IBM Says Google’s Quantum Leap Was A Quantum Flop

IBM Says Google’s Quantum Leap Was A Quantum Flop
     For those of you old enough, “Now you know the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey used to say. Tom Simonite posted an October 21, 2019 article to the technology and security blog/website,, with the title above.  As was widely reported and posted on this blog, last month, “a team of Google researchers.led by John Martinis demonstrated quantum supremacy for the first time. The MIT Technology Review, in a September 20, 2019 post to its website, noted that quantum supremacy “is the point at which a quantum computer is shown to be capable of performing a task that’s beyond the reach of even the most [current] powerful conventional computer.” The Google claim appeared in a post on a NASA website, that was later taken down.Google did not respond for a request for comment from the MIT Technology Review.
     The Financial Times reported on September 19, 2019 that “Google’s quantum processor was able to perform a calculation in three minutes and twenty seconds, that would take today’s most advanced computer known as Summit, around 10,000 years,” to complete. The researchers noted that “to their knowledge, the experiment “marks the first computation that can only be performed on quantum processor.”
Quantum Speed Up
     “Quantum machines are so powerful because they harness quantum bits or qubits,” MIT Technology Review noted. “Unlike classical bits,which represent either a or a 0, qubits can be in a combination of both at the same time. Thanks to other quantum phenomena, quantum computers can crunch large amounts of data in parallel that conventional machines have to work through sequentially,” the publication noted.
How Significant Is This Milestone?
     “Very,” MIT Technology Review says. “In a discussion of quantum computing at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts last week, before the news of Google’s paper came out, Will Oliver, an MIT Professor and quantum specialist, likened the ‘quantum supremacy” computing to the aviation milestone achieved by first flight of the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk. Professor Oliver said “it would give added impetus to research in the field,which should help quantum machines achieve their promise more quickly.Their immense processing power could ultimately help researchers and companies discover new drugs, create more efficient supply chains and turbocharge artificial intelligence (AI).”
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     But, to be fair, and as I wrote in my blog at the time, there was more than a fair amount of skepticism about Google’s claim. Now it appears, that skepticism was well warranted. On Monday this week Mr. Simonite writes, “IBM’s/Big Blue Ph.D. [researchers] said Google’s claim of quantum supremacy was flawed. IBM essentially said Google rigged the race by not tapping the full power of modern supercomputers.” “This threshold has not been met,” IBM’s blog post said. “Google declined to comment,” Mr. Simonite wrote.
     “It will take time for the quantum research community to dig through IBM’s claim, and any responses from Google,” Mr. Simonite wrote. “For now, Jonathan Dowling, a professor at Louisiana State University, said IBM’s claim appears to have some merit.” “Google picked a problem they thought to be really hard on a classical machine; but, IBM has demonstrated that the problem is not as hard as Google thought it was.”
     “Whoever is proved right in the end,” Mr. Simonite notes, “claims of quantum supremacy are largely academic for now. The problem crunched to show supremacy doesn’t need to have immediate practical applications. It is a milestone suggestive of the field’s long-term dream. That quantum computers will unlock new power and profits, by enabling progress in tricky areas such as battery chemistry or health care.”
      Well, I was really excited when I read the first reports on Google’s achievement; but, now, I have been brought down to Earth. Nonetheless, I do believe that with the advent of AI and advancements in machine learning and data mining — we really could be on the verge of making demonstrable progress in our pursuit of ‘quantum supremacy.’ Advancements in this domain WILL lead to breathtaking advancements in medicine, finance, blockchain, virtual reality, quality of life, military weapons, intelligence and surveillance operations, and perhaps even Star Trek-like ‘warp speed.’ Of course, there will be the darker angels of our nature who will no doubt seek to exploit advances in this area for nefarious purposes — as they always do. But, much like the Internet-of-Things and the Worldwide Web, the positives will outweigh the negatives. Quantum computing will also finally allow futurist Ray Kurzweil’s prediction to be realized — if we want it. The ability to download our mind to an avatar and life forever. RCP,

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