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Commercially viable quantum computers coming in '5-10 years': Mainichi interviews Google scientist

Dr. Jarrod McClean, a research scientist at Google's Quantum Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, gives a lecture at Tokyo Institute of Technology in the capital's Meguro Ward on Oct. 28, 2019. (Mainichi/Mayumi Nobuta)

TOKYO -- It will take "5-10 years" for a commercially viable quantum computer to be created, a Google researcher told the Mainichi Shimbun in an Oct. 28 interview.

Dr. Jarrod McClean, a research scientist at Google's Quantum Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, is a coauthor on an article in which Google and other bodies announced they had achieved "quantum supremacy" -- the execution of a set task faster with a quantum computer than with a classical supercomputer.

McClean gave a lecture at Tokyo Institute of Technology in the capital's Meguro Ward earlier the same day. The paper, published in the Oct. 23 edition of the British scientific journal Nature, says a device described in the report took about 200 seconds to achieve a specific computational task which would reportedly take a "state-of-the-art" classical supercomputer 10,000 years to perform.

However, researchers at supercomputer manufacturer IBM Corp. and others posted a rebuttal statement via the company's blog and elsewhere, saying the "ideal simulation of the same task can be performed on a classical system in 2.5 days and with far greater fidelity." They also argued that classical computers have their own strengths, making use of the term "quantum supremacy" misleading.

In the lecture, McClean said that although it takes time to produce multipurpose computers, he believes that the creation of an error reducing system will enable the realization of a quantum computer that can help in the development of medical products and provide other assistance in the near future.

He specifically told the Mainichi that he believes it will take "sometime between 5-10 years from now" for a commercially viable quantum computer to be built.

When asked about IBM's argument, McClean said, "Their method hasn't been implemented yet, so it was just, they kind of jotted down some numbers on paper on what they might expect would be true in some simulation method, but didn't run it." He emphasized that it is still evident that Google's device has performed "much, much faster than" a classical processor.

"It's not like you can say that quantum computers are better than supercomputers at everything," McClean explained, "but they are better at this task and we believe at other applications." He told the Mainichi that quantum computers are likely to perform better in more tasks than supercomputers do in the future.

(Japanese original by Mayumi Nobuta, Science & Environment News Department)

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