Monday, 2 december 2019 | Redacción CEU
We have become accustomed to labeling many of the technological advances of the current century as "disruptive". You just have to take a look at the latest headlines on blockchain technology, machine learning or self-driving cars. Up to a point, the frequent use of the term reveals a significant change in our society: we have gone from moving in small steps to taking great strides, by often moving in the opposite direction or, as this word defines, by breaking with all done before. Tech companies and scientific researchers constantly surprise us with the announcement of new and original services that we will soon enjoy. Consequently, expectations are high; so much that, sometimes, it is difficult to assess the real impact of the development of a new technology in a specific industry. This is the case, for example, of quantum supremacy in the pharma industry. What does the announcement of the achievement of quantum supremacy mean for the sector?
Last month, Google announced the achievement of a historic milestone in the scientific journal Nature: the demonstration of quantum supremacy. With this empirical test, the company of Mountain View wanted to show that it had won the race in which firms such as Intel, Microsoft and IBM have been participating for years. Indeed, the announcement did not go unnoticed for these competitors.
The debatable achievement of quantum supremacy
In 2012, John Preskill, an American theoretical physicist, introduced the term of quantum supremacy. This concept refers to the barrier that quantum computers cross when they are capable of performing unmanageable tasks for classic computers. In the document published by the journal Nature, Google states that it has managed to achieve this long-awaited milestone. The firm claims that its 53-qubic quantum processor called Sycamore has calculated in 200 seconds an operation that IBM’s Summit, which is the most powerful computer known, would calculate in 10,000 years. In other words, a period of time that, due to its extension, would be impossible to manage.
IBM has shared a statement in which it recognizes that this is an excellent demonstration of the progress in superconducting-based quantum computing, but in which it also refutes Google’s achievement. The company argues that its competitor has not considered all the options. The American multinational explains that its Summit computer is capable of performing the same task in two and a half days, that is, in a period of time that is feasible for a classic computer.