Quantum Supremacy Questioned

November 25, 2021

IBM is the quantum supremacist. Google was the previous quantum cage match PR champ. What’s up with quantum supremacy other than buzzwords, public relations hoo hah, and worry lines that encryption will die?

An interesting take on the Google quantum thing appears in “Math May Have Caught Up with Google’s Quantum-Supremacy Claims.” The article is a gilding of a tidy green sward with a couple of Swiss Fleckvieh contributions steaming in the morning sun.

The write up reports:

Google chose a very specific method of computing the expected behavior of its processor, but there are other ways of doing equivalent computations. Over the intervening time, a few options have been explored that do perform better. Now, Feng Pan, Keyang Chen, and Pan Zhang are describing a specific method that allows a GPU-based cluster to produce an equivalent output in only 15 hours. Run it on a leading supercomputer, and they estimate that it would outperform the Sycamore quantum processor.

Parse this and then summarize: Google pulled a high school science club method from its hip pocket.

I also noted this statement in the write up:

In our chat with Darío Gil, head of IBM research, he dismissed the idea of quantum supremacy and instead focused on getting to what he termed quantum advantage: where quantum computers consistently outperform classical ones on problems that are useful for companies. So, unless someone else wants to pay IBM to reserve the time needed to perform Google’s computations on IBM’s hardware, this is likely to get fairly academic.

One tiny problem: IBM seems to imply that it’s the big dog in quantum computing if I understand the information in “First Quantum Computer to Pack 100 Qubits Enters Crowded Race.”

Yep, got it.

Stephen E Arnold, November 25, 2021


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