In this exclusive conversation with Davide Venturelli, we delve into his thoughts, experiences, and visions for the future of quantum computing and its intersection with AI.
As the Associate Director overseeing a portfolio of quantum technology projects at the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) and an early recruit of the NASA Quantum AI Laboratory, Davide’s journey is a testament to the pioneering spirit of quantum research.
Davide will share his insights at Tech Week Singapore on 11 October at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.
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Can you describe your role as Associate Director at the USRA and your involvement with the NASA Quantum AI Laboratory?
As Associate Director, I oversee a portfolio of projects that USRA has in quantum technologies, primarily, but not only, with the US government.
As part of the Academics Mission program, I was one of the first recruits of the NASA Quantum AI Laboratory – the space agency’s hub for applied research in quantum computing, which pioneered important research that defined the intersection between quantum technologies and AI.
How do you view the relationship between and the benefits of quantum computing and AI?
I believe that the intersection of quantum computing with AI is compelling in both directions: AI for quantum, and quantum for AI.
In the first case, it is obvious to me that some of the complexity of the compilation and error correction of quantum algorithms should be completely handled by automated AI engines. Of course, that requires an integrated and efficient hardware-software stack.
In the second case, the quantum processors can generate statistics that could be directly used profitably for machine learning algorithms or to train useful digital twins of quantum systems.
The field is still very much evolving, and there is uncertainty in the extent to which we can deliver advantage over non-quantum technologies, but what is exciting is that quantum machine learning has unique characteristics and it is an important frontier of research.
Can you explain the concept of “quantum advantage” and its significance in the field of quantum computing?
Quantum advantage is a buzzword indicating undisputable superiority in some metrics in performing a task with respect to non-quantum alternative.
Ideally, the advantage we will get will be such that we cannot compute things in any other way.
In simulation, it would be, for example, computing the energy function of a molecule of large size. In optimisation, it would mean solving a logistics problem to optimality with millions of variables or constraints.
However, it is difficult to obtain those clean victories, especially with today’s experimental hardware, so we need first to show intermediate steps comparing and benchmarking traditional approaches against quantum, but still targeting complexity at the edge of what is possible.
This way, we are sure that we will deliver a constructive set of innovations that will advance the field towards the final goal but also impact other discipline like AI, material science, electrical engineering, and more.
What is a project you are particularly proud of?
As is always the case, I am particularly proud of my latest publications as part of the DARPA ONISQ project. We used a superconducting quantum processor to run optimisation algorithms at a size and depth which is unprecedented in a regime of operation where most of the scientists would bet we would be overwhelmed by sources of noise and other problems. Instead, we found a way to make it work with surprising positive results. Instead, we found a way to make it work with surprising positive results.
But more exciting research is coming, for example we are now finalising our first work where we use quantum computers as a reservoir neural network, in collaboration with Standard Chartered Bank, for the prediction of behavior of chaotic dynamical systems.
What key takeaways do you hope to impart at Tech Week Singapore, and why would you encourage fellow leaders to secure their free ticket?
I think it is important to realise that the journey of applying quantum technologies to computing, and to AI, is noble and inevitable.
Quantum computing, in its generality, hybridised with digital logic, is the most fundamental and powerful framework we have to process information by exploiting the most fundamental laws of nature.
We need to investigate this frontier, which is our strongest weapon to attack complex computational challenges. A lot will be learned by doing, creating and using quantum hardware and AI systems in combination in a way that we don’t fully understand, but it works. And we finally have the technology, hardware and software to tap into this incredible innovation potential.