Saturday, February 3, 2018

You Think the Have/Have-not Divide Is Big Now? Just Wait Until AI has a Quantum Computer Brain

Following up on the post immediately below, "How Amazon Rebuilt Itself Around Artificial Intelligence".
From MIT's Technology Review, December 18, 2017:

If it fulfills its promise, quantum machine learning could transform AI.
A company in California just proved that an exotic and potentially game-changing kind of computer can be used to perform a common form of machine learning.

The feat raises hopes that quantum computers, which exploit the logic-defying principles of quantum physics to perform certain types of calculations at ridiculous speeds, could have a big impact on the hottest area of the tech industry: artificial intelligence.

Researchers at Rigetti Computing, a company based in Berkeley, California, used one of its prototype quantum chips—a superconducting device housed within an elaborate super-chilled setup—to run what’s known as a clustering algorithm. Clustering is a machine-learning technique used to organize data into similar groups. Rigetti is also making the new quantum computer—which can handle 19 quantum bits, or qubits—available through its cloud computing platform, called Forest, today.
The demonstration does not, however, mean quantum computers are poised to revolutionize AI. Quantum computers are so exotic that no one quite knows what the killer apps might be. Rigetti’s algorithm, for instance, isn’t of any practical use, and it isn’t entirely clear how useful it would be to perform clustering tasks on a quantum machine.

Still, Will Zeng, head of software and applications at Rigetti, argues that the work represents a key step toward building a quantum machine. “This is a new path toward practical applications for quantum computers,” Zeng says. “Clustering is a really fundamental and foundational mathematical problem. No one has ever shown you can do this.”

There is currently a remarkable amount of excitement surrounding efforts to develop practical quantum computers. Big technology companies, including IBM, Google, Intel, and Microsoft, as well as a few well-funded startups are racing to build exotic machines that promise to usher in a fundamentally new form of computing.

First dreamed up by physicists almost 40 years ago, quantum computers do not handle information using binary 1s and 0s. Instead, they exploit two quantum phenomena—superposition and entanglement—to perform calculations on large quantities of data at once. The nature of quantum physics means that a computer with just 100 qubits should be capable of calculations on a mind-boggling scale.

Rigetti is something of an underdog in the race. IBM recently announced that it has built a quantum computer with 50 qubits, and Google is widely rumored to have a device of similar scale. Still, Rigetti has plenty of boosters. The company has raised around $70 million from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent firms.

Having more qubits doesn’t necessarily equate to superiority, though. Maintaining quantum states and manipulating qubits reliably represent formidable challenges.

Like some others, Rigetti uses a hybrid approach, meaning its quantum machine works in concert with a conventional one to make programming more straightforward. Zeng says the company’s systems are also more modular than its rivals’, which may offer a significant edge when it comes to scaling machines up further.

Quantum computing has tremendous potential, in theory. There is good evidence that quantum machines can be used to solve cryptographic challenges and to simulate new material. And there is hope that algorithms such Rigetti’s will eventually transform the world of machine learning and AI....


April 2017
Quantum Computing Startup Rigetti Computing Raises $64 Million in Funding
The other day I mentioned that D-Wave wasn't yet a "real" quantum computer but that they were closer than anyone currently in production. Here's one of the up-and-comers....