Google and the Thirst for Quantum Supremacy

August 17, 2022

The operative word is “supremacy.” For a very basic reason — money — Google wants to be the source of low cost training data, integrated models, and assorted software to own the fabled quantum computing sector. You (and probably the management and technical wizards) at the online advertising firm may disagree. That is okay with me. Since I wrote the Google Legacy in 2006 or so, Google has been a bifurcated outfit.

On one hand, the Google had oodles of money from its bar-room swinging door business model. In may view, the approach means that for some transactions, the Google gets paid with each swing. Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching 24×7. Great for high school reunion talk and for the estimable company; maybe not so great for the advertisers. How does one add a gloss of intellectual excellence to this core business?

Easy. Solve “real world” technical problems; for example, make death go away, allow autos to drive themselves (sort of), and master the future world of quantum computing or quantum stuff from pharma drug “discovery” to inventing new materials with a short ride on the bioengineering bypass.

However, doing these innovative things is hard. Writing papers, giving talks, and writing blog posts is a little easier. “DeepMind Feuds with Russian Scientists over Quantum AI Research” puts Google in a defensive posture. That’s uncomfortable for today’s bastion of management excellence.

To further irritate the Google, academic researchers from a couple of countries like

Here’s the passage I circled because it is important and pretty easy to understand by a dinobaby like me:

According to the commenting researchers, the training process that DeepMind used to build its neural network taught it how to memorize the answers to the specific problems it was going to face during benchmarking — the process by which scientists determine if one approach is better than another.

Since the Google cannot fire the academics beavering away in Russia and South Korea, Google denies the allegation that its snorkeling-like approach to creating training data suffers from a flaw. Google wants, as I understand the goal, to become the Big Dog of all things quantum. Supremacy is the goal, and some academics criticizing the intellectual skyscrapers erected by Google is not permitted. In fact, if the Russian and South Korean academics are a little bit right, the claim to quantum supremacy and all-thingns-quantum is tilting like the Millennium Tower in San Francisco.

Net net: My view is that quantum research is chugging along at the turtle-racing pace of other next-big things. Google’s need to be the leader in something substantive and not yet directly associated with the worshipful business of online ad sales is growing. Thus, one thing is clear: None of the researchers has demonstrated much in the way of Googley behavior. If their analysis is correct, what will be the value of a digital Millennium Tower?

Stephen E Arnold, August 17, 2022


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