Wednesday, November 17, 2021

IBM now Claims Quantum Supremacy

Here is some skepticism about Google:
Now though, in a paper to be submitted to a scientific journal for peer review, scientists at the Institute of Theoretical Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences said their algorithm on classical computers completed the simulation for the Sycamore quantum circuits [possibly paywalled; alternative source of the same article] "in about 15 hours using 512 graphics processing units (GPUs)" at a higher fidelity than Sycamore's. Further, the team said "if our simulation of the quantum supremacy circuits can be implemented in an upcoming exaflop supercomputer with high efficiency, in principle, the overall simulation time can be reduced to a few dozens of seconds, which is faster than Google's hardware experiments".
I t hink this is why Scott Aaronson retracted his quantum supremacy blessing.

IBM had denied that Google reached quantum supremacy, and now makes its own supremacy claim:

IBM has created a quantum processor able to process information so complex the work can't be done or simulated on a traditional computer, CEO Arvind Krishna told "Axios on HBO" ahead of a planned announcement.

Why it matters: Quantum computing could help address problems that are too challenging for even today's most powerful supercomputers, such as figuring out how to make better batteries or sequester carbon emissions.

Driving the news: IBM says its new Eagle processor can handle 127 qubits, a measure of quantum computing power. In topping 100 qubits, IBM says it has reached a milestone that allows quantum to surpass the power of a traditional computer. "It is impossible to simulate it on something else, which implies it's more powerful than anything else," Krishna told "Axios on HBO...."

Krishna says the quantum computing push is one part of his approach to return the company to growth.

The comments about these news items are mostly skeptical, such as:
This is the third Quantum Computing BS story today. IBM literally "simulates" a quantum circuit and then claims it is superior to classical. Well, no shit sherlock. As I said before this is the equivalent of claiming a pebble tossed in water is super to a classical computer because it accurately and instantly shows the interference and refraction patterns. There you go, call it "pebble supremacy." Or a camera and flash photography setup is superior to a classical computer in rendering photorealistic ray-tracing. Technically yes, but in reality bullshit. ...

Indeed. The history of QC claims is an endless series of lies. ...

But the summary says it will help to sequester carbon. That must be true because IBM would never spew BS about something as important as sequestering carbon and the relevance of quantum computing to carbon sequestration is totally obvious to everyone. ...

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Charles Mackay. ...

Is it me, or does this quantum computing stuff starting to sound like a bunch of hooey? What are they even going to calculate with it? It never seems to have any real world application. Why do I have this iMac on my desktop, when a quantum computer is billions of times better? Can they make a little one for me that's only a 1000 time better than my iMac? And how the hell is it gonna solve the battery problem. That's gonna take people making things and testing them? 127 qubits, my ass!

Aaronson weighs in on these new developments:
About IBM’s new 127-qubit superconducting chip: As I told New Scientist, I look forward to seeing the actual details! As far as I could see, the marketing materials that IBM released yesterday take a lot of words to say absolutely nothing about what, to experts, is the single most important piece of information: namely, what are the gate fidelities? How deep of a quantum circuit can they apply? How have they benchmarked the chip? Right now, all I have to go on is a stats page for the new chip, which reports its average CNOT error as 0.9388—in other words, close to 1, or terrible! ...

About the new simulation of Google’s 53-qubit Sycamore chip in 5 minutes on a Sunway supercomputer (see also here): This is an exciting step forward on the classical validation of quantum supremacy experiments, and—ironically, what currently amounts to almost the same thing—on the classical spoofing of those experiments. Congratulations to the team in China that achieved this! But there are two crucial things to understand. First, “5 minutes” refers to the time needed to calculate a single amplitude (or perhaps, several correlated amplitudes) using tensor network contraction. It doesn’t refer to the time needed to generate millions of independent noisy samples, which is what Google’s Sycamore chip does in 3 minutes.

I am inferring that there is still no consensus on whether quantum computers are possible. Maybe IBM will convince some people, and maybe not.

Update: Aaronson also makes some political comments in support of those trying to stop Woke Leftists from stifling all alternative views in academia. But he adds:

Just for the record, I also have never considered voting Republican. The way I put it recently is that, if the Republicans disavowed their authoritarian strongman and came around on climate change (neither of which they will), and if the Democrats continued their current descent into woke quasi-Maoism, my chance of voting Republican would surely increase to at least a snowball’s chance in hell, from its current individual snowflake’s chance in hell. 🙂
This shows that he is very much a part of the deranged Left. He thinks Trump was an authoritarian strongman, but Pres. Biden has been much more authoritarian. Differences in climate policy have been negligible.


  1. Poor Mr. Scott AAronson. Such un-quantum choices he is confronted with... voting with a party as he put it that is in a 'descent into woke quasi-Maoism', or voting for a party that respects your right to the disagree without being threatened with internment re-education camps for not agreeing with political positions.

    Accusing the Republican party of being Authoritarian in this day in age is showing that Mr. Aaronson is not living in the present, he's ideologically trapped somewhere back in the seventies democrat party that still championed free thought and speech along with political dissent with a majority.

    Whether one believes in AGW (anthropogenic global warming) or not, It shouldn't be up to a government to instruct or punish people on their compliance with said doctrine.

    As a rule, whenever my government tells me what to think, I look for someone else running for office who remembers what a 'civil servant' actually is. Elected officials are supposed to be temporary leaders, not permanent rulers.

  2. Yes, Aaronson seems like a smart and reasonable man, but his voting is entirely pre-programmed. He causes me to doubt that he has free will. His political opinions are not in alignment with his voting.