Computational Explosion

Sergey Brin, President of Alphabet (Google’s parent company), on the computational explosion over the last few years and near-future possibilities of quantum computing in the annual Founders Letter:

The power and potential of computation to tackle important problems has never been greater. In the last few years, the cost of computation has continued to plummet. The Pentium IIs we used in the first year of Google performed about 100 million floating point operations per second. The GPUs we use today perform about 20 trillion such operations — a factor of about 200,000 difference — and our very own TPUs are now capable of 180 trillion (180,000,000,000,000) floating point operations per second.

Even these startling gains may look small if the promise of quantum computing comes to fruition. For a specialized class of problems, quantum computers can solve them exponentially faster. For instance, if we are successful with our 72 qubit prototype, it would take millions of conventional computers to be able to emulate it. A 333 qubit error-corrected quantum computer would live up to our name, offering a 10,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000x speedup.

TPUs refers to Google’s “Tensor Processing Units” as discussed here last year.

The common notion that computers, phones, tablets etc have peaked and now we have tech that is “good enough” and has reached a nice plateau is a false lull in the upward trajectory of computing power. We’ll see tech innovations that “trickle down” to the general global population in the next decade that will cause disruption and rapid change in all parts of our lives from medicine to education to finance to government to interacting with our daily environments (and other people there).

Published by Sam Harrelson

I'm the head of Harrelson, where we work with churches, nonprofits, and businesses on marketing strategy and consulting. This has been my personal blog about marketing, tech, religion, art, history, scifi, family, and life in general since 2006.

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