By Brian Mitchell,
Last week, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) hired University of California Santa Barbara physics professor John Martinis and his team of scientists to build new quantum computing hardware. This news shows that Google is once again attempting to innovate in the computing industry.
Google has been working on developing a quantum computer since the company began working with D-Wave Systems since 2009. D-Wave Systems is a startup company which has claimed that the company had created the first commercial quantum computer. With D-Wave Systems’ technology, Google has worked with NASA and the Universities Space Research Association to create the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab in 2013. This is the lab that John Martinis and his team will be working in as new employees of Google.
Earlier in 2014, John Martinis won the Fritz London Memorial Prize. According to duk.edu, the Fitz London Memorial Prize recognizes scientists who made outstanding contributions to the advances of the field of Low Temperature Physics.
Martinis was recently interviewed by Wired, and one of the things he said about working for Google is that he is excited about the premise of working on problems with potential products, as opposed to just doing research on the topic.
Earlier this year, Martinis was a co-author on a paper published in Science magazine which concluded that D-Wave’s computer showed no evidence of quantum speedup, despite the company’s claims. Essentially, this makes the computer nothing more than a regular computer. Martinis and his team will be working with D-Wave Systems’ hardware and will be looking at how they can make improvements on what D-Wave Systems has done in order to create a better quantum machine. In the past decade, Martinis has built some of the most error-free systems of qubits, which are basic building blocks that encode information in a quantum computer.
The reason Google is investing more resources into developing a quantum computer is because of the speed at which it can solve problems. As the name implies, a quantum computer uses quantum physics to solve problems. On a Seton Hall issued laptop like the one I am typing this on, it would take millions of years to do that. A quantum computer can do it in minutes.
With this problem solving speed, Google foresees the company being able to solve some of the most complicated computer science problems. This technology will help Google with the developments of self-driving cars, robots, drones, drug discovery research, and even the development of a much better search engine.
While the development of quantum artificial intelligence would help solve these problems and many more, researchers and company executives warn that creating artificial intelligence could harm the human race in the long run. Giving machines the ability to think like humans could result in these machines creating their own thoughts, and some of these thoughts could be malicious or harmful. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA), has gone as far as investing in companies that develop artificial intelligence for the sole purpose of keeping an eye on the technology to make sure it does not get out of hand.
When this technology is created, it will be important for everyone to keep a close eye on it. While it would be great to have self-driving cars and better drug discovery research, the price to pay could be drastic, and eventually outweigh the benefits.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 9 print edition.
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