Just days after officials in China announced the completion of building in a single week a new hospital for patients infected with the coronavirus and begin building a second one, Google engineering director Hartmut Neven warned that the Asian giant’s ability to quickly devote massive resources to a single task poses a new technological challenge to the U.S. and other countries. Speaking at an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., Neven, who is tasked at Google with researching and developing the world’s fastest supercomputers, says the Chinese might soon make tremendous progress that could compromise the U.S. leadership position in this field.
“We are indeed most worried (about) an unknown competitor out of China to beat us in the race to (such a) machine because China as a society just has the ability to steer enormous resources in the directions that are deemed strategically important,” Neven says.
Quantum computing employs quantum mechanics to bring huge leaps forward in processing power. While no country has yet developed such a fully operational machine, China does not have facilities equivalent to the U.S. laboratories researching and testing quantum computers — but they will get there, Neven adds.
“They plan to have three different labs and they will actually all be devoted to quantum information (the science at the core of building quantum computers).”
In addition to fifth-generation and artificial intelligence, quantum computing is another area of technological competition between countries, and one in which the U.S. and China are competing to be the world’s leader. The global quantum-computing market is estimated to reach $948.82 million by 2025 and such technology could be a game changer in many industries.
Developing quantum computers will bring tremendous advantages to various industries, experts say, as these super fast computers will be able to tackle very complex calculations that today’s computers cannot handle. Quantum computers could process never-before-seen amounts of data, which can lead to more efficient communication between devices and a boost for overall innovation.
For example, analyzing large medical datasets could bring about more accurate diagnostics and facilitate more efficient drug development. Quantum computers also could help find the optimal configuration for chemical reactions, increase the accuracy of weather prediction and help governments better predict and fight against cyberthreats.
Several countries are in this race. President Donald Trump signed a bill in 2018 that officially earmarked $1.2 billion for quantum information development in the next decade. Last year, Google claimed it overtook Chinese efforts and developed a machine that can solve a problem in just 200 seconds, which would take a supercomputer today about 10,000 years.
According to Neven, the U.S. is still the leader in quantum-computing research but, as is the custom in Silicon Valley, companies are constantly worried about competitors and watching closely any developments overseas.
“In Silicon Valley, we say only the paranoid survive, so there’s always a hit list of your biggest worries,” he says.
Sintia Radu is an international affairs and global technology reporter at U.S. News & World Report. She previously reported on business and technology for the Washington Post and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She served as the managing editor for Esquire Romania. She graduated from the Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies, and earned her Master of Arts in Journalism at the University of Missouri. She is a fellow of the National Press Foundation for a program on the impact of artificial intelligence. She was part of the 2016 Women in STEM cohort at Chicago’s 1871 technology and entrepreneurship center, and helped design a multiple award-winning iOS/watchOS app profiled in the 2017 Associated Press report on The Future of Augmented Journalism. She is a Fulbright scholarship recipient and gave a TEDx talk on immigration and diversity. Follow her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn, or email her at [email protected].
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