quantum computing

Quantum Computing and Your Beginner’s Mind

Rebel Brown

The first thing to understand about quantum is… it’s real, it’s proven and it works. We see it all around us because quantum is the language of nature. 

Everything around us is running under the domain of quantum mechanics/physics. It’s how the Big Bang happened and our Universe was created. It’s how this planet was formed. It’s how you and I were formed.  It’s the natural law that controls how we experience our day-to-day lives.

It’s not the science of quantum that’s the issue. It’s our understanding of how to harness this power to apply it to quantum computing and technologies. It is nothing like classical computing—at all. 

Quantum is complicated, partially thanks to its many unknowns for us as humans.  The Universe understands. We don’t. Which is why it’s often referred to appropriately as  “spooky science.” 

As humans, we make assumptions and use those to set our expectations. We make these assumptions based on what we know, in this case, our experience is with classical computers. When quantum doesn’t meet those expectations, we have a tendency to say quantum computing isn’t real.

What if it’s we humans and our limited knowledge that’s the reason quantum doesn’t yet meet our expectations? After all, few of us imagined the power the web would bring to create our new digital world, now did we? 

If you look at previous cycles of computing and introductions of new capabilities,  we have experienced the “hype before the reality” in many scenarios. Consequently, we want proof before we’ll invest to explore these innovations. 

Yet quantum computing is not an evolution. It’s a revolution in technology, a totally new computing paradigm.

The innovation and adoption of quantum computing is not a normal tech cycle where we’re doing an upgrade to a classical supercomputing processor or any processor or any software.

We’re stepping out of everything we have ever known with classical computing and moving into a whole new world. This means we must learn, understand, and explore to discover what we can do with quantum computing.

When we gather that knowledge and act on it with innovation, we will deliver real production-level evidence we are accustomed to having before we invest.

How Do We Explore and Invest in Quantum Computing?

We don’t have to invest exorbitant amounts (as we did in the past when we learned to be more thoughtful) to gather the knowledge we need.  We can invest wisely and proactively toward logical, productive exploration that drives powerful strategies for when and where to adopt quantum computing for bottom line results. 

We tend to focus on the elephant in the room—quantum computers aren’t yet scalable to function as production systems. That focus limits our perspective concerning their usefulness.  The hype in the market around quantum computing makes us even more skeptical as it sets false expectations.  

We need to understand that quantum computing is a work in progress. The QPUs of today are likely not the QPUs of tomorrow, the systems that will ultimately solve the problems we have yet to understand. 

We’re learning. We’re innovating. We’re in a highly compressed timeline for innovation that’s faster than anything we’ve seen traditionally.

If you stop and think about it, the time from the first computer (ENIAC in 1940) to a PC (1980) took us ~ 40 years. We didn’t get to smartphones until decades after that. Those were simple technologies as compared to the complexity of quantum.

The real questions we need to be asking are:

  • How do we best learn and understand quantum?
  •  How do we project our future computing requirements into this knowledge?
  •  What are the key requirements for a true path to quantum?

The first thing to do is learn how to set reasonable expectations.

Constructing Your Path to Quantum Computing with Business Value

It’s really cool to run an algorithm on a quantum computer. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that doing so provides a path to business value. We need to stop with the fire, ready, aim approach to quantum.

Our customers told us they wanted a true process for exploring, learning about and evaluating quantum computing as part of their strategic vision and plan. A process beyond creating a small, experimental problem and running it on a single QPU. 

Based on their feedback, we built the framework for a path to quantum.

The above represents that high level framework. It includes the needed logical steppingstones to quantum that align with business value.

For example, answers to basic questions, such as:

  •  Why and what do I need to know about quantum?
  •  How do I know what my quantum-possible problems are?
  •  How do I define my opportunities with quantum?
  •  How do I know what to evaluate?

They may sound simple, but since quantum isn’t like classical, the answers are not simple.  They need to be defined for quantum computing itself. 

Once we identify what’s quantum-possible, we need to look at the quantum infrastructure we’ll explore.  Running on one QPU is cool. But it’s not valuable in the overall analysis of what we need to analyze to define our path to quantum.  

Here’s a case where we need to do what we’ve always done, which is to test a diversity of resources and approaches for both hardware and software. Heterogeneity is also applicable in quantum computing, even in our early stages. 

It’s important to realize that every QPU is different. This means they also run problems differently.

  • Which ones give you the best answers for the problem you’re solving?
  • How can you deploy more than one type if you need different QPUs for different problems in your business?
  • What software do you need? Networks? Integration? 
  • Most importantly, based on my exploration and learning, what’s the most likely earliest contribution quantum computing can make to my organization that delivers a valuable ROI? 
  • And how do I plan effectively to capture that ROI?

The Bottom Line

It’s natural, and human, to draw upon what we know to evaluate what we don’t necessarily understand. We compare our experience with our last car to the one we are test driving today.

  • We compare how we liked our last cell phone with the one we will buy to replace it.
  • We evaluate our current business opportunities based on our experiences with similar ones in our past.  

When we drop our expectations and preconceived ideas about something, begin seeing things with an open mind and fresh eyes, we become just like a beginner. We’re most likely a bit confused or apprehensive. We’re also excited, with no expectations or judgements, only curiosity and fascination to seek more.

That’s beginner’s mind, or what Zen Buddhists call Shosin.

Quantum computing is just the opportunity to step back, put on our beginner’s minds and explore with a fresh, open-to-the-new perspective.

After all, why would we seek to limit this oh-so-revolutionary opportunity with expectations from a past that is unable to deliver the answers we need to step fully into our future?