Abstract: (click to show)
Demonstrating quantum advantage requires experimental implementation of a computational task that is hard to achieve using state-of-the-art classical systems. One approach is to perform sampling from a probability distribution associated with a class of highly entangled many-body wavefunctions. It has been suggested that this approach can be certified with the Linear Cross-Entropy Benchmark (XEB). We critically examine this notion. First, in a "benign" setting where an honest implementation of noisy quantum circuits is assumed, we characterize the conditions under which the XEB approximates the fidelity. Second, in an "adversarial" setting where all possible classical algorithms are considered for comparison, we show that achieving relatively high XEB values does not imply faithful simulation of quantum dynamics. We present an efficient classical algorithm that, with 1 GPU within 2s, yields high XEB values, namely 2-12% of those obtained in experiments. By identifying and exploiting several vulnerabilities of the XEB, we achieve high XEB values without full simulation of quantum circuits. Remarkably, our algorithm features better scaling with the system size than noisy quantum devices for commonly studied random circuit ensembles. To quantitatively explain the success of our algorithm and the limitations of the XEB, we use a theoretical framework in which the average XEB and fidelity are mapped to statistical models. We illustrate the relation between the XEB and the fidelity for quantum circuits in various architectures, with different gate choices, and in the presence of noise. Our results show that XEB's utility as a proxy for fidelity hinges on several conditions, which must be checked in the benign setting but cannot be assumed in the adversarial setting. Thus, the XEB alone has limited utility as a benchmark for quantum advantage. We discuss ways to overcome these limitations.