Scott Aaronson: Quantum Computational Supremacy and Its Applications

Dr. Scott Aaronson spoke to MSRI’s Math Lovers Forum in October 2020.

Quantum Computational Supremacy and Its Applications

Last fall, a team at Google announced the first-ever demonstration of “quantum computational supremacy” — that is, a clear quantum speedup over a classical computer for some task — using a 53-qubit programmable superconducting chip called Sycamore. Google’s accomplishment drew on a decade of research in my field of quantum complexity theory. This talk discusses questions like: what exactly was the (contrived) problem that Sycamore solved? How does one verify the outputs using a classical computer? And how confident are we that the problem is classically hard — especially in light of subsequent counterclaims by IBM and others? Aaronson ends with a possible application that he’s been developing for Google’s experiment: namely, the generation of trusted public random bits, for use (for example) in cryptocurrencies.

Scott AaronsonScott Aaronson is David J. Bruton Centennial Professor of Computer Science at the University of Texas at Austin and director of its Quantum Information Center. He received his bachelor’s from Cornell University and his PhD from UC Berkeley. Before coming to UT Austin, he spent nine years as a professor in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. Aaronson’s research in theoretical computer science has focused mainly on the capabilities and limits of quantum computers.

His first book, “Quantum Computing Since Democritus”, was published in 2013 by Cambridge University Press. He received the National Science Foundation’s Alan T. Waterman Award, the United States PECASE Award, the Vannevar Bush Fellowship, the Tomassoni-Chisesi Prize in Physics, and MIT’s Junior Bose Award for Excellence in Teaching.