Two new breakthroughs have moved quantum computers closer to practical use.
Quantum computers can store vastly more data and process it far faster than conventional computers. The reason: current computers store data as a series of ones and zeros. Each digit is stored in a specific spot in a computer’s memory chips and the computer processes each digit one after the other.
In quantum computers, each bit of information is stored and processed as a “qubit”, which can be either a one or a zero at the same time. That puts more data and more processing power in the same place at the same time.
Engineers have been working their way toward practical quantum computers, as we’ve documented in “Quantum Computing Makes a Quantum Leap” (20 Jul 2021), among others.
Now researchers working independently at the University of New South Wales, Delft University of Technology, and Japan’s Riken research institute have made quantum computers that work at an accuracy rate above 99 percent.
A problem with quantum computers is that they’re almost impossibly delicate. A slight shift in temperature or a vibration too subtle for a person to sense can discombobulate them, rendering their output useless.
With error rates below 1 percent, it’s possible for the computer itself to catch and correct those errors.
Even better, the high-performance quantum computers the three groups reported are based on conventional silicon technology, meaning that they can be made in existing chip factories.
Google, which has been chasing a practical quantum computer for more than a decade, has claimed a different kind of breakthrough. It says it has achieved “quantum supremacy,” meaning it has built a quantum computer that can solve problems no existing supercomputer can in a given period of time.
It made the same claim in 2019, only to be scoffed at when critics and competitors nitpicked its proof.
However, Google’s new “Sycamore” quantum computer holds 70 qubits, beating the closest competitor, which has been IBM’s version with 53 qubits.
The more qubits a computer has, the more and faster it can accomplish.
To demonstrate quantum supremacy, Google chose a method called “random circuit sampling.” The company claims its quantum machine made calculations within a few moments that a classical supercomputer would have needed more than 47 years to complete.
TRENDPOST: Quantum computing is unlikely to be affordable for common use for at least a decade and probably longer. However, working versions will exist in labs.
When quantum computers are able to host artificial intelligence, the flow of insights, ideas, and information the combination creates will be beyond human imagination.