Yay to Quantum supremacy
And why it is not so supreme after all
The newsletter on QIS for business executives and investors in North America and Europe
After a longer than deserved summer vacation, 2 weddings, a funeral, 3 QIS conferences, lots of thinking, your favorite unbiased and factual QIS newsletter is finally back - and what a return it is, we’ve achieved Quantum Supremacy.
You’ve heard the news (originally leaked paper), Google has achieved Quantum supremacy. You’ve also heard the outcries that Google fell well short of that achievement. And you’ve read the articles arguing about it.
So what is the deal you wonder? Very simple, it’s a two sided sword and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Google achieved Quantum supremacy. What Google describes in its research paper (official publication) cannot practically be achieved by a classical computer and, in fact, offers a superpolynomial speedup over the best known classical algorithms.
It is a tremendous technological breakthrough that nobody else has been able to come close to so far and that the competition has been working on feverishly. Across the bandwidth of NISQ technologies required to deliver on this computation, Google innovated in terms of multiple aspects such as coherence times, error rate, software and algorithmic design.
Google did not achieve Quantum supremacy. They failed to accurately depict the performance of a classical HPC, which can be much improved upon from the suggested 200,000 years towards a timeframe that indeed would be while not desirable possibly practical. Thus, it is not a superpolynomial speedup.
This does not yet account for the purely theoretical nature of the experiment, which has no accepted applications and has been specifically designed to deliver the best possible result in this competition. If this were the Tour de France, you now would be crying “doping”.
Google pulled off a stunt, so hold your horses!
Both sides, with many more arguments, can be credibly argued and who is right and who is wrong will solely be decided by your own judgment (a great in-depth technical analysis).
This, though, would get you a “failed” in grade school on your philosophy paper - it is missing the point. The entire Quantum community and ecosystem needs to be grateful for good news. Too little innovation and breakthroughs have been publicized lately in a field with high expectations that is running hot with hype.
Ultimately, this is driven by diverging business interests and models. Google is playing a long game, certainly hoping to make Quantum A.I. a reality ASAP, their true goal is to build a universal quantum computer. And they have the funding, independence and context to deliver on it. Other vendors might not be so lucky as they are feeling the pain of significant R&D investments over the past 2 decades and increasing budgets for sales, marketing and consulting around QIS. Without a bottom line justification for these expenditures in the near to medium term, reality might set in sooner than they like.
What Google did might or might not be actual Quantum supremacy, it certainly is a considerable achievement that others have failed to deliver on. As such, we must celebrate it, embrace it and build on it to make sure that as an - small and fragile - QIS ecosystem we continue to strive and attract the necessary resources required to make Quantum applications practical and beyond doubt.
Bravo. Google. Let’s all join the party!!!
From January 25-30 ID Quantique will be holding its 12th annual Winter School. A great opportunity to learn about the state of Quantum Communications and what's on the horizon for this exciting application.
The QC market is in a state of superposition
What we are starting to see is that the overall market, after a handful of years of excitement and investments, is that people are starting to wonder what comes next.
All of the large hardware vendors (except Google if you’re in the pro supremacy camp) have been behind expectations both on delivering technical breakthroughs and real world applications.
The smaller vendors and startups have equally struggled to announce true breakthroughs and are suffering the consequences ... acquisitions, down rounds (Rigetti, despite a highly focused tech effort) and lack of funding.
Which leaves many in the “scene” betting on the (not so) dark horse Honeywell, who is expected to make a major announcement by Q1 2020 that people are betting much of their money on (smart move Google hedging their short term bet… more “bravo” for two large vendors joining forces).
All of this gives us a very mixed Quantum big picture at the very best, with the true issue an open secret - we still don’t know of a real world (even theoretical) application that indeed would present a quantum speedup. And that is a real big problem despite what you read in the news every week (hype alert!!!).
From December 10-12th you won't want to miss Q2B - the practical quantum computing conference by QCWare with some of the world leading experts in QC.
Let’s not get too entangled
One lesson we seem to have learnt from other emerging (paradigm shifting) technologies is the need for regulations and standards. In Quantum Computing, despite its lack of maturity, this is indeed one success story.
In fact the US Government just signed the Quantum Initiative Act recognizing the need for this as a national security risk. The National Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST) is taking on the business end of this battle with the creation of the Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QEDC).
Private think tanks such as The Hudson Institute in DC are spearheading further initiatives and published recommendations for international standards that have most recently met with widespread cross-atlantic support. The IEEE is another great example of this and publishing additional guidelines.
In Europe and Japan we see similar efforts in parallel and in addition to the American led standards and regulations, and consensus seems not impossible. A great step forward to ensure the viability and credibility of QIS systems.
The SciFi corner... just for fun!
At a recent closed door QIS event a high level government official showed a slide with milestones until 2035. One of them was teleportation.
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