Scientists figured out how to surpass ‘quantum advantage’ with binary computers

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Quantum computing promises to solve problems binary computers can’t, but new research from a team in New York shows the old school isn’t ready for retirement just yet. 

In June of 2023, a team of researchers at IBM demonstrated that a quantum system could outperform a binary computer at a given task. At the time, this was called “quantum utility.”

However, it appears that quantum computers suffer from the same problem as their binary counterparts often do: they’re obsolete before they even hit the market.

Quantum utility

Less than a year after IBM’s achievement, a team of scientists from the Flatiron Institute and New York University has figured out a way to beat Big Blue’s quantum computer using a classical computer with a new method called a tensor network approach.

According to a recently published research paper from the New York team, their new method shows clear advantage over the quantum computer:

“Here we show that … we can perform a classical simulation that is significantly more accurate and precise than the results obtained from the quantum processor and many other classical methods.”

Essentially, this means that “quantum advantage,” a nebulous term used to describe quantum computing systems capable of performing useful tasks faster and more accurately than binary systems, has become a moving target.

Related: Quantum computing’s ChatGPT moment could be right around the corner

Quantum advantage

The quantum computing industry is described by many experts as still being in its infancy. However, progress over the past few years has been rapid. Several laboratories have, at one point or another, claimed to have demonstrated quantum utility or, in some cases, advantage.

But, as is the case with IBM’s June 2023 claim, most of these podium positions are temporary as binary computer science is still advancing.

Quantum computing is also advancing, with several companies promising to bring useful systems to market within a matter of years. IBM recently published a roadmap indicating it’ll hit an inflection point in quantum computing by 2029. And MIT/Harvard spinout QuEra claims it’ll have a 10,000-qubit error-corrected quantum computer by 2026.

Either one of the proposed systems should, theoretically, be capable of quantum utility/advantage.