Google announced on Wednesday that it has achieved a computational breakthrough known as “quantum supremacy,” which allows new kinds of computers to perform calculations at speeds that are impossible using current technology.
The new technology used by Google executed a mathematical task in less than four minutes that would take traditional computers 10,000 years to solve, according to a paper Google published in the science journal Nature.
Machines that utilize quantum computing make use of the ways subatomic particles behave when exposed to extreme cold. In the present case, Google chilled its quantum processor to almost 460 degrees below zero, the point at which atomic particles cease to move.
One scientist who reviewed the paper, Scott Aaronson of the University of Texas at Austin, compared the feat to the Wright brothers’ successful first flight of an airplane.
“The original Wright flyer was not a useful airplane,” Aaronson told the New York Times, “But it was designed to prove a point. And it proved the point.”
The technology holds immense promise for the fields of artificial intelligence and code encryption. As such, it is considered vital to national security by both the United States and China.
Google, whose unofficial company motto used to be “don’t be evil,” has been caught in the middle of turbulent U.S.-China relations. In 2018 it was revealed that the company tried to build a censored version of its search engine to enter the Chinese market. This after it withdrew from China in 2010 when the company realized the Chinese government was hacking into private gmail accounts.
At the time, hundreds of Google employees circulated an internal letter protesting the company’s involvement in the project.
Meanwhile, Chinese company Huawei is currently building 5G telecommunications networks in China and throughout the world, an advance that is projected to revolutionize communications technology and bring in vast economic benefits for those involved, including in Europe and Asia.
Huawei has been accused of intellectual property theft and spying on behalf of the Chinese government.