Antía Lamas Linares was born 47 years ago in Santiago de Compostela, where she studied physics. She later went through the universities of Oxford and California before landing in Singapore and coming to lead the Center for Quantum Networks (Center for Quantum Networking) from Amazon Web Services (AWS). She has already spent more time abroad than in her place of origin and, in recent years, focused on a field that already has two other prominent Spaniards at the top of this technology: Sergio Boixo, from the Google Quantum Artificial Intelligence research group (IA) and Darío Gil, vice president of IBM and director of the research division (IBM Research) that develops quantum computing.
Ask. What is Amazon Web Service doing in the race for quantum computing?
Answer. Since 2019, we have a service called Amazon Braket and that allows anyone to submit a program and run it on a quantum computer in the cloud. On the other hand, we are building a quantum computer on the Caltech (California Institute of Technology) campus. The latest initiative we have in the area of quantum information is the Boston-based center for quantum networks (AWS Center for Quantum Networking).
Q. What is the network you are responsible for for AWS?
R. We are building the elements that allow the quantum computers to be connected, such as a repeater to connect them over a long distance or the quantum memories that are needed in the intermediate components. We develop the hardware and the software necessary for when quantum computers are ready.
Q. Why is AWS entering this sector?
R. We believe there is a lot of potential in quantum technology. Amazon always thinks about what things are going to be useful for its customers and, even if it is in the long term, computing, networking and other types of quantum technologies are expected to be very important in the future. Basically, it is an extension of the processors that do high performance computing (high performance computing), but in certain areas they are even more powerful. Quantum networks have immediate security implications and will eventually allow quantum computers to be connected to expand their capacity.
Quantum networks will allow us to implement amazing capabilities
Q. Is a quantum internet possible?
R.. We hope so. It will be when all the capabilities of the quantum network are available. But there are several intermediate stages. The first, on security and cryptography. Later, these networks will allow us to implement amazing capabilities such as quantum computing. blind which basically allows no one to see what program you are running or see the results. In this way, if you are connected to the quantum computer with a quantum network, you are able to do the whole operation in a completely private way. But all this has many intermediate steps: we must have a quantum computer capable of doing these computations, which at this moment does not yet exist. The ones that exist now are very basic, that is, they do not have very many qubits and have a number of errors that do not allow many operations to be carried out in a row.
Q. What are those available on AWS being used for?
R.. There are several categories of users: a large part are academic researchers testing programs and comparing how they run on an ion-based quantum computer or a superconductor-based quantum computer. There is another part that are researchers in the industry. For example, BMW uses them to optimize processes for a problem they could solve with supercomputers, but they reduce that problem to a simpler version and explore and learn.
Q. When will there be a robust and fault-tolerant quantum computer?
R. We believe that in 10 years there will be quantum computers with interesting capabilities, but the possibility of error in that prediction is enormous. We may have a discovery tomorrow and speed it up five years or, vice versa, run into a roadblock that slows it down. In parallel, we are developing the infrastructure to connect them to each other and to the user. When we have that quantum network, all those capabilities that are now purely theoretical will be enabled.
High-quality research in quantum technologies has been carried out in Spain for more than a decade.
Q. Boixo, Gil and you are Spanish at the top of quantum technologies, but they all work abroad. Is there business tension in Spain over this industry?
R. High-quality research in quantum technologies has been carried out in Spain for more than a decade. For example, the ICFO (Institute of Photonic Sciences) has exceptional research, in the Basque Country there is also a lot of activity and in Galicia, where the CESGA (Galicia Supercomputing Center) is investing in quantum research… Yes, there are things. When I left at the end of the nineties there was less research and, besides, I like to travel around the world.
P. Will quantum computing ever be accessible without quantum knowledge?
R.. It’s something that really worries people. Almost certainly yes. If you think about how classical computing developed, early on, programmers had to understand circuitry. Now, in quantum computing, we are in that period and the programmers are often physicists who know what is behind it. But in a few years all of that will be just another programming language. That’s what we have to get to. It is not yet known what exactly the impact of quantum computing will be, not all the possibilities are understood nor the effect of the intersection with artificial intelligence. The president of IBM in 1943, Thomas J. Watson, said that he believed that there was a market for five computers in the world and you see, we all have a computer in our pocket. Companies like Amazon and others see the quantum potential, although we all recognize that it will be long term.
P. The tech world is suffering from a wave of cutbacks. Will it affect the development of quantum computing?
R. Investments in quantum technology are very long term. That is not to say that we are immune to the general macroeconomic situation.
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