While You Were Sleeping

 They still may need a decade to make this computer powerful enough and reliable enough for groundbreaking industrial applications, but clearly quantum computing has gone from science fiction to nonfiction faster than most anyone expected.

.. “Whereas normal computers store information as either a 1 or a 0, quantum computers exploit two phenomena — entanglement and superposition — to process information,”

.. The result is computers that may one day “operate 100,000 times faster than they do today,” adds Wired magazine.

.. How many different ways can you seat 10 people? It turns out, she explained, there are “3.6 million ways to arrange 10 people for dinner.”

.. Classical computers don’t solve “big versions of this problem very well at all,”

.. It’s just another reason China, the N.S.A., IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Google are now all racing — full of sweat — to build usable quantum systems.

.. “If I try to map a caffeine molecule problem on a normal computer, that computer would have to be one-tenth the volume of this planet in size,” said Arvind Krishna, head of research at IBM. “A quantum computer just three or four times the size of those we’ve built today should be able to solve that problem.”

.. Each time work gets outsourced or tasks get handed off to a machine, “we must reach up and learn a new skill or in some ways expand our capabilities

How Google’s Quantum Computer Could Change the World

The ultra-powerful machine has the potential to disrupt everything from science and medicine to national security—assuming it works

 A reliable, large-scale quantum computer could transform industries from AI to chemistry, accelerating machine learning and engineering new materials, chemicals and drugs.

..  “People ask, ‘Well, is it a thousand times faster? Is it a million times faster?’ It all depends on the application. It could do things in a minute that we don’t know how to do classically in the age of the universe. For other types of tests, a quantum computer probably helps you only modestly or, in some cases, not at all.”

.. Qubits, on the other hand, are like coins spinning through the air in a coin toss, showing both sides at once.

.. The computing power of a data center stretching several city blocks could theoretically be achieved by a quantum chip the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

.. Unlike classical computers, quantum computers don’t test all possible solutions to a problem. Instead, they use algorithms to cancel out paths leading to wrong answers, leaving only paths to the right answer—and those algorithms work only for certain problems. This makes quantum computers unsuited for everyday tasks like surfing the web

.. Quantum computers are also subject to high error rates, which has led some scientists and mathematicians to question their viability. Google and other companies say the solution is error-correction algorithms, but those algorithms require additional qubits to check the work of the qubits running computations. Some experts estimate that checking the work of a single qubit will require an additional 100.

.. Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist, put it this way: “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”

Feynman was one of the first to introduce the idea of a quantum computer. In a 1981 lecture

.. investment has surged, with projects under way at Google, Microsoft, IBM and Intel Corp

..  D-Wave ..  the company’s $15 million 2000Q model is useful only for a narrow category of data analysis

.. Companies and governments are scrambling to prepare for what some call Y2Q, the year a large-scale, accurate quantum computer arrives, which some experts peg at roughly 2026

.. Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 showed that the NSA is building its own quantum computer as part of an $80 million research program called Penetrating Hard Targets

.. Experts believe their biggest near-term promise is to supercharge machine learning and AI, two rapidly growing fields—and businesses. Neven of Google says he expects all machine learning to be running on quantum computers within the decade.

.. In May, IBM unveiled a chip with 16 qubits

..  John Martinis, Google’s head of quantum hardware, in which he let slip that Google had a 22-qubit chip.

.. “If you were to vibrate this frame, you can actually see the temperature rise on the thermometer,

..

Google and its peers will likely sell quantum computing via the cloud, possibly charging by the second.

.. Neven’s team in Southern California is racing to finish the 49-qubit chip

Watson Won Jeopardy, but is it smart enough to Spin Big Blue’s AI into Green

Talking about Watson is a good way to trigger eye rolls from people in the machine learning and AI community. There’s widespread agreement that its triumph on the specific backward-question problem of Jeopardy! was notable. Making sense of language remains one of the biggest challenges in artificial intelligence. But IBM quickly turned Watson into an umbrella brand promising a bewildering variety of bold new applications, from understanding the emotional tone of Tweets to scouring genomes for mutations. It bought startups and rebranded their wares as Watson and touted cute but hardly lucrative projects like Watson-designed recipes and dressesIn one TV commercialWatson chatted with Bob Dylan, confessing “I have never known love.”

Overhyped

Critics say IBM executives overshot badly by allowing marketing messages to suggest that Watson’s Jeopardy! breakthrough meant it could break through on just about anything else. “The original system was a terrific achievement, there’s no question about that,” says Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Allen Institute for AI. “But they’ve really over-claimed what they can deliver in a big way; the only intelligent thing about Watson is their PR department.”

 .. In fact, like all the AI systems in use today, Watson needs to be carefully trained with example data to take on a new kind of problem. The work needed to curate and label the necessary data has been a drag on some projects using IBM’s system. Ashok Goel, a computer science professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, got written up in The Wall Street Journal and Backchannel after building a Watson bot to answer questions from students to his online course on artificial intelligence. But its performance was limited by the amount of manual labeling of data needed. “It had fairly high precision, but it did not answer a very large number of questions,” Goel says
.. MD Anderson had walked away from more than $62 million and four years spent on contracts promising a Watson system to help oncologists treat patients. An internal audit reserved judgment on Watson’s intelligence but said the center had struggled to connect it with an upgraded medical records system. IBM maintains the system could have been deployed if MD Anderson had kept going; the center is now seeking a new partner to work with on applying AI to cancer care.