A Google contest for millions of dollars: to find out usefulness of quantum computers

A Google contest worth millions of dollars will test the skills of the world’s smartest people.

Google and the nonprofit XPRIZE kicked off a contest on Monday, March 4, 2024, that awards millions of U.S. dollars to those who can put quantum computers to real-world, “socially beneficial” use.

A Google contest for millions of dollars “aims to generate quantum computing algorithms that can be put to practical use (today or in the future) to help achieve societally beneficial goals,” says a Google statement reporting the contest.

In theory, quantum computers have the ability to perform specific tasks much faster and more efficiently than a normal computer.

For example, Google says in its report that it has demonstrated that “quantum computers could be used to accelerate drug development, design new battery materials or build more efficient fusion reactors”.

A Google contest for millions of dollars: Searching for utility

However, there are several challenges ahead that leave the quest to give these cutting-edge computers utility.

 “While there are many reasons to be optimistic about the potential of quantum computing, we still don’t know for sure how, when, and for what real-world problems, this most transformative technology will prove to be,” the report says.

A Google contest for millions of dollars seeks a more utilitarian sense to these equipments; which, despite the advances in algorithms and quantum computers have remained in experiments, which constantly seek to improve their results.

However, few of these have been applied to solve everyday or real-world problems.

“Much of the research community has focused little on trying to match these more abstract quantum speedups with concrete real-world applications, and trying to figure out how quantum computers could be used,” says Ryan Babbush, head of quantum algorithms at Google Quantum AI, as quoted by New Scientist.

About quantum computers

Quantum computers are known to have a great advantage over traditional computers, basically because quantum computers process and store information in qubits and allow quantum algorithms to outperform any kind of work on classical computers.

Quantum computing has been touted as the next great technological revolution, with the potential to solve problems that are currently impossible for classical computers.

However, some experts, though not all, are beginning to question whether such a revolution is really on the horizon.

The big “problem” with these marvels is that short to medium term possibility of achieving what a lot of companies are promising and it seems more like a fight of egos and a lot of marketing between countries like the United States, Russia and China and their companies.

On the other hand, quantum computers are still complex to understand, you need large refrigerators to cool them or very advanced electronics to program them and their potential is known, but they still cannot solve practical problems.

Oskar Painter, head of quantum hardware at Amazon Web Services, on the other hand, says there is a “tremendous buzz” in the industry right now and “it can be hard to filter the optimistic from the completely unrealistic.”


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