Throughout the years, computers have steadily become more advanced. Their progress has seemed to increase in both output and pace over the past couple decades.
Now we look at the newest and most advanced computers and compare them to others, looking at price, features, and user feedback before rating them. There’s always a debate about what could be the greatest computer ever – and everyone has a different opinion on the matter.
But ever since the 1950s when computers were first seeing a big boom in development, there have been questions about how far they could go. Back then, a computer could be the size of a refrigerator while only being capable of working as a word processor.
Things have changed, and in some ways the very nature of the computer itself is changing.
Now there are plenty of terms floating around that change the way we look at computing. Artificial intelligence means machines are becoming smarter. Cognitive computing is about turning computers into human brains in terms of how they operate.
But what about quantum computing?
This curious term has gotten a lot of attention in recent years. And despite the fact that the concept is only in its infancy, there are some popular examples of it out there.
WHAT IS QUANTUM COMPUTING? WHERE DOES IT EXIST?
Quantum mechanics have long fascinated scientists. With their origins found in the gold foil experiment, the concept of quantum science leads to some fascinating questions.
Can two units be entangled with one another despite no apparent physical connection? Can two different things exist in the same space simultaneously, or in different spaces simultaneously? Can superposition explain this phenomenon?
Quantum computing represents a new approach to computing processes. We understand the basics. Digital binary computers perform tasks by taking commands and converting electrical signals into one of two states, a 1 or a 0, and any number of sequences and combinations between them.
Sure, this works fine for now. It’s become one of the world’s leading models for computing, and until recently was the only model that had achieved truly widespread reach. Bur now quantum computing has become more popular.
This method of computing sees computing functions turned into quantum bits or qubits, and thus opens the machine up to the possibility of superpositions for states. The result is more possibilities and a great range of tasks that can be completed.
There area a few great quantum computer models out there. And though most are admittedly still in their infancy, it shows a brief glimpse of the future. Let’s take a look at one of the most impressive quantum offerings out there.
Google’s quantum computer is impressive, sure, but is it really the supreme computer of the century? How can we make that determination, and what exact criteria needs to be hit for such a title to be earned?
MEET BRISTLECONE: A GOOGLE QUANTUM COMPUTER CHIP
In March of 2018, Google unveiled Bristlecone. This quantum computing chip wasn’t the first of its kind – but the specs it offered were a first in the quantum computing field. Offering 72 quantum bits, it’s computation units have surpassed that of anything before it.
Not only was it big news just because of what quantum computing can offer, but it was big news because of how it represented so much progress. It blazed past the qubit count of IBM’s model the previous year, raising the bar by nearly 50 percent.
And Google’s engineers have spoken – they believe that, if progress continues at the rate it is on now, their quantum offering will reach quantum supremacy in only a few months.
That’s a lofty claim! It’s also a confusing one. Quantum mechanics are tricky enough, but what is quantum supremacy?
Think about the value of a supercomputer. They still measure data in bits and bytes, and make calculations based on binary translated signals, but they’re much better at it. They can go faster and deliver more results. Think of those computers that can take on world chess champions, because they can process possible move combinations dozens of moves ahead of the turn they’re on.
From a more practical sense, this can also be useful in the real world. For example, supercomputers can be used to provide stellar security by predicting the next moves of malicious software creators. They can guard against new hazards as they develop, and plug security holes in real time.
The benefit behind the Google quantum computer, should it truly reach quantum supremacy, is that it would be able to reach that kind of performance. In fact, it would be able to exceed it thanks to the process of superposition calculations.
Imagine all those ones and zeroes in a standard supercomputer – now imagine if, instead of existing in single states, each could exist in multiple states at the same time.
Now imagine they have the power to influence one another even when not connected through the same application. That is the gist of quantum computing, and that’s why Google’s offering is so impressive.
SCIENCE BEHIND QUBITS: UNDERSTANDING QUANTUM COMPUTING’S JOURNEY
The great thing about qubits isn’t just their advanced possibility of state existence when compared to bytes, but the fact they offer marginally increasing benefits when compared to bytes.
Consider how adding some bytes to a hardware’s memory capabilities will only result in a modest improvement – in some cases, you may not even notice it at all.
That isn’t the case with qubits. Because they offer a lot more possibilities, they can add a lot more to a system even if they’re only added in smaller amounts.
But creating qubits isn’t an easy task.
This is why quantum computing has taken so long to develop. Qubits are an impressive engineering feat, and they require very specific conditions to maintain. Things like vibrations and temperature changes, even in slight degrees, can cause problems.
These disruptions, known simply as “noise,” can cause qubits to decohere, or lose their quantum state. It’s a fragile state, so maintain it is hard. Unfortunately, it is also crucial for avoiding errors.
Google’s method for preserving that fragile state and preventing errors involves keeping the components at cool temperatures – even cooler than outer space! That may seem extravagant, but it is the price they pay for attempting quantum computing at such a high level.
A DEFINING MOMENT FOR THE GOOGLE QUANTUM COMPUTER
Google’s quantum computer is turning heads. Ahough the science is still being deciphered around how to make these systems work, a test is already being planned to determine just how far they can push their new development.
Their main goal for quantum computers is to have the device perform a task that a binary computer couldn’t perform. But this creates an interesting conundrum that can be just as perplexing as quantum computers themselves. If a test would need to be created and set up on a binary computer first, how could that be possible given the confines of this test?
The answer lies in producing a task that is just on the upper edge of what today’s modern supercomputers can handle. It will push them to their limits and require all the processing power a high-end binary-based computer has. If Google’s quantum computer can handle it, especially with ease, it will represent true quantum supremacy – at least in the short term.
Plenty of ideas exist about quantum computers and how to test them. This could help speed up the race toward quantum supremacy, getting other big names in tech such as IBM back in the running. But up until this point, it seems like Google has things on lock.
However, moving forward, quantum supremacy may not be the goal. Sure, there is always a desire to have the biggest and most powerful device out there. But in terms of what these devices are, how they’re used, and the idea behind them as opposed to binary computers, the idea is to pursue a different end.
EXPERTS SAY THE GOAL IS QUANTUM INIMITABILITY
When we consider how hard it is to maintain qubits and understand the complexities behind these types of computers, there’s a simple question many would ask – why would someone go through all this for a task they could complete on a standard binary computer?
And the answer is they wouldn’t.
Therefore, the goal of quantum computing moving forward is to create tasks that cannot be imitated on standard computers. It’s a tricky process, as technically engineers have to test tasks on binary computers first for the sake of comparisons.
That will involve creating tests that push the very upper limits of the world’s leading supercomputers. When those tasks can be handled with ease by their quantum counterparts, even powerful supercomputers of the binary variety will look weak in comparison.
The Google quantum computer may not be the world’s most supreme machine just yet. But the progress that is being made thanks to this device could lead the tech world forward to a whole new era of computing power – one that does things the older devices simply can’t.