The quantum computer will impact every area of human endeavour


It was once just a theory, but today quantum computing is a reality! D-wave – the company responsible for inventing the first commercial quantum computer is helping Google, NASA and Lockheed Martin to solve some of the world’s most complex problems. It works a hundred million times faster than a conventional computer at the coldest sustained temperature in the known universe and scientists are only now learning how to harness it’s full potential. How does this machine work and what kind of problems is it solving? A quantum computer in general is a kind of computer that uses the rules of quantum mechanics to process information. It is very different from classical computers which use simple mathematics that we can do easily in our heads except it does those incredibly quickly and quantum mechanics and quantum computing you’re using very, very different rules so things like superposition and quantum tunnelling and entanglement become tools with which you can solve problems. Initially we were focused on optimization problems like logistics, scheduling problems. What we’re seeing is kind of the sweet spot of the technology or what it’s doing really well is contributing to machine learning and in a new kind of way and bringing some new resources to what’s possible in the machine learning field. So this thing with the little chip at the center which is smaller than your thumbnail is the quantum processor, and that goes into a package that is cooled in the fridge to the coldest sustained temperature in the known universe. Temperature is like noise, and the colder we can get something – the lower that noise is, and the less it will interfere with the quantum mechanics. What is the temperature you cool it down to? So we cool it down to about ten Millikelvin which is around a 180 times colder than interstellar space. You are considered to be the only company in the world who is selling quantum computers. Which organizations or which companies are using a computer today? The University of Southern California is using it for mostly research purposes to train the next generation of scientists on quantum computing. Lockheed Martin is using it to make their software more reliable on F-35 airplanes. We did some work with Google, facial recognition issues, how to find a car in the scene And so we did some early work with them on developing algorithms which could train their computer how to recognize a car. The machine that they bought is actually located at NASA research headquarters at Ames Air Force Base in California. All the research that NASA, Google and Facebook and all the people who are using machine learning they are developing more and more sophisticated tools to make sure that the accuracy of what they’re actually seeing improves as time goes on as the machine learns. We have investments in several small companies where we have given them access to our machine to develop applications, drug design and financial technologies, where we own part of their company in exchange for free time on our machine. They can’t afford to buy $15 million machine, but if they want to come to us, we can tell them: “Hey, you know, we can make a deal!” Which areas will quantum computing impact in the future, you think? Whether it’s a brain research or cancer research. Understanding and being able to model and learn from various ways you might design a drug to adjust a particular cancer. This is going to be probably the most important application that you and I will benefit and notice. There isn’t really a corner of society that won’t have a huge impact from the application of machine learning. In a longer-term basis quantum computing will be the only way to really get to the heart of the solution of those problems. With this research: of a cancer research, body research and genetic research… How soon do you think it’s going to happen? Well, it is happening now. I mean we’ve been working with some startup companies on some machine learning applications for drug design. There’s probably things within the next three or four years that will have had an impact in drug design that nobody will be talking about but it will in fact happen. So in 10 years from now you will probably being treated with some quantum computing design drugs. Steven Hawking recently said that artificial intelligence could end mankind in a 1000 years. What do you think about that? My view is that humans are going to be whether a 1000 years or not – I don’t know, but they’ll certainly be around, because in addition to machines getting smarter, people are gonna get smarter too. And if you look at all the research that they’re doing to increase brain capacity and it may be that in 15 years from now we will have a little chip in our brain which gives us some quantum computing capability. The sooner that useless tasks get automated, I think, the faster humans will be able to address serious problems. From the social and political point of view the next 10 years is going to be really quite dramatic! It means that governments are going to have to address that, and they are gonna have to dramatically change the educational process. So that people are taught from an early age things they need to be taught, so when they graduate they can find tasks that they can do that are relevant to the society of the day. How do you think it’s going to affect our future? Is it going to change our everyday life? I guess the way to answer that question: Did fire change our life? Did the wheel change our life? Did the industrial revolution with steam engines change our life? And it is just that the impact of quantum computing will be bigger than any other, and that matched with machine learning, which is a software application of quantum computing that will change our lives in ways we can’t even anticipate at this point. What message would you send to the younger entrepreneurs? Well, I guess the message is: Study math and physics! I think as you look at the world as it is today the problems that need solving are rooted in physics and math, and chemistry and biology. But physics and math are the fundamental for everything. So if I were a parent with young children, I would be making sure that by the time they graduate from high school they had at least two or three years of university math under their belt.