Quantum computing is a dream that the tech world is aching to realise. Most global tec giants are aiming to bring the technology to market, but only some like Google have managed to make heavy strides. But in a rather surprising turn of events, just when Google was on track with major quantum tech milestones, its head of quantum computing hardware, Mr. John Martinis retired due to internal disputes.
Martinis, who was reassigned from a leadership position to an advisory one, was at odds with Hartmut Neven, the longtime leader of Google’s quantum computing project. Due to this demotion, Martinis has now bid farewell to the company and will dedicate himself to his job at UC Santa Barbara. He also added that this is a departure from Google only and not from quantum computing, as he will continue working in the field.
“Since my professional goal is for someone to build a quantum computer, I think my resignation is the best course of action for everyone,” Martinis told WIRED.
He entered the team at Google in 2014, where he worked to establish Google’s lab in UC Santa Barbara and brought along several members of his university research group. He produced astonishing results, including a demonstration of the potential of using superconducting circuits to build qubits, the building blocks of quantum computers. Qubits are like bits on a conventional computer, with the difference being that they can produce results in between 0 and 1, using superposition principle. This can help solve complex problems fairly easily, and can be the next advancement in the field of computing. So far, quantum computers have only been able to incorporate 10s of qubits, with Google achieving the number of 53. It is speculated that 100s of qubits working together will be needed to address complex, real life problems in chemistry and physics.
Still, Google was able to achieve results in a matter of minutes, to a problem that would have taken 10,000 years for a supercomputer to solve, it speculates. This moment was used by Google to claim “quantum supremacy”, and Sundar Pichai acknowledged Martini’s involvement in a blog post. However, it was only months after this successful trial, that Martinis was demoted to an advisory role.
The announcement was not challenged by a Google Spokesperson, who said that he is “grateful for Martinis’ contributions” adding that Neven will continue to head the company’s quantum project.
Quantum computing can help elevate the standard of computing, and is being deemed capable of solving complex real life problems. A while ago, Toshiba came out with an algorithm that produced similar results to a quantum computer. But as is mostly the case with such high-on-tech experiments, we are yet to see any major public use.