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  • Writer's pictureMaram T

Quantum Consumption

This is a recap of the TED Circles: Quantum Consumption workshop held on Sat Mar 27, 2021, 10–11:30 am ET. transform this hosted TED Circles are a free, online, safe, and inclusive place to connect with innovators from all over the globe. The workshop included representation from at least 6 different countries: Canada, Sri Lanka, Finland, Iran, United States, and Italy.

We were incredibly honoured to have the celebrated Canadian Quantum expert, Razieh Annabestani, co-host this workshop.

Workshop Goals

Quantum Computing & Quantum AI have made headlines recently, with many flavours from tech providers. Let's meet and discuss:

  1. What exactly is quantum computing and what do we know so far?

  2. How will it affect the way we live and work?

  3. What will it take for us to consume it productively?


For additional inspiration, here are an HBR article and a TED Talk that represent the topic:

If you enjoyed this conversation, join the global transform this community for future editions.

Workshop Summary, By Giulia & Lulu

We referenced the TED Talk by Matt Langione about the quantum applications. We covered the main differences between traditional and quantum computers. Important considerations were made by the participants: in particular, Razieh pointed out a common misunderstanding concerning quantum computers and why they are often considered a more powerful version of a supercomputer.

The main difference relies on their computational capacity and different core processor. The information processing relies on a fragile system, based on the properties of the matter, and on how atoms, ions, and electrons, behave at a microscopic level. Quantum computers (QC) exploit the properties of these particles and interfere with them, generating a superior computational power capability. At the same time, while traditional computers work with bits, quantum computers rely on quantum bits (qubits) which can assume the value of 0, 1, or a combination of both simultaneously.

Despite the incredible potential behind these superior technologies, there are existing ideal conditions that need to be satisfied and they limit the use of QC to determinate environments:

  • Quantum algorithms exploit the quantum superposition property. It is possible to determine only the probability of the result. On this basis, the operation needs to be repeated multiple times.

  • Quantum computation is very sensitive to its surroundings. The environment in which quantum computers operate must be isolated and devoid of noise.

  • At the same time the entanglement of particles is very sensitive to the surrounding, and the entangled state can easily collapse, leading to the phenomenon of decoherence.

Razieh: "The way of comparison between a quantum computer and a supercomputer is like comparing a lamp with a candle. You can say the lamp is a more powerful version of a candle, but in fact, they have totally different functionalities."

Quantum R&D community is exploring numerous business areas to further identify challenges that can be solved with these computers. The benefits of quantum information science can be extended to other fields, such as cybersecurity, AI, molecular biology, pharmacology, medicine, finance, investment, agriculture, and many others. Despite the bright future, the consensus in the short-to-medium term is that even if quantum computers become fully operational soon, they will not be widely accessible to the individuals. They will be most likely used by governments, military organizations, and private enterprises.

As one of the audiences has mentioned, Quantum computers will significantly change the way companies compete, and the impact to various industries will be significant. Private enterprises are the champions of this disruptive and emerging technology. This open innovation R&D is generally funded and conducted by private entities.

Some factors that may slow down the quantum development are missing expertise and massive number of investments required to boost the development of these technologies. In fact, in the hardware part, engineers may have limited knowledge and the physicists with solid academic backgrounds are not suitable for the fast and rapid development of hardware within industries. As rightly highlighted by a participant during the workshop:

Participant: "We need to train engineers to be physicists and train physicists to become engineers."

Skill development must be encouraged, through special training and courses. Emerging quantum computing companies are concentrating their efforts on the development of advanced algorithms that are capable and efficient with fewer resources and qubits. They are leading the transition to quantum. Nonetheless, improvements within this field, especially concerning the de-coherence problem, are championed by the experts in private sector.

Matt Langione: "people should worry less about the quantum computers arriving too late, but them arriving too soon."

Razieh: "as a society, we are still in the process of fully understanding quantum, where we cannot fully apply them to solve problems yet".

Gunjan: "On one hand, we are asking the community and the world to be prepared for quantum computing, but we don't even know what it is in the business context yet."

If we analyze the scientific and technological developments of the world, we did not have the internet 30 years ago which has become the necessity today. Cell phones were large objects and the technology that we take for granted today was unimaginable. The technological scope of our current world has exponentially increased since 2000. For this reason, future prediction is challenging because disruptive technology development is accelerating at a faster pace now than ever before.

Razieh: "Maybe years later, there could be a cleverer algorithm invented which reduces the number of resources and the number of desires and idealistic situation we want from the quantum computer".

In the business community, people are generally interested in how quantum may be used and how it can help them within their specific industry. As mentioned, the hardware generally requires lots of investment. Over the past three years, Europe has inaugurated its quantum flagship program with a total budget of 1 billion Euros, speeding up the hardware development process.

The quantum ecosystem will improve businesses worldwide, from fintech to agriculture and energy. The quantum race, started by China in 2016, is leading the "progress by competition". The investors may be wondering about the ROI, the return on their early investments. The challenge is that the emerging technologies such as quantum technologies and their applications carry large upfront cost; often sunk costs. It is difficult to specify an overview of the upfront costs and risks. At the same time, the stakeholders who decide not to invest in this field may be left behind.

Quantum computing has been proven on the theoretical side, and we are currently exploring applications to the real-world industries. However, as discussed out during the workshop, the quantum ecosystem is pushing almost all sectors to the disruption. There are a lot of quantum enabling technologies that are not quantum computers. For example, we have companies that are manufacturing chips, and they are continually creating value. There are numerous branches and various industries that go along with the investment made in quantum technologies, and they are as well creating overall value and revenue.

The key challenge for quantum development is its complexity. It is only a matter of time before quantum computers are fully operational and deployable. An interesting point that was raised during the workshop,

There is a lack of discussions around the ethical guidelines and responsibility, around the quantum technologies, especially if these could be used to the society's detriment.

During the workshop, we agreed that it is difficult to balance the pros and cons of such technologies, and it is difficult to measure the impact at the very start. An example is the current development around the deepfakes.

At the end of the workshop, we touched upon the importance of data. It is about using data to analyze the trends and understanding what the data is showcasing. There is an opportunity cost to everything. Quantum computing requires large upfront investment and is necessary for the innovation.

Once again, our gratitude to the global transform this community for returning week after week and bringing these diverse perspectives to the table. These conversations support responsible innovation that will enable the future generations.

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