Rose's Law For Quantum Computers

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Rose's Law
Quantum Computing
Investor Steve Jurvetson was one of the early investors in D-Wave's quantum computer technology.  Inspired by D-Wave's Geordie Rose, Jurvetson has created a parallel to Moore's Law for quantum computing, and the implications are mind boggling.  
hen Steve Jurveston, Managing Director of the investment firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson first met Geordie Rose in 2002, he was struck by his ability to explain complex quantum physics and the “spooky” underpinnings of quantum computers.  Having just read David Deutsch’s The Fabric of Reality, where he predicts the possibility of such computers, Jurvetson invited Rose to a tech conferences.
DFJ first invested in 2003, and Rose predicted that he would be able to demonstrate a two-bit quantum computer within 6 months. There was a certain precision to his predictions. With one bit under his belt, and a second coming, he went on to suggest that the number of qubits in a scalable quantum computing architecture should double every year. It sounded a lot like Gordon Moore’s prediction back in 1965, when he extrapolated from just five data points on a log-scale (his original plot is below).

So Jurvetson called it “Rose’s Law” and that seemed to amuseRose. Well, the decade that followed has been quite amazing. Jurvetson commented on Rose’s Law four years ago on flickr, but he now also shares the graph above and some potential futures.

So, how do we read the graph above? Like Moore’s Law, a straight line describes an exponential. But unlike Moore’s Law, the computational power of the quantum computer should grow exponentially with the number of entangled qubits as well. It’s like Moore’s Law compounded. (D-Wave just put together an animated visual of each processor generation in this video, bringing us to the present day.)

As Jurvetson points out, the potential for Rose's law is mind bending. If we suspend disbelief for a moment, and use D-Wave’s early data on processing power scaling, then the very near future should be the watershed moment, where quantum computers surpass conventional computers and never look back. Moore’s Law cannot catch up. A year later, it outperforms all computers on Earth combined. Double qubits again the following year, and it outperforms the universe. What the???? you may ask... Meaning, it could solve certain problems that could not be solved by any non-quantum computer, even if the entire mass and energy of the universe was at its disposal and molded into the best possible computer.

It is a completely different way to compute — as David Deutsch posits — harnessing the refractive echoes of many trillions of parallel universes to perform a computation.

Jurvetson does offer a reality check however:
First the caveat (the text in white letters on the graph). D-Wave has not built a general-purpose quantum computer. Think of it as an application-specific processor, tuned to perform one task — solving discrete optimization problems. This happens to map to many real world applications, from finance to molecular modeling to machine learning, but it is not going to change our current personal computing tasks. In the near term, assume it will apply to scientific supercomputing tasks and commercial optimization tasks where a heuristic may suffice today, and perhaps it will be lurking in the shadows of an Internet giant’s data center improving image recognition and other forms of near-AI magic. In most cases, the quantum computer would be an accelerating coprocessor to a classical compute cluster.

Second, the assumptions. There is a lot of room for surprises in the next three years. Does D-Wave hit a scaling wall or discover a heretofore unknown fracturing of the physics… perhaps finding local entanglement, noise, or some other technical hitch that might not loom large at small scales, but grows exponentially as a problem just as the theoretical performance grows exponentially with scale. Jurvetson thinks the risk is less likely to lie in the steady qubit march, which has held true for a decade now, but in the relationship of qubit count to performance.

There is also the question of the programming model. Until recently, programming a quantum computer was more difficult than machine coding an Intel processor. Imagine having to worry about everything from analog gate voltages to algorithmic transforms of programming logic to something native to quantum computing (Shor and Grover and some bright minds have made the occasional mathematical breakthrough on that front). With the application-specific quantum processor, D-Wave has made it all much easier, and with their forthcoming Black Box overlay, programming moves to a higher level of abstraction, like training a neural network with little understanding of the inner workings required.

According to Jurvetson, "the possibility of a curve like this begs many philosophical and cosmological questions about our compounding capacity to compute... the beginning of infinity if you will."

It will be fascinating to see if the next three years play out like Rose’s predictions, and we don't have long to wait.

SOURCE  Steve Jurvetson's Flicker Page

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