As a now-deleted paper indicates, Google researchers in collaboration with the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab may have accomplished “quantum supremacy,” Futurism reports. This means that the tech giant’s quantum computer has completed a computational task quicker than a conventional processor.
Originally published on NASA’s Technical Reports Server, the paper was quickly deleted. Google has yet to confirm anything. If the claim proves true, it would mark the first time that quantum supremacy has ever happened. “To our knowledge, this experiment marks the first computation that can only be performed on a quantum processor,” the document, which is still circulating, states.
Quantum computers represent a paradigm shift in the computational world. But how does the tech work? Conventional computers use bits that operate in binary code using 1s and 0s. Conversely, quantum computers use quantum bits or qubits. These utilize any number between 1 and 0—in other words, an infinite amount of numbers. Naturally, this means that quantum computers operate at much, much faster speeds than conventional ones.
So, it’s no surprise that the race between quantum and conventional computing wasn’t really fair. Dubbed “Sycamore,” Google’s superconducting processor boasts 53 qubits. It swiftly solved a problem that a conventional computer would have labored on for 10,000 years.
The ins and outs of the problem are a little dry and technical. Likewise, the computation isn’t something that might be used in the real world. Nevertheless, quantum supremacy is an extremely important milestone. The achievement “provides an experimental realization of quantum supremacy on a computational task and heralds the advent of a much-anticipated computing paradigm,” the paper notes.
So, when might quantum computers become available for real-world applications? There are unfortunately still a number of kinks to work out. One of the biggest hurdles lies in securely storing and sending quantum information. Luckily, researchers are on the case.
A team of physicists recently discovered a new state of matter called topographical superconductivity. It shows promising results for storing qubits securely. In addition, there’s also the problem of actually sending quantum information. Recently though, researchers in Japan successfully teleported information into a diamond using quantum entanglement.
Although Google may have won the race for quantum supremacy, the competition between Big Tech companies will probably speed up quantum computing’s arrival in everyday life. IBM recently announced that it will launch a 53-qubit quantum computer to rival Google’s. Microsoft and Intel have also upped their respective quantum computing investments.
Nevertheless, there’s still more work to do.
“There’s still a long way to go between a demonstration of quantum supremacy and genuinely practical applications of quantum computing,” the University of Bristol’s Ashley Montanaro said. “But in my view reaching this milestone is a genuinely exciting moment.”
These developments are exciting because, just as quantum computers can do tasks exponentially faster than classical computers, so too will quantum processors exponentially change humanity.