In mid-September, word leaked out through a draft research paper posted to a NASA website that Google researchers had achieved “quantum supremacy”. Caltech professor John Preskill, coined the term in 2012 to “describe the point where quantum computers can do things that classical computers can’t, regardless of whether those tasks are useful.”
Regardless of what you want to call it, Google’s recent accomplishment in the quantum world represents a “first” and serves as a reminder that we need to be prepared for quantum computers when they arrive.
Google claims they achieved “quantum supremacy” by using a 53-qubit quantum computer to perform quantum computations, solving a problem that would theoretically take today’s best supercomputers thousands of years to figure out. Almost immediately, the news sparked controversy over what the achievement meant and whether the experiment truly represented “quantum supremacy,” with proponents on both sides weighing in.
WIRED points out a key criticism in its article Googles “Quantum Supremacy” Isn’t the End of Encryption: The experiment was carefully designed to demonstrate superiority over classical computers. It was one instance of demonstrated achievement with no indication that quantum computers could be used practically any time soon. John Preskill recognized Google’s work as truly impressive and called it “a pivotal step in the quest for practical quantum computers;” but he also noted that we are still far from having a truly useful quantum computer.
One of the ways a quantum computer can be used practically is for breaking encryption. Google’s news certainly sparked concern over whether quantum computers could do just that now. Quantum computing researchers were quick to reassure the world that conventional computers and security are not obsolete, but the concern isn’t completely unwarranted.
Google’s quantum achievement, whether it represents “quantum supremacy” or not, brings us a step closer to reaching the goal of having a truly useful quantum computer, even if that date is five to ten years down the road. Google CEO Sanjay Pichai calls it a “milestone” that represents a moment of possibility for the world of quantum computing. It showed us”what was possible and nudged the seemingly impossible into frame.”
While quantum computers can’t break encryption for any practical purposes at this time, they will be able to probably sooner than we expect. On top of that, data is currently getting scraped and stored until a quantum computer is available to decrypt. It’s worth putting the measures in place now to protect our high-value data and make our encryption quantum-safe.
Quantum Xchange’s Phio TX provides the optimal quantum-safe solution to secure your critical data now, allowing you to choose the level of quantum protection you need. Contact us to learn more about Phio TX and how it can help you prepare for the post-quantum world.