Sufficiently enlightening and sufficiently confusing
The power and awe of what quantum computing means to the 21st Century is immeasurable — but what exactly are we talking about? We spoke with some of the greatest minds in quantum today to find out what their thoughts are on tapping into quantum phenomena and what that means for the future.
We asked Mark Mattingley-Scott, the new GM EMEA for Quantum Brilliance who was formerly the IBM Q Ambassador Leader EMEA & AP for IBM.
“What it means is that we are tapping the fundamental principles of how we understand the universe to compute things, to accelerate the way we solve problems. Imagine that quantum mechanics is a branch of physics that was discovered by a handful of physicists — like Einstein and Heisenberg — who uncovered and unearthed it at the beginning of the 20th century and into the ’20s.
“It’s a theory which has proven to be the most robust theory in physics ever. It’s insanely good at predicting how nature behaves. But it explains by basically telling us that there are aspects of reality that we can’t directly perceive. And it’s exactly those parts that we
use quantum computing to perform computations. Here is a poor physicist’s joke: If you want to understand, you ask 10 physicists, you’ll get 11 different answers!”
What Mattingley-Scott is saying is there is truth to this joke — the grain being that we still don’t really understand what’s behind quantum physics and mechanics. What we do know is that we can use it to predict things like time, the universe and how the world exists. But why it works? No one really knows.
Quantum Computing from the Business Side
We asked Danika Hannon, Relationship Manager with Cambridge Quantum Computing, as well as the Deputy Head and IQSD Chair for the Quantum Strategy Institute, to talk about quantum computing from the business side. She said that she is starting to hear the buzz around the excitement and hope of tackling challenging problems that her clients had wanted to pursue for years, but just didn’t have the computational power.
“A nice example is tide pods,” she explained. “With tide pods, the creators had the idea of making them for many years, but they didn’t have a computer that was powerful enough to start simulating materials to go into it. They needed something that could dissolve in both warm and very cold temperatures, and that could stay in the packet and then break apart in the packet — at the right time. When they were finally able to take that idea and make it real, it just exploded.
“On the business side, we can now say oh ‘Yes’! There are all these hard problems that now we can do something about.”
We also looked at the opportunities that quantum computing opens in career development. “As for software development and implementation of AI, I think there’s a huge opportunity for people to grow their skillset and their career into the space,” said Frank La Vigne,
Principal Solutions Architect at Koverse and formerly Data & AI Technology Architect at Microsoft. “There are any number of people who are in the process of learning to code in traditional universities, boot camps, or are self-taught.
“Because of the whole nature of how quantum computing is different from traditional computing, it opens the logic gates. We now have stuff that I haven’t even thought about! With this I think there’s going to be a learning curve; I don’t know how steep it will be. Maybe
the folks that are just getting into it will have an advantage because they don’t have anything to unlearn.”
How to get into Quantum
So how do you recommend that a conventional engineer get into the uncharted quantum space? “There’s really no well-worn path yet,” La Vigne added. “There’s certainly a lot of people who are blazing new trails in quantum. There are people that are dipping their toes in the water and blazing trails for others. In terms of opportunity, the best time to plant a tree if you want shade now would’ve been 20 years ago, but the second-best time would be to start now. Just start getting involved in it.
“You can look at this as being really depressing — because there are no good paths to follow. Or you can look at it as, ‘That’s fresh now, I can put my footprints in.’ It’s up to you to collapse the probability wave.”
We left the roundtable on a last note from Mattingley-Scott: “Quantum computing is here to stay, but the real impact, and acceleration and take off from Quantum Computing is just about to happen. So, we set the stage, and the play is going to start now.”