IBM says quantum chip could begin to beat standard chips in two years

IBM on Monday said it has designed a new quantum computing chip that its executives believe will start to outperform classical computers at some tasks within the next two years.

Apple CEO Tim Cook and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty cemented a landmark partnership that has redefined how work is done
Apple CEO Tim Cook and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty cemented a landmark partnership that has redefined how work is done

Stephen Nellis for Reuters:

IBM said that its “Eagle” computing chip has 127 so-called “qubits,” which can represent information in quantum form. Classical computers work using “bits” that must be either a 1 or 0, but qubits can be both a 1 and a 0 simultaneously.

That fact could one day make quantum computers much faster than their classical counterparts, but qubits are exceedingly hard to build and require huge cryogenic refrigerators to operate correctly. While Apple Inc’s newest M1 Max chip has 57 billion transistors – a rough proxy for bits – IBM says that its new Eagle chip is the first to have more than 100 qubits.

MacDailyNews Take: Of course, Nellis is comparing today’s best chips with something two years away. In two years, an eternity in chip design and fabrication, how many transistors will Apple Silicon sport? Significantly more than 57 billion – and your MacBook Pro won’t require carting a huge cryogenic refrigerator around with you.

But IBM said that new techniques that it learned in building the chip, which is manufactured at its facilities in New York state, will eventually produce more qubits when combined with other advances in the quantum computer’s refrigeration and control systems. The company said Monday it plans an “Osprey” chip in 2022 with 433 qubits and a “Condor” chip 1,121 qubits.

At that point, the company says it will be close to what is called “quantum advantage,” the point at which quantum computers can beat classical computers.

Darío Gil, a senior vice president at IBM and head of his research division, said that does not mean quantum computers will overtake traditional ones all at once. Instead, what IBM envisions is a world where some parts of a computing application run on traditional chips and some parts run on quantum chips, depending on what works best for each task.

MacDailyNews Take: Of course, quantum computers hold insane promise, but they’ll limited to specialized tasks (finance/investing, encryption/decryption, AI, security, chemical/biological engineering) for many years to come.

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  1. Every quantum computing article I read has more caveats than Swiss cheese. I’m not actually sure these systems function as designed or not. You may find a headline that says a system can do something in 1 second that would take a traditional computer 10,000 years, but inevitably you read in the article that it may or may not be solving it, or isn’t actually able to do it but probably will soon. Add to that the qubits are entangled for microseconds before they begin to encounter errors, and no one really knows how to correct those errors without using more qubits, which also are prone quickly to errors. So yeah, it’s like nuclear fusion amd solid state batteries l. Huge promise that is just a few years away from large-scale adoption… and always will be. Or not, we’ll see.

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