(TechnologyReview) MIT’s venerable Technology Review has published its annual list of technological advances that it believes will make a real difference in solving important problems. Quantum Supremacy is one of the ten:
Climate change attribution
In October Google claimed the first such demonstration of “quantum supremacy.” A computer with 53 qubits—the basic unit of quantum computation—did a calculation in a little over three minutes that, by Google’s reckoning, would have taken the world’s biggest supercomputer 10,000 years, or 1.5 billion times as long. IBM challenged Google’s claim, saying the speedup would be a thousandfold at best; even so, it was a milestone, and each additional qubit will make the computer twice as fast.
However, Google’s demo was strictly a proof of concept—the equivalent of doing random sums on a calculator and showing that the answers are right. The goal now is to build machines with enough qubits to solve useful problems.
And beyond that? Machines that can crack today’s cryptography will require millions of qubits; it will probably take decades to get there. But one that can model molecules should be easier to build.