My Path into Quantum Computing (take 2)

A couple of months have passed since I wrote the first post on how to get into #QuantumComputing. I kept learning and meeting amazing people and I am more engaged than ever. This industry is growing exponentially (both in technology and development and in investment). As such it is difficult to keep up with everything going on, on top of getting up to speed with the necessary basis to truly understand what is behind quantum (if that is ever possible!)

A few things are more and more clear now:

  • There is great future ahead of us in Quantum Computing. Every day there are more business cases where real applications can provide value. And most importantly, the algorithms and applications will be ready for whenever we get more quantum volume.
  • The industry is still in its infancy (like computer science in the 60’s). But we have a paved road ahead of us. We can leverage on all the research and tooling we currently have for classical computation. Specifically Machine Learning and Deep Learning, as well as the continuous evolution of the underlying physics.
  • We are better prepared. Education is now ubiquitous. You can learn almost any field from home and specifically in QC, you can experiment from home as well. Webinars, hackatons, challenges and meetups are happening every week in different parts of the planet. We are not bound to our city or region anymore. Youtube has lectures from the most prominent people in the field, god damn it!
  • There are clear hubs already popping up. Toronto is a clear candidate to be the “Silicon Valley of Quantum”. But there are plenty of other hotspots. Specifically in Spain we don’t have the level of private and public investment we would hope for, BUT we have the talent (and as a proof of that you just have to see how many spaniards are distributed around top positions in quantum startups and big corps alike, as well as in research and academia).

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So, in my first post I wrote some options to start in Quantum Computing. My first choice was obviously the quintensetial textbook on the field. “Quantum Computation and Quantum Information, (Nielsen and Chuang)”. And YES it is a still a great book. But many others have appeared that could appeal better the (classical) software engineers of mine.

The one I can really recommend is “Programming Quantum Computers (Johnston, Harrigan, Gimeno-Segovia), O’Reilly. A book that managed to use no linear algebra at all… until it hit the Quantum Machine Learning chapter 🙂 And if you are looking for a more abstract introduction with a deep detail on computational complexity, then your book is “Quantum Computing since Democritus (Aaronson).

Once you get a big overview of all that is out there, the different possibilities and fields (not just one) you have to make your choice and position in the industry. There are many application areas and possibilities. And you only have one brain, two hands and one life.

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Now, my profile is a bit of a mix. I spend a good part of my (quantum) day tinkering with Qiskit and the IBM Q Experience. Which is probably one of the easiest and best ways to start, and has the biggest community out there. But also playing with Quantum Tensor Flow, which brings together the benefits of both worlds. Xanadu has also amazing libraries (Pennylane) to bring together Pytorch or TF with simulators or real computers, specializing in Machine Learning Problems. New languages are popping out every week. Silq from ETH is a great addition to the ecosystem and contributes nicely to the goal of abstracting from the hardware (although with several deficiencies I must add)

In general, something that has helped me a lot has been trying to figure out the same simple problem using different tools, frameworks and algorithms. Try first with Grover, then VQE, then try in a classical way and evaluate whether there is any real supremacy out there. Build intuition and play, and then keep playing.

Many researchers and professionals in the community think of this “NISQ” era like a space race. There can be only one winner. Like VHS vs Betamax. Like Blockbuster vs Netflix (ok, maybe not that one!). I like to think it more like the console wars. Sega vs Nintendo, then Sony vs Microsoft vs Nintendo, etc… There is space for different hardware solutions for different types of problems. And sure, there will be a few “SEGAs” around leaving the market, but there is space for more people around.

The real question is, when someone makes a move in 20 years time with the title “Pirates of Quantum Valley”. Who will be Xerox, who will be Intel, who will be IBM, who will be Microsoft and Apple.

This is a list of links I commonly use when I introduce Quantum Computing:

I have to also highly recommend a few Youtube channels that have helped me (are helping me) a lot in this journey

Incidentally, I have started working with the Quantum World Association, and our goal is to bring together all the startups and SMBs working in the Quantum Industry. I will be sharing the love for quantum right in the middle of this triangle of entrepreneurs, investors and researchers. Precisaly the place I love the most because I can understand the three worlds!

Are you interested in knowing more about Quantum, or in how all this can help your company? Drop me a line!

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