(ZDNet) Google claimed in Nature magazine it has achieved “quantum supremacy” over classical computers with its Sycamore chip. IBM contested the scope of Google’s achievement. Both are right, ZDNet’s Tiernan Ray says in this article that you have to give the edge to Google.
Both sides showed intriguing, valuable research.
In Google’s case, it’s about the physics of making a superior device. In the case of IBM, the company shows that “architecture,” the design of a traditional computer system, still has amazing potential to advance computing.
The debate is over what it means when you run an actual quantum computer, such as Sycamore, and compare it to a simulation of that quantum computer inside of a classical, electronic computer.
Google’s point is that Sycamore is a device that does the work it takes millions of conventional processors to simulate. As the authors state, when they simulated even a simplified version of the random number generator on the classical computer, it “takes one million [conventional computing] cores 130 seconds, corresponding to a million-fold speedup of the quantum processor relative to a single core.” Google ran its simulations on the Jülich supercomputer, in the German city of that name, and also on Google’s own cloud computing clusters.
IBM, on the other hand, didn’t run any actual simulations. Instead, the company came up with a model on paper, a theoretical estimate for how long it would take to simulate Sycamore on the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratories.
It’s a triumph of science and engineering that two formidable organizations both offer terrific suggestions that are probably ultimately complementary.