AI & Quantum – Tie the Knot
Guest Post By IBM Summit Trainees Sophie Nguyen, Justin Miller, Kavita Dhallan, & Megan Clifford.
“Quantum computing holds various promises.” – Bob Sutor
Quantum computing. From the outside looking in, the subject may come off intimidating especially for a team of new Summit hires from various backgrounds in Marketing, Finance, Law, and Biomolecular Science. The event itinerary lists presenters like Steve Margolis, PMP, CISSP (not to mention an IBM Q Ambassador), Aaron Potler (who is a Distinguished Engineer focusing on High Performance Computing, and also an IBM Q Ambassador), Bob Sutor, Ph.D. (IBM’s VP for IBM Q Strategy & Ecosystem), and Kenneth Wood (the Global Business Development Lead for IBM Q Network). They are all IBM Q subject matter experts. Are we going to understand what Quantum Computing is? Where it’s going? How, as future IBM sellers, are we going to be able to do them justice speaking on quantum computing? Soon into the presentation, however, we quickly realized there was as much for us to gain from the event as the IBM clients that were invited to the A3 Center that day in Washington, D.C.
Bob started the presentation asking us to think of the words “open mind” differently. Yes, we’re constantly asked to think outside-the-box in the realm of technology, but he means it literally. “You’re thinking too classically,” as he explains in the world of computers, “Don’t do it today.” That’s exactly what he meant when he proposed that quantum computing holds various promises. To see those promises, we need to stop thinking classically.
Thinking Non-Classically. Steve Margolis dives into this after Bob. Today’s classical computer works on classical bits. For those of you who don’t know what a bit vs. a qubit is (like the people writing this blog), a bit is short for “binary digit”, the basic unit of logic that sits as 0 or 1. A qubit or quantum bit is the fundamental unit for quantum information just like bits are for classical computing. Qubits are able to exist in a combination of two states, a 0 or a 1, based on the principals of entanglement and superposition. Just remember… quantum computers work on qubits. This video was a great resource for understanding qubits.
Quantum Computing Promises and Possibilities. What are these “various promises” the presenters speak of? We’re talking about a computer that can compute mathematical data in numbers and volumes that are more than the number of atoms that exist on our planet Earth. We’re talking about applying that sort of ability from quantum computing into new application areas such as: Chemistry (material design, oil & gas, drug discovery), AI (classification, machine learning), and even Financial Services (asset pricing, risk analysis, rare event simulation). The takeaway was that unlike the classical computer (for example, today’s servers), quantum computing has room for exponential growth that can do more to help these application areas.
Current State of Quantum Computing. Currently, IBM has multiple quantum computers and a growing network of users (IBM Q Network). Yes, they admit that naming them after global cities ended up being confusing for instance, the IBM Q Tokyo and IBM Q Melbourne are actually located in Yorktown, NY. One name that you probably won’t get confused on is the latest IBM Q System One. It is a beauty! Not only is it going to pave the way for quantum computing possibilities, it is astonishingly beautiful. We’re talking the whole 9 yards, or should we say feet (it’s 9x9 ft). IBM built this with a dream team of engineers, mathematicians, and industrial designers to work on all its nuances such as sound sensitivity while thinking about it visually.
Future State of Quantum Computing. We still have research and development to do. We still have kinks to sort out, including error rates, as our goal is to create a universal fault-tolerant quantum computer. Right now we are in the “Quantum Ready” stage. That is, we are beyond the early stage of Quantum Science, making qubits work reliably and making them “last” longer, which is coherence time. In the Quantum Ready stage IBM and members of the IBM Q Network are developing algorithms to work with this new type of computing and making the infrastructure to run quantum computers in commercial data centers.
How do we continue to progress along this path to the goal of demonstrating a true advantage over classical systems for commercial and scientific applications? That’s where our next speaker, Aaron Potler comes in. He explains the available networks and quantum computing platforms available to continue growth and collaboration needs in order to gain more insight. Anyone can register to use the public, cloud-based 5- and 16-qubit IBM Q Experience systems. More than 110,000 people have run more than 7 million experiments, and published more than 130 research papers using the IBM Q Experience. The IBM Q Experience, as well as the commercial IBM Q systems use Qiskit, an open-source quantum computing framework for programming today’s quantum processors for research, education, and business. There have been articles and educational pieces published that lead us to ideas and theories about where quantum computing is going. Research articles include, “Quantum Risk Analysis” by Stefan Woerner, “Scientists Prove a Quantum Computing Advantage over Classical,” by Sergey Bravyi, and an article from MIT Technology Review, “Machine Learning, Meet Quantum Computing.” You can find these papers by following the link at the end of this article.
“First movers can accrue substantial value,” Kenneth Wood states as he enters next into the presentation. The world, including the US, is investing heavily in quantum research. Recently, Congress agreed on unanimously passing the National Quantum Initiative Act in November 2018. The initiative is to provide $1.275 billion in research funding from 2019 to 2023. Moreover, according to Gartner, “Within five years, analysts estimate that 20 percent of organizations will be budgeting for quantum computing projects and, within a decade, quantum computing may be a USD15 billion industry.” At CES 2019, Ginni Rometty comments “Quantum does not replace every kind of computer, it’s for a certain kind of problem. And it’s the kind of problem where the world doesn't realize how many things are approximated out there.” That is why we are ahead of the game in the number of quantum computers available to the public and why we have built the IBM Q Network. The missions of the IBM Q Network are: accelerating research, commercial application, and educate and prepare. The offerings of the IBM Q Network are: technology, enablement, collaboration, and business framework.
By the end of the presentation, we had ourselves thinking about the very questions Bob asked when he started, “How can you do more? How can you learn more?”
If interested, check out more about IBM Q and the articles mentioned here.
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