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Google officially claims quantum supremacy, ignores IBM criticism

Written by Wed 23 Oct 2019

IBM had expressed concerns that the term is being used recklessly

Google recently sent the internet in a frenzy after the company claimed in a leaked research paper to have achieved “quantum supremacy”. At the time the quantum community fiercely debated Google’s claim.

While the draft paper was swiftly pulled offline, Google has doubled down by officially releasing a peer-reviewed version in Nature which reiterates its achievement. Crucially, the article repeats the controversial claim that the problem its Sycamore processor solved would take Summit, the world’s most powerful supercomputer, 10,000 years to complete.

If true, this would effectively mean Google had satisfied John Preskill’s original definition of quantum supremacy, described as the milestone where quantum computers can perform tasks that classical computers cannot.

However, in a blog post published Monday, IBM researchers said Google had vastly overstated the time it would take Summit to solve the problem.

“We argue that an ideal simulation of the same task can be performed on a classical system in 2.5 days and with far greater fidelity,” researchers Edwin Pednault, John Gunnels, and Jay Gambetta argued, adding that this was a “conservative, worst-case estimate” and that with further work the time could be reduced further.

IBM also hit out at Google for irresponsible use of the term, referring to a recent article in which John Preskill repeated concerns in the quantum community that the term “exacerbates the already overhyped reporting on the status of quantum technology” and evokes white supremacy.

“A headline that includes some variation of “Quantum Supremacy Achieved” is almost irresistible to print, but it will inevitably mislead the general public,” wrote the researchers.

“First because, as we argue above, by its strictest definition the goal has not been met. But more fundamentally, because quantum computers will never reign “supreme” over classical computers, but will rather work in concert with them, since each have their unique strengths.”

On the other hand, IBM did credit Google for an ‘excellent’ demonstration of the progress made in the field, and acknowledged the challenge of building and benchmarking quantum systems.

Written by Wed 23 Oct 2019

Tags:

computer science Google IBM quantum quantum computing
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