Earth.

The potential of quantum computers surpasses even the fastest classical computers like the Frontier supercomputer in Tennessee. Classical computers operate on binary code, using only two states (zeroes or ones). In contrast, quantum computers utilize quantum mechanics, allowing quantum bits or “qubits” to exist in multiple states simultaneously—zero, one, or both.

Google has announced an upgraded version of its Sycamore quantum processor, now running on 70 qubits compared to the previous 53 qubits. With 70 qubits, the quantum processor can store and process 70 units of quantum information, a task impossible for any classical computer, regardless of its speed.

To illustrate the power increase, the team states that Frontier, a classical supercomputer, would take 6.18 seconds to match a calculation from Google’s 53-qubit computer but 47.2 years to match a calculation from the latest one.

A Major Milestone

Google researchers aim to demonstrate the superior performance of their 70-qubit device beyond classical capabilities. While IBM has not yet commented on Google’s recent work, industry experts view it as a significant milestone.

Steve Brierley, CEO of quantum company Riverlane, considers it a resolution to the previous debates on quantum supremacy. However, some critics, including Sebastian Weidt from the University of Sussex’s Ion Quantum Technology group, raise concerns about the practical applications of Google’s achievement, emphasizing the need for quantum computers to deliver tangible value to society.

Various entities, including the University of Sussex, Google, IBM, and Microsoft, are actively involved in developing quantum computers. The long-term goal is to create commercial quantum computers available for public purchase, although this is still a decade or two away, at the very least.

Currently, experimental quantum computers are being built for research and development purposes. IBM’s Q System One, released in 2019, is an example of a quantum machine with 20 qubits, but it fell short of achieving quantum supremacy, according to critics.

Courtesy/Source: Firstpost / PTI