Google says it has reached ′quantum supremacy′ over normal computers | News | DW | 23.10.2019
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Google says it has reached 'quantum supremacy' over normal computers

Google says its quantum processor was able to perform a complex calculation in just minutes what a supercomputer would need 10,000 years to complete. But rivals are skeptical of the tech giant's claims.

Google announced on Wednesday the development of a quantum computer that was able to perform a task in 200 seconds that the world's fastest supercomputer would take 10,000 years to compute.

The tech giant published the breakthrough in the science journal Nature. It was the same research that was leaked weeks before, to both praise and criticism. 

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said his company's achievement was comparable to the building of the first rocket that left Earth's atmosphere and touched the edge of space, which made interplanetary travel possible.

"For those of us working in science and technology, it's the 'hello world' moment we've been waiting for — the most meaningful milestone to date in the quest to date to make quantum computing a reality," Pichai wrote in a blog post about the article's release.

Read more: Artificial intelligence in medicine: The computer knows what you need

What is quantum computing?

Big tech companies like Google, Microsoft, IBM and Intel are actively pursuing quantum technology.

"We can envision quantum computing helping to design new materials — lightweight batteries for cars and airplanes, new catalysts that can produce fertilizer more efficiently ... and more effective medicines," Google's research team said about the possibilities this technology could bring.

While traditional computing relies on bits, which can only exist in one state at a time of either ones or zeros, quantum computing uses quantum bits, known as qubits, which can be both one and zero at the same time.

The more qubits that can be strung together, through a process called "superposition,” the more powerful a quantum computer can be and, as a result, the machine can process information at faster speeds.

Read more: Predicting the future with supercomputers

Criticism over Google's claim

Google AI's research team leader Frank Arute said Google had achieved "quantum supremacy.”

"This dramatic increase in speed compared to all known classical algorithms is an experimental realization of quantum supremacy for this specific computational task, heralding a much-anticipated computing paradigm," Arute said.

But researchers at IBM, Google's rival, challenged the premise of the claims. IBM argued that its competitor had underestimated the supercomputer, which was developed by IBM, saying it could actually perform the calculation in 2.5 days, instead of 10,000 years.

"We urge the community to treat claims that, for the first time, a quantum computer did something that a classical computer cannot with a large dose of skepticism," IBM said in a blog post.

IBM also rejected Google's claim that quantum computers would replace existing ones. "Quantum computers will never reign 'supreme' over classical computers, but will rather work in concert with them, since each have their unique strengths," Dario Gil, director of research at IBM, wrote in a blog.

Google shot back at IBM's claims, insisting that it performed its tests on an "actual supercomputer" and that it is now on a "totally different trajectory" from classical computers.

jcg/stb (Reuters, dpa, AP)

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