Resigned After Being Reassigned, Either Way, Google’s Head of Quantum Computing is Out
Google’s Head of Quantum Computing Hardware Resigns
+ In late October 2019, Google CEO Sundar Pichai likened the latest result from the company’s quantum computing hardware lab in Santa Barbara, California, to the Wright brothers’ first flight.
+ One of the lab’s prototype processors had achieved quantum supremacy—evocative jargon for the moment a conventional computer does something seemingly impossible by harnessing quantum mechanics. In a blog post, Pichai said the milestone affirmed his belief that quantum computers might one day tackle problems like climate change, and the CEO also name-checked John Martinis, who had established Google’s quantum hardware group in 2014.
Martinis resigned from Google early this month. “Since my professional goal is for someone to build a quantum computer, I think my resignation is the best course of action for everyone,” he adds.
+ Here’s what Pichai didn’t mention: Soon after the team had first got its quantum supremacy experiment working a few months earlier, Martinis says, he had been reassigned from a leadership position to an advisory one. Martinis tells WIRED that the change led to disagreements with Hartmut Neven, the longtime leader of Google’s quantum project.
+ A Google spokesman did not dispute this account, and says that the company is grateful for Martinis’ contributions and that Neven continues to head the company’s quantum project. Parent company Alphabet has a second, smaller, quantum computing group at its X Labs research unit. Martinis retains his position as a professor at the UC Santa Barbara, which he held throughout his tenure at Google, and says he will continue to work on quantum computing.
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