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Geordie Rose on Singularity 1 on 1: Machine Learning is Progressing Faster Than You Think

Dr. Geordie Rose is a founder and Chief Technology Officer at D-Wave Computers. I met Geordie at the IdeaCity conference in Toronto where he made an impassioned presentation about D-Wave and quantum computing. Needless to say, as soon as Dr. Rose stoped speaking I rushed to ask him for an interview. As it turns out Geordie is already a fan of Singularity 1 on 1 and isntantly said that he would be happy to do it.

As a father of three kids and the CTO of a trail-blazing quantum computing company, Dr. Rose is a very busy person. Yet somehow he was generous beyond measure in giving me over two hours for an interview with the apparent desire to address as many of mine and the audience’s questions as possible.


During our conversation with Geordie Rose we cover a variety of interesting topics such as: how wrestling competitively created an opportunity for him to discover Quantum Mechanics; why he decided to become an entrepreneur building computers at the edge of science and technology; what the name D-wave stands for; what is a quantum computer; why fabrication tech is the greatest limiting factor towards commoditizing quantum computing; hardware specs and interesting details around Vesuvius – D-Wave’s latest model, and the kinds of problems it can compute; Rose’s Law as the quantum computer version of Moore’s Law; how D-wave resolves the de-coherence/interference problem; the traditional von Neumann architecture behind classical computer design and why D-Wave had to move beyond it; Vesuvius’ computational power as compared to similarly priced classical super-computers and the inherent difficulties in accurate bench-marking; Eric Ladizinski’s qubit and the velodrome metaphor used to describe it; the skepticism among numerous scientists as to whether D-Wave really makes quantum computers or not; whether Geordie feels occasionally like Charles Babbage trying to build his difference engine; his prediction that quantum computers will help us create AI by 2029; whether the brain is more like a classical or quantum computer; how you can apply for programming time on the two D-wave quantum computers; his take on the technological singularity

My three favorite quotes that I will take away from this interview with Geordie Rose are:

“Think about the Long Term and don’t pay all that much attention to the issues of the day.”

“Machine learning is progressing faster than you think and will become more broadly available on shorter timescales than you might have hoped.”

“Becoming involved is not impossible! “

(As always you can listen to or download the audio file above, or scroll down and watch the video interview in full.  If you want to help me produce more episodes please make a donation)


Who is Geordie Rose?

Dr. Geordie Rose is a founder and CTO of D-Wave. He is known as a leading advocate for quantum computing and physics-based processor design, and has been invited to speak on these topics in venues ranging from the 2003 TED Conference to the 2013 HPC User Forum. Geordie’s innovative and ambitious approach to building quantum computing technology has received coverage in MIT Technology Review magazine, The Economist, New Scientist, Scientific American, Nature and Science magazines, and one of his business strategies was profiled in a Harvard Business School case study. He has received several awards and accolades for his work with D-Wave, including winning the 2011 Canadian Innovation Exchange Innovator of the Year award.


Dr. Rose holds a PhD in theoretical physics from the University of British Columbia, specializing in quantum effects in materials. While at McMaster University, he graduated first in his class with a BEng in Engineering Physics, specializing in semiconductor engineering. He also is a two-time Canadian national wrestling champion, the 2010 NAGA Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion, and a member of the McMaster University sports Hall of Fame.


Google and NASA Explain Quantum Computing:


Quantum Computing 101


Quantum Computing 101, with D-Wave’s Vern Brownell 


Building the First Quantum Computer:


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  • CM Stewart

    Thank you Dr. Rose and Nikola, for such a generous and
    exciting interview! I am continually impressed with the quality and
    comprehensibility of emerging technological information on this weblog,
    especially in regards to how applied computing methods are compared to the
    human brain. I was particularly interested in Rose’s definition of the human
    brain as a classical computer in the context of the progressive field of
    quantum computing, and the implied differences between the human brain and a
    speculative model of quantum computers projected a couple decades from now. I
    hope Rose returns for another interview when he and his team have another
    D-Wave breakthrough, which I predict will be soon!

  • Pingback: Machine Learning Is Progressing Faster Than You Think?()

  • Brad Arnold

    The D-Wave is a powerful unique tool looking for problems. The software engineers that are able to make the most use of it will be golden. I’m thinking that with the hands of an artist (metaphor alert) a person can ask it questions that make a big big difference to humanity, particularly in the area of AI (the Singularity). Proprietary AI algorithms (depending how they are formulated) could, for example, be used to form a hierarchical filtering system similar to higher order biological nervous systems, creating a holistic AI mind. It would be a joy to watch the gradual raising of general intelligence such an AI would demonstrate as you added layers of synthesis and discrimination, plus saved experience of the world. First a mouse, then a dog, then a chimp, then a human. Layer upon layer, and when you are finished you can examine the entire system and reduce it for optimization.

  • siphersh

    Amazing episode, thank you.

  • This episode went a little too long. I feel like it could have been more concise…

  • Different people have different tastes Jonathan. I had a ton of messages from people loving the 2 hour format and only you so far have said it was too long…

  • jithic

    My favorite part of the interview is about 110 minutes in when
    he talks about the future and how fast he sees things progressing in technology.
    Geordie seems to really get it and sees the big picture of how things are coming

    Nikola I want to thank- thank – thank you for all this weblog and all
    these wonderful interviews. However, a word of criticism; it frustrates me that
    several times in interviews you have stated that you don’t think the singularity is on the
    Kurzweil time track despite that rapid pace of technology development around us.
    you expand on why you think this? Also do you truly understand
    logarithmic growth as compared to linear growth? Please do some logarithmic
    growth experiments so you understand how it works as I think you are thinking

    Oh and for the guy who said the interview was too long – I so
    disagree, I was on the edge of my seat throughout the whole thing, I was sad it
    had to come to an end.

  • You are welcome friend – it is why I do it! (In addition to loving to learn myself 😉

    As per the Kurzweil’s timeline – I don’t think that I have ever said that the singularity is definitely not on Ray’s timeline. What I have been saying is that, if there is one thing I am not absolutely sure about, it is the exact accuracy of his timeline, not of the final outcome. But I have also usually tried to add that the timing is irrelevant in the long term. What matters is the direction and the outcome i.e. the singularity and the timing is just a footnote relevant only to us who are caught within this temporary context. For humanity in general, however, the timing is not so important – it is the occurance itself…

  • jithic

    I cut and paste the comment above in but some how missed posting the 1st paragraph of my comment, here it is:

    What a great interview. I’ve listened to almost all the Singularity
    Weblog podcasts and I would put this one in the top 10 of them all, it was that
    good. It is clear that Geordie Rose is a genius and a leader in his field as
    well as being quite articulate and pragmatic. I loved hearing the story about taking math
    and physics courses for fun so he could wrestle for another year. Also I like how he doesn’t beat around the
    bush and say his computer is the only one you will ever need nor that it is
    best one for many cases.

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