I mean, quantum computing is something that today seems unlikely to be widely available or achievable in hardware to anyone but a handful of specialists and companies/organizations.
I wonder if someday, in the future, people will look back and see that classical computing spread because it was made accessible and ubiquitous, and we did not have the lust for centralization which we seem to now. I wonder what kind of future this spells for quantum computing - will it continue to spread or will it be limited/stunted by being controlled by only the few?
This feels like it has the potential to be the ultimate kind of lock-in. If the way that the system and the hardware/software is exposed to the world is through cloud services, and the knowledge of how to build/operate/use quantum computers stays locked-in to only the privileged who can afford to have access to and utilize it...
Imagine if you started building on quantum computing technology, but then decided you wanted to change.. to what other option!?
I'm not trying to be a Luddite here, I think it's pretty amazing you can even access a quantum computer as a service. But, I am being "that person" who asks the question.. "hmm, where is this going"?
The chips we make (speaking directly of D-Wave, but afaik this is true of all superconducting QC efforts) would cost pennies if we produced them at scale. But the surrounding machinery is extremely complex, and very expensive to manufacture -- and scale would only get you so far. My rough understanding of refrigeration is that the temperature differential strongly depends on the length of the heat exchanger. Qubits are famously sensitive to noise; and blackbody radiation gives an inescapable dependence between noise and temperature. In short, a miniaturized fridge would be necessarily hot, and therefore too noisy to perform quantum computation!
So the sad news is that, barring some major developments, we may never have miniature quantum computers. In the foreseeable future, hardware costs will be measured in millions of dollars. So even if you're a millionaire, you probably don't want to buy a quantum computer. If you work for a university, a national laboratory, or a major corporation, you might try to convince your organization to purchase a quantum computer. If you succeed in that pitch, you'd almost certainly need to share it with your colleagues over a network.
So to me, an industry insider, it feels that public access to quantum computing is almost necessarily QCaaS.
We couldn't possible foresee how these monster of a machines could possible fit in the palm of our hands and yet, now, it's hard to see how we couldn't see that far in front of us.
We had this famous quote from IBM but, I wonder if as an industry this was a common perspective. Or wether between those who were building these machines could foresee where we'd be now? Is there some one in Quantum Computing who has the intelligence and creativity to think, nah, we'll have giant refrigerated quantum computing mobile phones in 5x decades time (I understand Quantum Computers wouldn't make great phones I'm just drawing baseless comparisons :) )
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
Thomas Watson, president of IBM, 1943
= = = =
I only found out about wolframalpha a month ago and I'm still in awe of it. Quantum computing as a service? No idea what I'm going to want to do with it. But I re-watch this video by Veritasium and Andrea Morello from UNSW a couple of times a year to just remind myself how much I don't know.
Even if he had said it, it was a very accurate statement at the time. Gordon Bell has noted that at the time he is claimed to have made that statement, it would have held essentially true for a decade. As something that would have likely been said (if said at all) in discussions around IBM's near-future business plans, or a sort of market analysis of the conditions at the time, it makes perfect sense.
That said, LH2 temperatures aren't really hard and can easily fit in a 2U rackmount device, providing power/classical-RF uses of type2 superconductors. Think EMI shielding, power conditioning, ~50 GHz traces that can span a full backplane without fancy signal conditioning, etc.
It is very hard to dissipate heat from a solid object into space. This is not true for our bodies on the other hand, but that is more to do with pressure - if you expose cells to the Void of space, most liquids inside would quickly expand in size and essentially boil, consuming large amounts of heat to go through the phase transition from liquid to gas, thus quickly cooling surrounding tissue. You could theoretically use this to create evaporation-based heating, but you would have to transport vast quantities of water that would quickly be used up, since there is no hope of collecting them back most likely.
I’m fairly sure decades ago people assumed we may never have tiny computers in our pockets with the same certainty you have now.
This is what it means to be crazy enough to change the world.
Oh, and fusion reactors.
Now that I think of it, there was a lot of variation in predictions of computing. But I would say that it's been pretty common for science fiction to describe technology 30 years out somewhat accurately, probably because it has inspired the actual tech in a self-fulfilling way.
So, in the 40s, a spaceship was envisioned able to carry only calculators and slide rules, with a radio link to a big central computer. That wasn't far off of how things developed in the 60s and 70s. But I think by the 60s and 70s, people were imagining pocket computers and tablets and such and that had a huge effect on people actually designing them when it was possible.
By no means do I intend to discourage progress! I wouldn't do the work that I do if it wasn't so difficult. I did hedge, a bit: "may never," "foreseeable future," "without major developments."
The fridge is just one major obstacle. There's a plethora of physics, engineering, and mathematical challenges out there impeding progress. Get to work!
Well, consider the opposite suggestion: right now, quantum computer access is fairly constrained. Making these systems available to anyone who has a credit card is a wider democratization of access to them, not a constraint.
After all, cryogenics and such isn't exactly free or easy to maintain - access is going to be somewhat controlled unless/until these things are to the point where you have one in your phone.
I think it's incredible that the inventors of this technology are pushing so hard to get it in the hands of people who can apply it. So in that regard, I completely agree, it is a better situation to have the technology available for a reasonable price and payment option.
I think part of my hang up of this is thinking about and remembering how much I was amazed by what we could do independently before the cloud vendors. It seems like we are in the part of the cycle that is encouraging centralization, but I don't know how or if we'll ever be able to exit this phase (or maybe we won't have to).
The scale and complexity of the offering of the cloud vendors, compared to what independent organizations can do, is truly mind blowing, and continues to get that way moreso every day. How does one even compete (or why would one want to) against these "utility" technology companies?
This is like dialing up to use the university PDP-11 in the 70s, basically. Big things are coming.
Room-temperature superconductors and other technologies using strange edge conditions are theoretically possible, but quantum computers have only a few specialties.
Also, agreed about the use case - sometimes I get the feeling that quantum computing is a problem looking for a solution (but I am sure that must not be the case). That said, I think things are partially that way because quantum computing is just such a different paradigm, so to truly take advantage of it takes a pivot in thinking, but that great dividends may be possible as a result.
My thought is, it's kind of like how we learned about what FPGAs could do. Different paradigm, incredible opportunity.
* Decentralized as a part of early development
* Centralized for ease of early deployment
* Decentralized once it becomes simple / commodity enough that everyone can just have one
* Recentralized once it's cheaper to run them all centrally again
And then you only break back out once the thing you're doing fundamentally changes for some reason.
> I wonder what kind of future this spells for quantum computing - will it continue to spread or will it be limited/stunted by being controlled by only the few?
I feel like this is a step in the right direction, though. Right now using quantum computers is totally outside of the realm of possibility for the vast majority of people - they're simply too expensive in materials cost, expertise to create, conditions for operation, etc. etc. etc. - without services like this one. The only chance an "everyday" person has to try out a quantum computer is to rent time on someone's else's.
I don't think at a similar point in the life of classical computers we had options like this that were readily available - you could rent time on the computers, but I can't imagine that getting access to them was as easy as it will be today with the internet being a thing and service providers offering high granularity on billing.
My understanding (and I'm not even remotely an expert, so I could be totally off base here!) is that it's an open question on whether or not quantum computing will ever even be doable in environments where classical computing works - it might not be within the realm of what physics allows for it ever to be possible to have a quantum computer powered smartphone.
I hope access is ubiquitous someday for people, but in general I feel like this is a good step while that's not practical.
what would an everyday person do on a qc?
The everyday person will use QC like they "use" machine learning today: from a very high level abstract viewpoint, where services they consume have a little bit of intelligence that makes interacting with them more efficient.
It seems like neural networks should map to it well. Once the degree of connectivity and the number of qubits approaches the millions, there's no way any normal software solver is going to be able to keep up with it.
Amazon seems to be going -aas on anything ... but how long can this last? Despite computing hardware evolution having slowed, it hasn't halted , and eventually robust hardware will become cheap enough for competitors to commoditize servers once again (as should be the normal)
Of course, if nothing productive materializes, they're also out nothing. Sort of a win-win for them.
The question I have is whether we'll see things like SageMaker and other higher level machine learning features use the quantum computers on the back end.
I don't know if that is true. I mean, it was true eventually, but in the beginning, it was quite limited to only well capitalized businesses.
I mean even in the "ubiquitous" period, it wasn't that accessible. In 1984, and IBM PC cost about $5,000 (in 1984 dollars). That would be about $12,300 in today's dollars. Not out of reach for all, but certainly only for the upper-middle-class at best.