In a world-first breakthrough, Google claims its quantum computer carried out a specific calculation that is beyond the practical capabilities of regular, ‘classical’ machines. In comparison, the same calculation that the team used as a testing metric would take the most advanced ‘classical’ supercomputer 10,000 years to complete, the company estimates.
The findings were revealed in a paper ‘Quantum supremacy using a programmable superconducting processor’ published on Nature.
Quantum computers are different from classical machines in that they exist in multiple states at once (qubits)—compared to the classical bit made up of 1s or 0s. As a result, physicists can perform advanced calculations that would otherwise take centuries to compute.
To our knowledge, this experiment marks the first computation that can be performed only on a quantum processor. Quantum processors have thus reached the regime of quantum supremacy. We expect that their computational power will continue to grow at a double-exponential rate: the classical cost of simulating a quantum circuit increases exponentially with computational volume, and hardware improvements will probably follow a quantum-processor equivalent of Moore’s law, doubling this computational volume every few years.
Applications for quantum computing are wide and varied, but thought leaders in the space consider artificial intelligence, molecular modeling, cryptography, financial modeling, weather forecasting, and particle physics to be among the key use cases.