D-Wave CEO Vern Brownell On Quantum Computing And Tackling Tech’s Big Problems

It’s been a big year for D-Wave, the quantum computing technology company. In May it was announced that NASA and Google had jointly purchased a D-Wave Two computer to anchor a new ‘Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab’ to do cutting edge research on machine learning. For a relatively small company based out of Burnaby, British Columbia that has encountered a good deal of controversy in the scientific community around its quantum computing technology, D-Wave securing the likes of NASA and Google as customers was a big vote of confidence.

So when D-Wave CEO Vern Brownell was in San Francisco recently, I invited him to come by TechCrunch headquarters to give us an overview of D-Wave and talk about the company’s past, present, and future. Being that TechCrunch doesn’t always deal in the realms of quantum mechanics and superconductors, it was a longer chat than we usually have for videos — but I think all 17 minutes are worth it, as Brownell is a very thoughtful interviewee.

I especially liked his parting sentiment, on the subject of the current Silicon Valley startup environment and his hope that more founders, engineers and especiallly investors will start to go after difficult problems. This bit starts at around 16:10:

“My one kind of disappointment I might have… there are very few investors today who are willing to invest in world-changing technologies, and it’s really going to have a large impact on the world. Not that game companies and other great companies like Twitter and Facebook don’t change the way we all operate. But there’s a real lack of ground-breaking kind of research and things that take more than a few years to develop, and hardware companies, and things like that. It’s kind of disappointing to see.

I hope the pendulum swings back the other way at some point, where it becomes more in vogue to do more of this science-based research, because it’s really important for us to transform science into technology.”

To hear Brownell talk about how quantum chips work, the controversy D-Wave has faced, the potential of turning quantum computing into a cloud service, bridging the worlds of academia and business, and much more, watch the video embedded above.