We Americans have a habit of bragging about our feats of technology. Our chief economic and military rivals — namely Russia and China — seldom do. They prefer to keep their secrets.
No one in this country is certain, then, how far the state-controlled economies of those nations have gone in developing quantum computing.
What is certain is that our national security, both militarily and economically, demands that the United States be first to perfect the technology. The reason for that was demonstrated in an announcement Wednesday by technology giant Google.
Google officials claim to have achieved a breakthrough in quantum computing. They say they have developed an experimental quantum computing processor capable of completing a complex mathematical calculation in less than four minutes.
Google says it would take the most advanced conventional supercomputer in existence about 10,000 years to do that.
Wrap your mind around that, if you can.
Other companies working with quatum computing, including IBM, Intel and Microsoft, say Google is exaggerating. IBM researchers told The Associated Press the test calculation used by Google actually could be handled by certain supercomputers in two and one-half days.
Still, you get the idea: Quantum computing will give the nation — including its armed forces and industries — that gets there first an enormous advantage over everyone else. The possibilities, ranging from near-perfect missile defense systems to vastly accelerated research on curing diseases, are virtually endless.
U.S. officials are cognizant of the ramifications of quantum computing, to the point that Washington has allocated $1.2 billion to support research during the next five years.
If that is not enough to ensure the United States stays in the lead in the quantum computing race, more should be provided. This is a competition we cannot afford to lose.