Kathy Gibson is at Fujitsu Forum in Munich – The debate around quantum supremacy is fundamentally flawed.
This is the word from Dr Joseph Reger, chief technology officer of Fujitsu Europe, who argues that debate recently kicked off by Google is not precise and, possibly, not even true.
“It is a disservice to technology development,” he says. “We need a more precise discussion about the future of quantum.”
Google recently announced that it has built a computer that can perform a task that no classical computer can – achieving what is known as quantum supremacy.
The Google computer is claimed, in a paper published in Nature, to have performed a computation in 200 seconds that would take the world’s fastest existing supercomputer 10 000 years.
“Supremacy is a bad word,” Dr Reger says. “I used it myself three years ago, but is has bad connotations and, therefore, shouldn’t be used.”
But it is also a misnomer, he says, and doesn’t really describe what it means. “I am now using the term quantum advantage which suggests there is an advantage, but doesn’t mean it is supreme. It just means that is has an advantage for a particular purpose.”
He questions how the conclusion was reached since it used a hypothetical comparison.
“Let’s understand that quantum computers will have advantages in some areas: let’s rather talk about what applications we mean so that the quantum advantage for everyday applications can come to fruition.”
Dr Reger adds that, if we accept that the term quantum advantage is the correct one, that the biggest advantage currently being delivered in industrial applications is from a machine that is not quantum.
“For instance, Fujitsu’s Digital Annealer delivers a quantum advantage without being itself in a quantum state.”
Quantum computing is definitely in the future, Dr Reger says. The problem lies in the exponential nature of computing growth, along with the massive scale of growth in negative issues.
“Today, growth has led us into this path where what we do is not scalable anymore. The large numbers are hitting us more badly now than they used to.
“The difference is that growth is not linear: it is exponential.”
The global nature of business means that problems are global too. “This means that organisations find themselves barely able to cope, or to optimise their solutions,” Dr Reger adds.
“When the PC was introduced, the sky was the limit, but the reverse is happening now. Even if you have very large computers, you are unlikely to succeed because everything is on a different scale.”
Where we will start seeing massive changes, Dr Reger says, is in the convergence of technology.
“From a Fujitsu point of view, we are working on quantum and AI. When these start to work with each other – and corroborate each other – the results will be astonishing. And this is not too far away.”
On a less positive note, Dr Reger believes that AI and the exponential nature of technology availability, could change the way weapons are developed and used.
“What technology has done for military inventions is that innovations no longer need to cost anything,” he says.
For instance, today’s nuclear networks cost so much and require such a lot of infrastructure that they are obvious to observers.
“Nuclear arms control is successful because there are visible signs and it is such a burden that few can afford it,” Dr Reger points out. “Contrast that with the question of how to develop a new AI-based weapon that can destroy the utility infrastructure of a city or country.
“Nuclear development costs tens of billions of dollars. This new weapon could take very little: a handful of guys with a laptop each. With that very low entry point, we have a total lack of control and no way to detect it.”
There is a lot of this kind of development going on, he adds. “It is not just the usual suspects.”
But forget trying to use technology to fight the threats, Dr Reger adds, because it could be used both ways.
“My personal opinion is that the whole thing is coming down to the question of whether mankind as a whole is intelligent enough to prevent self-destruction,” he says.
“It currently doesn’t look like it. There is no technology answer to this problem.”