Designed in a Vacuum
That the quantum tech (QT) sector is growing is old hat to those involved with it on a day-to-day basis like TQD, but less obvious to those outside the industry. Yet, when it does get to the heady heights of where AI or cryptocurrency are now — then it’s sure to gain traction — and with traction comes a greater chance of economic development built around the evolving ecosystem with innovations, jobs and education growing, not necessarily in that order.
Sadly, however, current education and manpower resources aren’t moving synchronously at the rate of corporate developments, the surfeit of startups on the scene, money invested by VCs, and the technological advancements in quantum information science (QIS).
Whurley, CEO and founder of Strangeworks, said it best when he appeared in the Weekly Quantum World Detangled S2E8 broadcast a few months back:
“I feel like the machines were being made and designed in a vacuum. That is to say that without a million software developers, ten million software developers, a hundred million software developers, we’re all kinda guessing and solving problems we want to solve that may or may not align with education or enterprise or a bunch of other people…”
That is a portent to the biggest problem in building quantum tech up to where it’s not a hobby or vanity project for the white, middle-class, college-educated entrepreneurs so often lauded in places like Silicon Valley, but democratizing the industry through a fluid movement of resources and people first, industry second — so sweetly encapsulated by whurley’s: ‘building it in a vacuum’.
Part of that, for sure, will come through open source projects like Strangeworks’ Quantumcomputing.com, ‘the fastest growing quantum community of developers, researchers, and all around good quantum people’ on the planet.
Although whurley’s efforts are admirable, it’s going to take more than his genius to push the agenda to the next level. It will also take the extensive efforts of education in schools, at universities, online and the whole gamut to empower the general public to the power of quantum’s potential.
National governments will take the brunt of the responsibility, through various funding initiatives, although privateers — for the love of quantum or for the downright pessimism of venture capitalist gains — need to be on board too.
Many universities have obviously heard whurley’s forebodings, for there are already graduate programs in quantum information processing (QIP) in several of them around the globe, namely IQC at the University of Waterloo, CQT at the National University of Singapore, MIT (why wouldn’t it be), and Imperial College London.
Still, that’s not grassroots enough. It needs to go deeper, to, well, an often-used quote by one of the best, Steve Jobs: ‘here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes…’ I know you know my using it for the gazillionth time in history will bore many, but it succinctly states where some quantum tech startups on the planet are placed, servicing the bottom feeders, the global poor (and women), hungry for knowledge but maybe not rich enough to access the resources available at some of the North American or western European universities.
To allay those fears, Quantumcomputing.com has been joined by other initiatives in education and outreach to bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots in the QIS space, one built by a woman for women. Or if not that, by people whose altruistic tendencies — along with their entrepreneurial prowess — has been directed for the greater good of the QIS industry.
Qureca, founded in 2019, came into being to generate opportunities for people within the quantum tech sector via courses, recruitment, business development and intelligence. Having just released its ‘Quantum For Everyone’ online courses, which gives those interested the practical skills needed in quantum technologies for individuals and businesses, it’s sure to be a hit with those who require the basics (and beyond) to get the most of the industry and maybe start a career.
The next one, a pioneer in the space, is from the giant IBM, which has developed an online, open-source textbook Learn Quantum Computation Using Qiskit. Essential to anyone who wants to learn the theory along with the mundane aspects of QC — and the greatest thing about it? It allows students to solve (or at least work on) problems that are practical and can be run on current quantum systems. For those averse to reading, there is a dedicated channel Qiskit channel on YouTube that has videos on topics within the scope of quantum computing (QC) like 1 Minute Qiskit, Coding with Qiskit and other exciting offerings.
Another of the big boys is Microsoft, whose partnership with Brilliant.org has come up with an online course on Quantum Computing. The thirty-three chapter course (the first two are gratis), using Microsoft’s Q# language with Python, introduces some of the basics regarding algorithms etc.
Microsoft’s other offering is available as an open-source project on GitHub: Quantum Katas. These tutorials, used together with Microsoft Quantum Development Kit, give the learner practical programming exercises using the aforementioned Q# language.
Up next is FutureLearn in partnership with Keio University. The two have come together and formulated an online course which is free called ‘Understanding Quantum Computers’, and has been designed for high school students, university students, and IT professionals wishing to gain a solid grounding in QC. Lasting four weeks in total, it covers some of the key components in quantum computing. Said to require at least five hours per week of study time, by the end you will have some basic knowledge of QC algorithms and aspects of the industry’s hardware.
6. Uncertain Systems
Daniel Colomer, a regular contributor at TQD, has his own YouTube channel called Uncertain Systems where he publishes videos on different aspects of QC. These include Quantum AI/ML, algorithms, quantum error correction, reviews of ongoing projects, books and courses etc. The courses — from a couple of minutes long to more than two hours — are for anyone interested in expanding their knowledge of QC and especially of the software platforms like Qiskit, Pennylane or Cirq.
7. Quantum Computing UK
Some great things can be found on the Quantum Computing UK’s website. Along with a code repository that gives students the chance to run programs on quantum computers, the organization also publishes papers on quantum computing algorithms and does research that is very informative for those wanting to know more about QC.
SheQ, which TQD covered in a story some months back, is an Indian initiative whose prime focus is to connect women to the QC world by empowering them via publishing interviews of academic experts, thought leaders and industry professionals. And by doing this, SheQ hopes to inspire more female scientists to think about a career in QIS.
9. MIT xPRO
The xPRO series courtesy of MIT contains two series with two courses in each series. The video lectures from MIT professors cover the whole catalogue of disciplines, starting with an Introduction to Quantum Computing, as well as Quantum Computing Algorithms for Cybersecurity, Chemistry, and Optimization. It also has The Quantum Computing Realities series plus others which will have you up and running with quantum theory in no time.
Other courses available include stuff from Q-CTRL; the Perimeter Institute; Caltech’s online course material for Physics 219, Quantum Computation; Toptica Photonics; Umesh Vazirani, a professor at UC Berkeley, and his copious number of video lectures called Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Computation; Dr. James Wootton’s blog; qutools GmbH’s effort in Quantum Physics Education and Science Kits, and Quantum Computing for the Determined and Quantum computing for the very curious by Michael Nielsen.
We’ve still got a long way to go in the sense of QIS, QC and other areas of quantum tech becoming universally adopted. Yet, those of us engaged in the space know it will come one day, however far down the line that is. But to do it, will take initiatives like SheQ, Daniel Colomer’s efforts, the work IBM and Microsoft are doing, as well as the foundations the great academics in James Wootton and Umesh Vazirani are laying down to complement the entrepreneurial graft whurley et al are involved with to grow the industry’s workforce through a sound knowledge base.
Looking for more insight into the world of education, toolkits or research universities in the space? Then look no further than TQD’s very own extensive quantum database, The Quantum Insider (TQI).