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Google Quantum Computer: The Era of Practical Quantum Computers

Oct. 24, 2019

A Google quantum computer has far outpaced ordinary computing technology, an achievement called quantum supremacy that's an important milestone for a revolutionary way of processing data. Google disclosed the results in the journal Nature on Wednesday. The achievement came after more than a decade of work at Google, including the use of its own quantum computing chip, called Sycamore.



"Our machine performed the target computation in 200 seconds, and from measurements in our experiment we determined that it would take the world's fastest supercomputer 10,000 years to produce a similar output," Google researchers said.



The news, which leaked into the limelight in September with a premature paper publication, offers evidence that quantum computers could break out of research labs and head toward mainstream computing. They couldperform important work like creating new materials, designing new drugs at the molecular level, optimizing financial investments and speeding up delivery of packages. And the quantum computing achievement comes as progress with classical computers, as measured by the speed of general-purpose processors and charted by Moore's Law, has sputtered.



Google got to pick its speed test, but Hartmut Neven, one of the research ers, dismissed criticisms that the result is only a narrow victory.



"Sputnik didn't do much either. It circled the Earth. Yet it was the start of the space age," Neven said at a press conference. He spoke at Google's quantum computing lab in Santa Barbara, California, which is on the site of an actual Space Race milestone -- the development of the Apollo missions' lunar rover.



But it's not the beginning of the end for classical computers, at least in the view of today's quantum computing experts. Quantum computers are finicky, exotic and have to run in an extremely controlled environment, and they're not likely to replace most of what we do today on classical computers. Instead, quantum computers will function as accelerators for classical machines, useful enough to be essential. "It will be a must-have a resource at some point," Neven said.


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