quantum supremacy: it’s going to be commercial in at least 10 years

  1. A team led by Google researchers has claimed a successful demonstration of “quantum supremacy”, and the full text of the paper has been published in the British journal Nature. The team developed a processor with 53 effective qubits, Sikmo, which took about 200 seconds to complete the calculations that the world’s best supercomputers would take about 10,000 years to complete in testing.


Opinions in the industry are divided over Google’s claim to “quantum supremacy”. Some scholars highly value the achievement as an “excellent achievement” and “milestone” in the field of quantum computing, comparable to the Wright brothers’ first flight of aircraft in human history. But the “counter-side” represented by IBM argues that a supercomputer developed by IBM could do what Google showed in two and a half days, misleading the public about achieving “quantum supremacy”.

As competitors in the industry, the dispute between the two giants is right and wrong, at least from a technical point of view, the general reader without a background of expertise may be difficult to judge. But aside from the technological controversy, quantum computing, which has a revolutionary significance compared to traditional computing, offers exciting prospects for humanity to push the limits of computational processing, which no one denies. In this sense, the Google team’s research achievements of more than a decade can be called a “big step” in quantum computing research.

However, from the recent interpretation of this scientific and technological breakthrough, the industry on whether this breakthrough really achieved “quantum supremacy”, for human computing power opened up a “new era” of doubt. It has also been pointed out that whether it is beyond the traditional computer 10,000 years or 2.5 days, is only a demonstration of some of the capabilities of quantum processors, quantum computing is a real alternative to the threshold of traditional computers, especially the technical difficulty of implementing quantum computers should not be underestimated.


John Presquille, a professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology who co-authored the concept of “quantum supremacy”, wrote that “quantum supremacy” is used to describe quantum computers that can do things that traditional computers can’t do, regardless of whether these tasks are relevant or not. He wanted to emphasize through this term that in such a historical era, information technology based on the principles of quantum physics was on the rise.

Zhang Fuchun, director of the Center for Excellence in Topological Quantum Computing at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said in an interview with Xinhua news agency that such demonstrations are like “alpha go” in the field of artificial intelligence, which can beat the best players in humanity, but are not universal. When quantum computers can be used to solve real-world problems in the financial, energy, medicine, weather forecasting, and password deciphering industries, it brings real value.

Of course, any application of basic research will have a gradual and cumulative evolution process, just as it took about 10 years from the Wright brothers to the first flight to the earliest commercial aviation, and how long does it take to move from “quantum supremacy” to quantum computing commercially? Even the most optimistic, such as Sundar Piche, Google’s chief executive, estimates that it will take at least 10 years. It may take longer if it is to have a greater impact on society.

Human society is in the information age, quantum computing may bring about a revolutionary improvement of human computing power, may significantly change the pace of human social development and evolution. That’s why people are paying close attention to any major breakthroughs in quantum computing, and there is anticipation for the future of quantum computing. At present, the United States, the European Union and China have seen the potential and prospects of quantum computing, and researchers from all over the world are exploring each other in a number of technological paths.

The prospect of quantum computing is inspiring many of the world’s best physicists, electronics engineers and computer scientists to go all out. However, the progress of science and technology has always been a long process, and the development of supporting disciplines, social capital investment, international scientific and technological cooperation environment changes and other factors are closely related, quantum computing still has to go through a short journey. For Google’s results, rational observation and excessive speculation, is the attitude it should have.

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