Oct 23, 2019

Google scientists say they've reached "quantum supremacy"

Photo: Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

In a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature, Google reportedly achieved a milestone by using quantum computers to solve a calculation in mere minutes that current machines could not complete in thousands of years.

Why it matters: "Quantum supremacy," the achievement Google is touting, would represent a big but early step toward reliable quantum computers that could solve some currently intractable problems.

Google scientists said their quantum machine completed in less than 3.5 minutes a calculation that would take the most powerful present-day computers 10,000 years to finish.

How it works: Quantum machines use atomic particles to represent "qubits" — short for "quantum bit." One qubit can convey twice as much information as a single traditional computer bit, thus beefing up a system’s computing power. A system's computing power increases exponentially with each additional qubit.

Yes, but: IBM scientists, who are also developing quantum machines, recently argued that Google's team underestimated the power of current computers.

  • IBM scientists claim that a modern computer system could perform the calculation in Google’s report in 2.5 days, and it would make fewer mistakes than Google's quantum machine.

Of note: There's debate over the utility of quantum random number generation — the task Google's machine completed. However, Google says it's important for next-generation cryptography.

Go deeper: Heading off the quantum encryption apocalypse

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AI is getting caught up in politics

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

After decades of gestation in relative obscurity, leading-edge technologies like AI and quantum computing have been thrust into the center of an era-defining competition between China and the U.S.

Why it matters: Politicizing these technologies has led to a rush of investment — but it risks hobbling international collaboration and potentially even derailing some critical research.

Go deeperArrowNov 2, 2019

Google fights to limit sharing of information in antitrust probe

Google turned to a Texas court for help Thursday, fearing that a multistate antitrust probe could allow its rivals to gain access to sensitive information.

Driving the news: Google sought a protective order to limit the sharing of its confidential information in the states' antitrust investigation.

Go deeperArrowNov 1, 2019

Google CEO: The company is "genuinely struggling" with transparency, employee trust

Google CEO Sundar Pichai in May 2019. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees at an all-staff meeting this week that "it's definitely gotten harder" to see how to make improvements after breaking employees' trust at the company's current scale, the Washington Post reports.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Ina Fried: Google has prided itself on having a vocal employee base. In recent months, the tech giant has struggled with handling workers who question its every move and want a say in everything from who is hired or retained to who the company does business with.

Go deeperArrowOct 26, 2019