Rene – Hi, welcome to QuBites, your bite-sized pieces of quantum computing. My name is Rene from Valorem Reply and today we are going to demystify quantum phenomena and I'm honored to have a special expert guest today for this, my colleague Kevin McCormick. Hi Kevin and welcome to the show. How are you today?
Kevin - Hey Rene! I'm doing great. How are things on the continent?
Rene – Yea, doing okay! It's going. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background as it relates to quantum computing but also although of course topics right and fields.
Kevin – Sure! So, as a career I'm a data architect. I've been working with data for more than two decades now. Designing, implementing, running, supporting large-scale data systems but before that my education was in philosophy and so that got me kind of used to asking big questions like what is the nature of reality and things of this nature. And more recently than that, I've started to become fascinated or it's not even recent. For a very long time I have been fascinated with physics itself as the new metaphysics and now the opportunity to delve into quantum computing as a way to unite that sort of big question side of my intellectual bent with the technical side of my career event. That's really been like a dream come true.
Rene – Awesome. I love these kind of stories where you also have this kind of intersectional or cross-sectional knowledge and combine it all together because that's great. Because we need more diversification in the field and then we always need to have a different lens. I think, it's always helpful. So this is awesome and you already alluded to it, you know, that you have been diving into this field since last year quite a bit and actually not just quite a bit, really extensively. We have been talking a few times before right, and so you're also currently working to build up Valorem's US quantum practice and so tell us a little bit about your journey first of all and second, of course, about the quantum practice services.
Kevin – Sure! So, my journey has been really interesting. So, as I mentioned, I have a lot of passion about this stuff and I have a lot of lay but decent understanding of some of the phenomena behind this stuff and so when I've been talking with business leaders, the thing that I've really noticed, that there's a lot of confusion and trepidation about how to adopt. And a lot of that is coming from what I would characterize as misinformation. So my passion is for helping others understand difficult concepts often through metaphor and I've brought a few of those with me here in my back pocket to share with you and your audience. But in terms of, sort of, that's enough for there but you also asked about the services, right? So, from a services perspective, we offer strategic road mapping where we help our clients understand how quantum is going to impact their specific business and strategize about where are the highest value places to go after it. First, we also do POCs often with emulators to help clients build capabilities within their own organizations. For example, start getting used to the concepts and the type of mathematics that goes into quantum computing and then thirdly of course is quantum inspired optimization. Quantum computing has brought to the forefront a new way of thinking about mathematicising, problems or turning restating problems in a new mathematical framework. And that whole family of solutions we're calling quantum inspired optimizations, right now and really what I'm encouraging everyone to do is prepare today. Today is the time to get started. Today is the day to get started with quantum computing. If you wait till tomorrow is yesterday, you'll already be behind. So my analogy that I use for this quite often is, you know blockbuster late in the game tried to compete with Netflix in the mailing space right and they even had the brick and mortar advantage, which was an advantage at the time but they were so late to do it that it was that the opportunity had already passed right, and I think there's now one blockbuster in Oregon left.
Rene - Really? There's one left? I didn't know that. Wow, that must be that must be quite a thing to actually go there maybe at some point I can bring my kids actually because they've never seen something like this.
Kevin - Come on, it's right next door.
Rene – Oh, that's funny but yeah great analogy. Thank you for sharing that but hey let's come to the actual topic of our episode, which is the demystification of quantum phenomena. What are some of the common mysteries and confusion you actually came across?
Kevin – Yeah, thanks Rene. It's a really great question. It's a big question with a with a very large problem space that we could explore about how to attack it. But I want to start by stating my goal in being here so what I want to do is arm your audience with some basic communications and conveyance tools to help them evangelize quantum computing to a broader and broader audience. It is coming. Okay, Q-day is coming wherein encryption, a lot of our encryption paradigms will be broken so we need to get onboard, right now. And we need that interest and that enthusiasm and that commitment to progress to pervade the business layer more deeply. And so, that's what I want to try to do, is to arm your audience with some basic evangelization tools. So if I had to think about the sort of centre of mass around which a lot of the confusion seems to kind of orbit. I'd have to say that, it's that it has to do with the whole perception versus reality dichotomy right? In our everyday world where you and I are sitting here at our PCs with tables and desks and what not? These objects, the distinction between perception and reality of these objects, of this table, of this laptop is negligible right? But, at a quantum level the difference between perception and reality is not negligible and it's very difficult to convey. Like we have to we start asking really difficult questions like are particles really weird in themselves or are we just not capable of seeing them? Not weirdly does our perception does observation bring the weirdness with it my question, might that my pushback to that sort of depth of question that messiness of that question, is does a business-focused stakeholder really need to understand that distinction and the answer is no. Okay, the business leader needs a basic understanding, not a comprehensive theory and a lot of times that basic understanding is going to be targeted and specific to something that they've come across that involves misinformation that they need sort of unwound and rewound so that they can come back at it again from a stable mental framework. So they can have enough of confidence of understanding that they can know that they can move forward. So when I try to think of making quantum phenomena understandable, what I'm going to do is, I'm going to give you, I'm going to start here by giving you a stack of three. Okay, I'm going to give you a stack of three examples of how to talk to people who are maybe at the very beginning who don't understand what the gentle measurement is impossible at the quantum level all the way up to the very complex, where we think of a stakeholder who's trying to think of how to use that for their business. So on the one hand we can use quantum billiards, so imagine a black billiards table, no pockets no friction, no light okay? So we're thinking of billiards with the sort of at the quantum, in a quantum way by darkening it by making it frictionless right? And imagine that I've taken a black ball and I've thrown it on that table. How can I know where the black ball is? I can't really, right, unless I take this other cue ball out of my pocket that just so happens to be glow in the dark and I throw it onto the table and eventually those two balls will collide at which point I will know where the black ball was. But you know, like even a lay person knows that when those two balls collide the position and trajectory of the black ball will change, right? And so this is an easy way to help people understand that gentle measurement is not possible down at the quantum level in terms of the power of superposition for parallelization. My favorite metaphor to date has been Indiana jones and I think was the holy grail, where he's going through the cave and passing all of the tests, remember? And he comes to that enormous ravine that's like certain death but somehow he has to cross it right and what does he do? He scoops up a bunch of sand and throws it in a huge arc across his entire like essentially 180 degrees right, and some of those grains land on what was a what was originally an invisible bridge but it was actually there the whole time right so what I, the metaphor, I use for this is that, imagine that instead of throwing a handful of sand, I throw five grains of sand that each split many times to form that handful and that suggests a little bit or helps people get a little bit behind the idea of super positional parallelization as an empowering instrument and how it can work. But really the important one is let's think about how to speak to business leaders about quantum phenomena and for me, what I want us to start trying to think of, is quantum math as a specialized form of statistics, right? With an orchestrated population. We orchestrate the population and then we measure a statistic about it. Statistics has already been very well introduced to the vast majority of organizations, thanks so much to data scientists out there, so the principle that we can convey, that we can carry from the one to the other, is that, it is all it is possible to quantify a characteristic of an aggregate, even if you don't characterize each specific individual within that population. So thinking about quantum math as a specialized statistic to measure a specific characteristic about an orchestrated population conveys very easily from data science into quantum computing.
Rene - Oh this is awesome. Yeah, I love it, yeah nice. We got all three of them and beautiful pictures there with a great metaphors. Love it in great movie, I mean Indiana Jones right these were and yeah like when you were telling this kind of picture, I was totally seeing the movie in front and the bridge, the invisible bridge, but yeah it's also a great way how you describe, how measuring works right? You need to take some action, you need to put some energy into the system and basically this will change the system, right? So when you measure there will be some changes involved and we have to adapt for it, right? So very important thing, but you also mentioned superposition. Amazing, but one specific quantum phenomena which is surrounded by a lot of mystery. We have not touched upon yet, but we need to. It's quantum entanglement, right, which basically describes that qubits can be connected with each other somehow and that property changes applied to one qubit will also affect the entangled qubit, although, they might both be physically separated and Einstein always called this or Einstein actually always questions quantum mechanics until his death even because a lot of that was just theory until he died, right? But after after he died a lot of that was shown in experiments and so on, but Einstein always questioned especially entanglement and called it a spooky action at a distance and I know you don't like this but, why is that and what is your take on quantum entanglement?
Kevin – Yeah. No, I actually agree with Einstein there, right? So, but, I agree with him in the way that I'm reading him which is to say that that I agree that that kind of mysticism doesn't belong in science that sort of, that spookiness we need to be able to speak about the quantum phenomena in particular entanglement coherently. In a way that can be understood, for the people who need to make practical decisions on the basis of it. So I agree with Einstein's disparagement that we shouldn't… there shouldn't be any spookiness involved. We mustn't break the universal speed limit established by general relativity. So, entanglement, for me is probably one of the most misunderstood quantum phenomena or well physical phenomena, is probably one of the most misunderstood physical phenomena that’s out there that we know of yet, right. So the most common misstatement that I've heard about it is something to the effect of, when two particles are entangled and then separated whatever happens to one automatically happens to the other. And this is, this is just super-duper wrong, okay? That's not what happens. What quantum entanglement truly is, at a fundamental level, is an inability to quantify or explain or state anything about a single particle separate from the aggregate system. So what quantum entanglement actually is at a fundamental level, is an entanglement of understanding the inability to articulate one separately from the pair. So I no longer have a left shoe and a right shoe, I just have a pair of shoes. And this is exactly a question of perception. So thinking back about that perception versus reality idea, there is an element of reality that is weird in there okay? But it doesn't need to be understood onto logically. Like at the fundamental reality basis in order for a business person to be able to wrap their head around it, right? So let's think about making it understandable. So instead of thinking about it as some sort of mystical or mythical relationship between two particles that are somehow communicating instantaneously faster than the speed of light. Let's think about it instead as a relationship of complementarity between two particles. So, the two metaphors that I've used these are, these are more recent because i've had to really grapple with this more recently, but I have a little dog here named Achilles, he's a little black dog. I love him to death. He also has a best buddy right across the courtyard there who is another black dog and in the evening when they're running around the courtyard tumbling and wrestling, which they love, it is impossible to distinguish where one of them ends and the other one, where one of them against and the other one. It is just a giant rumbling ball of black fur, as they tumble and tumble and wrestle with each other. So, if I were to look away from them and they were to run apart and I go and look at one of them and I see, oh that's Hennessy. Okay well, I know Achilles must be behind the other place, right, they ran separately, that's what entanglement fundamentally is. It is a relationship of complementarity where these two were entangled together and I didn't know which was which, I just knew that they were both there, then they separated and then having observed one, I know what the other one would have been if I had checked it, okay or will be when I checked it. So, Dr. Susskind, Stanford professor gave an even simpler example. He said imagine I have a nickel and a dime in my pocket and without looking at them I give them to two people. Then I call one of them and I say hey which coin did I give you and he says the nickel, well then, I know that I gave her the dime because that's all that's left. So again, it's that relationship of complementarity between the two that's most essential to the entanglement phenomenon.
Rene - Love it. That's a beautiful explanation and also, of course, love this story with your dog and the body, that is a furry ball in the evening kind of and it's so nice because exactly that's the problem, right? You don't even know, maybe there's a cat in between them right, you still don't see it it's like, you know, but yeah it's a great explanation. Well could talk much more. But we're already at the end of the show, thank you so much Kevin for joining us today and sharing your insights. This is very much appreciated but before we leave do you have any potting thoughts for our audience today?
Kevin – Sure. So you know, we've done a lot of kind of, surface level thinking about this sort of stuff right? We're trying to introduce novices to deep concepts without breaking their brains right? So, I want to leave your audience with one more question that definitely stems from my sort of philosophic education, which is this. I'll give you one observation. There are two things in the universe that respond differently, that behave differently depending on whether or not they're observed, and those two things are quantum particles and consciousnesses. This is either the most staggering coincidence in the universe by far or the evidence of some interesting relationship between these two things. Enjoy that thought.
Rene – Awesome. Love it. Well folks, there's something to think about it and in the break here until you can watch the next episode. Thank you so much again Kevin and thanks everyone for joining us for yet another episode of QuBites, your bite-sized pieces of quantum computing. You know the drill. Watch our blog, follow our social media channels to hear all about the next episodes and of course on our website you can find all the previous episodes, season one two five. Again, thank you so much Kevin and take care and see you soon bye-bye, thank you so much.