Google Hits Back After IBM Calls Its ‘Quantum Supremacy’ an Exaggeration

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IBM and Google have long been in the race to make a breakthrough in the nascent but exciting field of quantum computing. The fierce rivalry between the two has now further intensified following Google’s claim of achieving a “quantum supremacy” breakthrough.



Yesterday, Google announced that its 54-qubit Sycamore processor pulled off a rather complicated mathematical calculation in just 200 seconds. The search giant underlined the achievement by further claiming that the same calculation would have cost even the most advanced supercomputer in the world somewhere around 10,000 years.

It was indeed a pretty impressive feat, except that IBM thinks Google is exaggerating its achievement by a huge margin. And by huge, we mean somewhere around 150,000,000 percent.

IBM’s Response to Google’s So-Called Quantum Supremacy

IBM had already disputed the magnitude of Google’s breakthrough earlier on Monday in what could be called a preemptive strike in the ongoing war of words. Specifically, IBM has dismissed Google’s claim that even the most powerful traditional (read: non-quantum) computer will take thousands of years to achieve what it did in a mere 200 seconds.

According to IBM, Google is wrong to assume that the RAM storage in a conventional computer must be ultra-huge to pull off a calculation similar to the one solved by its quantum computer.

The company wrote in a blog post on Monday saying that because the traditional computer can access both RAM and hard disk space, the 10,000 years timeline mentioned by Google is way off the mark. IBM says it won’t take any more than a long weekend — or 2.5 days — for its most powerful supercomputer to match the prowess of Google’s 54-qubit Sycamore processor.

If IBM’s assessment is indeed true, that would mean Google’s breakthrough, while impressive, will fall far short of being an actual “quantum supremacy.”

Google Retorts

Unsurprisingly, Google refused to take IBM’s disguised criticism lying down and urged skeptics to experimentally verify their doubts. Two of the researchers involved in the project appeared in a press call, urging people to check their research data.

They further urged the technology community to verify IBM’s calculation by running the data on the IBM Summit, the fastest supercomputer around today with a capacity capable of delivering up to 200 petaflops.

The researchers also pointed out that even if they were to take IBM’s claims by the face value, it would still put the 54-qubit Sycamore processor way ahead of Summit with a score of 200 seconds to over two days. That, according to them, would suffice to have Google qualified for the “quantum supremacy” title.

Regardless of which of the two tech heavyweights ultimately prevails in the race towards quantum supremacy, it is not time yet for you to ditch your good-old classical computer. That is so because quantum computers, as they stand today, are highly application-specific and can run only in a highly controlled environment.

Even the researchers behind Google 54-qubit Sycamore processor admit that it will take a long time before quantum computers are ready to handle “more useful work.”

How do you see this new achievement by Google playing out for the future of computing in the long run? Let us know in the comments below.

Images are courtesy of Shutterstock, Pixabay, Twitter.


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David is a journalist, writer and broadcaster whose work has appeared on CNN, The Africa Report, The New Yorker Magazine and The Washington Post. His work as a satirist on 'The Other News,' Nigeria's answer to The Daily Show has featured in the New Yorker Magazine and in the Netflix documentary 'Larry Charles' Dangerous World of Comedy.' In 2018, he was nominated by the US State Department for the 2019 Edward Murrow program for journalists under the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP). He tweets at @DavidHundeyin

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