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In this special edition of the Computer Weekly Downtime Upload podcast, Ilyas Khan, CEO of Quantinuum, discusses the quantum computing revolution
When it comes to quantum computing, Ilyas Khan believes the united kingdom is at the forefront, in the same way it did in the beginning of the first industrial revolution. The CEO of Quantinuum, the organisation formed from the merger of Honeywell Quantum Solutions and Cambridge Quantum Computing, the business Khan founded in 2014, says the united kingdom is among the leading countries, or even the global leader, in quantum computing.
You will discover those who are either British themselves or who experienced the machine here, specially the tertiary education system in computer science and quantum information theory, who lead globally your time and effort, he says.
And quantum computing is really a global effort. Nation state after nation state includes a national programme, Khan adds. Japan, China, France, Germany, the united states, the UK, holland, Italy you name it, country after country offers a national programme, in some instances heading back decades. That is serious. This is simply not science fiction.
The majority of the nation-state quantum programmes, particularly those in america, the united kingdom and China, were originally born out of a problem that one country will be susceptible to other countries that had quantum systems that could breakdown strong encryption.
However the quantum debate has progressed beyond defence. Khan sees quantum computing being an industrial revolution in quite similar way as when machines were i did so work that humans cannot do. This, he says, fundamentally changes the type of how exactly we start living our lives.
It promises to shift the boundaries of so what can and can’t be done computationally. Even though the only usage of a quantum computer would be to fix the nitrogen fixation problem or carbon sequestration, or curing cancer along with other such endemic issues that we’ve with disease control and management, that alone has profound implications, he adds.
It isn’t just moving the needle a bit on trading options or something. It isn’t exactly the same. Angela Merkel, when she was chancellor of Germany, said that the existential future of the German people, when it comes to their capability to benefit from the sort of lifestyle they would desire to, is dependent upon Germany being truly a leader in quantum computing. After all, you dont really get people discussing that with some blooming fintech app.
Think small for big ideas
Among the difficulties technologists face when attempting to grasp quantum computing is that folks are generally excellent at grasping macro concepts, but find it difficult to comprehend things at much smaller scales, as Khan explains: Einstein and Newtonian physics are governed by rules that dont translate or map across.
This matters, he says, due to the way computer scientists purchased Boolean logic such as for example And gates rather than gates. When [Alan] Turing among others started to take into account the manner in which information could be managed, they resorted to the manipulation of what we describe as first order logic the And gate and the Not gate and the Or gate. They are all predicated on logic which is something we, as humans, understand and trust. That is also among the reasons why, for all your magic that computers represent, they do hardly any. Theres hardly any that gets done [computationally].
Even artificial intelligence (AI) represents hardly any progress when it comes to value. Khan says: Weve gone hardly any beyond banging two stones together to obtain a spark. Yes, we are able to be impressed by the truth that these exact things happen, but theyre not accountable. Theyre regressive. You’ll find nothing that you could trust with each one of these expensive machines.
A straightforward example may be the large amount of processing power utilized by Amazons Alexa service to react to a question people know the solution to, such as for example, Alexa, what’s enough time?.
For Khan, quantum computing is quite dissimilar to how IT people consider classical computing. All of the [logic] rules that govern just how we do things are contrived. First order logic is contrived. Its a human artefact. The transistor, therefore, which allows the binary system to instantiate the on / off [bits], the zero and something state, is because that thinking.
In a quantum computer, the qubit does employment that is equal to what transistors do in a vintage computer. However, says Khan: It really is embedded in a physical thing. It isn’t contrived, that could be considered a photon or an electron.
What this signifies, in accordance with Khan, is that the guidelines that govern binary logic usually do not connect with the mathematics reflecting the guidelines of quantum mechanics. They’re different rules and we havent even started discussing quantum mechanical features such as for example superposition and entanglement.
As the field of quantum computing could be full of jargon unfamiliar to those running a business IT, Khan believes it really is something that people who have a willingness to understand can grasp.
Considering the development of quantum computing technology, Khan says it really is analogous to the start of cell phones.
For both or 3 years before the cellular phone the big bricks which were mostly in cars due to the continuous dependence on electric charge somebody, somewhere had designed the handset. Somebody, somewhere had to put on the towers. Somebody, somewhere actually connected the dots. Even though all that was going on, the populace didnt understand that it was likely to happen. It simply happened. That doesnt imply that the science and the engineering hadnt advanced. It just meant that it wasnt yet in the general public domain. Sufficient reason for quantum computing, I believe that we are in that tipping point.
It is because quantum computers are actually in the general public domain. These machines actually exist, Khan adds. We are able to program them and we are able to do stuff using them.
This begs the question in what are they’re used for and how they’ll they impact society. If anybody lets you know they understand how it’ll affect humanity, provide them with a cup of tea. We just dont know, Khan adds, answering the question on which impact quantum computing could have on society.
In the same way we didnt know [the impact of] the initial Ford Model T, or once the first aeroplane became popular, or the initial computers arrived, or telephonewe didnt know. We understand the direction of travel and what we can say for certain is that can be an industrial revolution, famous brands which we’ve never seen.
However, for Khan, quantum computing will undoubtedly be revolutionary. He argues that it’s debatable if the advent of computers represents an industrial revolution. It had been only a continuation of the primary first industrial revolution. We need to take care not to belong to the trap of equating quantum computing with yet another technology. It isn’t. It affects everything we do and just how we do it.
Regardless of how long it requires for the potential of quantum computing to be fully realised, Khan says: My conviction is that people, and certainly our kids, you live through the initial stages of an industrial revolution, not really a mere emergence of a fresh technology.
Khan says that in late 2021, the development of the technology shifted to where people started focusing on the thought of a software stack. If you believe about any of it in classical terms, youve got the hardware and you also desire to be in a position to manipulate the hardware efficiently. So youve got the beginnings of control systems and middleware, and above that youve got the compilers and precisely what foretells the systems around it. And suddenly, you obtain the emergence of an operating-system.
Khan points to theTKET project, originally produced by Cambridge Quantum Computing, among the projects laying the groundwork for software development on quantum computers. He says greater than a million people all over the world have downloaded it from GitHub.
TKET abstracts everything. You access an instruction set that is the same as to an API [application programming interface] call. While its nearly as sophisticated because we dont have the plethora of quantum computing machines yet, TKET may be the foundation that allows everything to be built, and I’d encourage anybody who’s thinking about this to check out it.