The new program will support better allocation of research money to new quantum computing initiatives both inside and outside government.
Inside the IBM quantum computer.
Credit: Flickr / IBM Research
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the United States (DARPA) has announced a new program that will specifically measure progress towards building usable quantum computers. In an April 2 press release DARPA notes that their new “Quantum Benchmarking” program will “reinvent important quantum computing indices, making them testable and estimated for quantum resources.” and classic required to reach critical performance thresholds.
Explaining the importance of the new program, Joe Altepeter, program director at DARPA’s Defense Science Office, said in the press release: “Building a quantum computer is really useful. It is difficult and it is important to ensure that we are using the correct metrics to guide our progress towards that goal. If building a useful quantum computer is like building the first rocket to the moon, we want to make sure we don’t quantify the progress towards that goal by measuring the altitude at which the plane’s we can fly ”.
“Quantum benchmarking focuses on the fundamental question: How do we know whether building a truly large fault-tolerant quantum computer will revolutionize an industry?” Altepeter is also quoted as saying in the statement.
As the DARPA statement explains, one of the main problems hindering the development of large-scale fault tolerant computers is the lack of standard points to measure and compare breakthroughs. is declared in quantum computing. Currently, some private companies are pursuing quantum computing – including Google and IBM – but without commonly agreed standards, it is difficult to accurately gauge progress even as money is pouring in. these initiatives.
“Companies and government researchers are ready to make big investments in quantum computers in the coming decades, but we don’t want to sprint first to build something and then try to find out if it’s helpful for anything, ”explained Altepeter in the DARPA Newsletter.
In October 2019, in an article in the journal Nature, Google announced that their Sycamore quantum computer, which uses 53 qubits, has achieved “quantum advantage” – that it has taken (albeit calculated) beyond the capabilities of every computer ” classic “in any reasonable timeframe – even the fastest supercomputers out there.” The result was quickly challenged by rival IBM, which believes it was overblown by the internet giant. (For an easy to read but comprehensive article on the quantum computing race between IBM and Google, check out this section MIT Technology Review piece from February of last year.)
The Trump administration – as part of a “big power competition” stance against China – has promoted quantum information science, along with other emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence. In 2018, Trump signed National Quantum Initiative Act, has bipartisan backing in both the House and Senate and is allowed to spend $ 1.2 billion until 2023 to pursue federal research activities in the field and create a labor force. appropriate motion around it.
However, some experts are still not convinced on the utility of large spending on quantum information science and related technologies – including the development of large, versatile quantum computers – in maintaining a national security advantage. (The limited national security implication is that existing cryptosystems – no matter how sophisticated – will be vulnerable to quantum computers.)
Appropriate benchmarks – as DARPA suggests developing through a new program – will assist in developing a practical pathway for quantum computing and can actually help gauge the value of developments. varies in this area for federal policymakers, including in defense facilities.