Quantum Computer Claws Are Out: IBM says Google’s quantum claim isn’t so Supreme

Reeer! IBM says Google's quantum supremacy claims are bogus. Credit: Connie Zhou/IBM

Quantum Computer Claws Are Out: IBM says Google’s quantum claim isn’t so Supreme

Two quantum giants are in a war or words over recent claims of quantum supremacy, according to Wired Magazine.

Las month, Google claimed in a technical paper that the search-engine giant achieved quantum supremacy in a NASA-Google collaboration. Quantum supremacy — originally conceived by Caltech professor John Preskill —  is the point at which a quantum computer can outperform a classical computer, even a classical supercomputer. In this case, Google said its quantum computer performed a computation that would take a classical computer a couple thousand years to figure out.

IBM has now countered that their Summit supercomputer — a massive, but still classical computer — could achieve that in a few days.

“This threshold has not been met,” an IBM blog post on the situation said. 

IBM suggests their supercomputer could have done that work in 2 ½ days, not millennia. With enough finagling, the Summit might be even able to do the calculation faster. That would still be slower than the time posted by Google’s Sycamore quantum chip, but, according to Wired, the concept of quantum supremacy requires a quantum challenger to do something that a classical computer could not do at all.

“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. This is in fact a conservative, worst-case estimate, and we expect that with additional refinements the classical cost of the simulation can be further reduced,” the company’s researchers added in the post.

Jonathan Dowling, a professor at Louisiana State University, told Wired that IBM has a point.

“Google picked a problem they thought to be really hard on a classical machine, but IBM now has demonstrated that the problem is not as hard as Google thought it was,” he told the publication.

While it may seem like IBM is dismissing quantum supremacy, they’re not. IBM has its own quantum computing program and is making rapid progress with their own quantum computer and are — no doubt — attempting to achieve their own crack at quantum supremacy.

Google had no comment.

Matt Swayne

Matt Swayne

With a several-decades long background in journalism and communications, Matt Swayne has worked as a science communicator for an R1 university for more than 12 years, specializing in translating high tech and deep tech for the general audience. He has served as a writer, editor and analyst at The Quantum Insider since its inception. In addition to his service as a science communicator, Matt also develops courses to improve the media and communications skills of scientists and has taught courses. matt@thequantuminsider.com

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