In this episode, Frank and Andy welcome our first guest to the show.
Dr Mark Jackson is a Quantum Evangelist at Cambridge Quantum Computing, which may just be the best job title I have ever heard.
This episode is entitled "What and Why Quantum Computing?" and is rated one and a half Schroedingers. It could be 2 Schroedingers or just one. You will have to observe the entire episode to collapse the wave function.
Cambridge Quantum Computing
Hello and welcome to impact quantum.
A podcast about quantum computing for developers and engineers.
In this episode, Frank and Andy welcome our first guest to the show.
Doctor Mark Jackson is a quantum evangelist at Cambridge Quantum Computing, which may just be the best job title I have ever heard.
This episode is entitled what and why Quantum Computing and is rated 1 1/2 Schrodinger's.
It could be.
Two Schrodinger's or just one.
You will have to observe the entire episode to collapse the wavefunction.
With the show.
But first, here's some dubstep.
Hello and welcome to impact quantum.
The podcast where we.
Explore this new.
Field of quantum computing from an engineer's perspective. Maybe you're a software engineer. Maybe you're a data engineer.
But you keep hearing about this thing called quantum computing, which is going to change everything.
And I happen to believe that it will change everything, and to that end I.
Hey I have my trusty co-host from data driven.
With me Andy Leonard.
Hey Frank, thanks for for bringing me along as folks will quickly learn, you know way more about quantum computing.
Than I do.
So I guess I'm just here for my pretty faves.
Of course, of course we are.
Actually recording this in video on teams, but come with me with us for the first time in impact quantum history.
We have a guest and it's Doctor Mark Jackson.
Uh, who has probably the coolest job title I have heard in about a decade or two?
Welcome to the show.
Mark, you're our first guest ever.
00:01:45 Dr. Mark Jackson
Thank you Frank.
00:01:46 Dr. Mark Jackson
Thank you Andy.
00:01:47 Dr. Mark Jackson
It's great to be here.
Uh, so as Andy said, you know, I do.
When I you know I would use the term knows more as a very relative term part of the if you're listening to the show and you've listened to the archives.
Part of the reason why we haven't had a lot of shows is because I really kind of hit my cerebral limit at the time to talk about so.
Given that quantum is still a relatively new field and there's a shortage of experts in the field, but I think you know we were.
I was blessed to get in contact with Mark where we can talk about kind of this with an expert because he's a quantum evangelist.
00:02:27 Dr. Mark Jackson
Yes, it's a.
00:02:28 Dr. Mark Jackson
It's a pleasure to be here and I am Cambridge, quantum quantum evangelist.
00:02:33 Dr. Mark Jackson
I'm glad you like my title.
00:02:34 Dr. Mark Jackson
It's it's pretty unique.
That is very cool.
Uhm so So what?
You know, what does a First off?
How did you get into quantum?
What's your background?
Is your background in quantum physics?
Or computing or.
00:02:46 Dr. Mark Jackson
My background is in yes, so my background is actually in superstring theory, if you're.
00:02:51 Dr. Mark Jackson
Familiar with that?
00:02:53 Dr. Mark Jackson
Yeah, for 15 years I did that.
00:02:54 Dr. Mark Jackson
I earned my pH.
00:02:56 Dr. Mark Jackson
In string theory from Columbia University under the supervision of Brian Greene, who you might recognize.
00:03:02 Dr. Mark Jackson
And then I did it.
In fact, he's the one.
Who's documentaries on string theory I I do enjoy?
00:03:07 Dr. Mark Jackson
Yes, I I'm actually in that, uh, I have a very brief cameo.
00:03:10 Dr. Mark Jackson
I was a student and and half my face is in it for.
00:03:13 Dr. Mark Jackson
Half a second.
00:03:14 Dr. Mark Jackson
Oh, very cool, very cool.
That's awesome, you're real selected.
00:03:18 Dr. Mark Jackson
So, uh, so, so yes, that was my moment of fame.
00:03:21 Dr. Mark Jackson
Uh, back when I was a grad student and so then I I did research in that area for about 10 years and I briefly did a tech startup doing scientific fund raising before I returned to teaching at Singularity.
00:03:32 Dr. Mark Jackson
University and that was where I first started hearing about quantum computing. This would be around 2016.
00:03:40 Dr. Mark Jackson
Uh so so. Quantum computing only existed academically when I was a student, and so I rarely heard anything at all about it and it was in 2016 people started talking about quantum computing, being commercially feasible, and I thought this was amazing because it was all the things that I I loved about physics.
00:03:59 Dr. Mark Jackson
Superposition and entanglement and all these crazy physics concepts.
00:04:03 Dr. Mark Jackson
Uhm they they started saying they could actually build machines and do this for you.
00:04:08 Dr. Mark Jackson
Whole things, and I thought that was amazing.
00:04:10 Dr. Mark Jackson
And so I started trying to get into the field.
00:04:13 Dr. Mark Jackson
I was giving presentations about quantum computing to executives, but I felt sort of like a cheerleader on the sides.
00:04:20 Dr. Mark Jackson
I actually wanted to be doing it, not just talking about it, and so I tried to get into.
00:04:24 Dr. Mark Jackson
00:04:25 Dr. Mark Jackson
And it was a bit frustrating because I didn't.
00:04:28 Dr. Mark Jackson
Have a background in quantum computing and I didn't know too many people in it, but I was very lucky that a friend of mine, a math professor at Berkeley where I was living.
00:04:37 Dr. Mark Jackson
He made an introduction to our CEO.
00:04:40 Dr. Mark Jackson
Ilyas Khan and it was very well timed because Cambridge Quantum was about three years old and everyone at the time was in the UK.
00:04:51 Dr. Mark Jackson
As the name might suggest, were basically virgins like.
Yeah, wasn't shared with Cambridge, England or Cambridge.
Massachusetts 'cause it could go either way.
00:04:58 Dr. Mark Jackson
Yeah, it's it's actually the old school, Cambridge, our company Origin story is is quite amazing. Ileus was chairman of the Stephen Hawking Foundation and in in 2014 Hawking told him I think quantum computing is going to take off. You should get into this business and so that's how we started because of Stephen Hawking.
00:05:19 Dr. Mark Jackson
And so yeah, we we have one of the coolest origin.
00:05:22 Dr. Mark Jackson
Stories ever and so in fall of 2017 I I joined as one of the first American members of the team.
00:05:31 Dr. Mark Jackson
And so I've been there about four years, and it's been an amazing journey.
00:05:35 Dr. Mark Jackson
I I can't think of any other technology that's.
00:05:38 Dr. Mark Jackson
Advanced this rapidly.
I I will.
Say it's just even in the last, maybe 8 to 10 months.
The pace of innovation has gone through the roof like you start hearing these news and you know whenever I would look on YouTube for you know recent videos and you filter by like you know you'd have to look for like oh in the recent month for quantum anything about quantum computing.
Now it's the point where something new gets published every couple hours like.
It's it's it's.
It's just exploded.
00:06:08 Dr. Mark Jackson
Yeah, it's it's almost every week we some we see some new major announcement about a.
00:06:14 Dr. Mark Jackson
There's a new commercial project.
00:06:15 Dr. Mark Jackson
There's a new company being founded.
00:06:17 Dr. Mark Jackson
There's new investment.
00:06:19 Dr. Mark Jackson
There's there's some new technological advance.
00:06:21 Dr. Mark Jackson
It really is developing very quickly.
00:06:23 Dr. Mark Jackson
It's tough to keep up with with everything.
00:06:26 Dr. Mark Jackson
When I started four years ago, I remember some of my physics friends being a little skeptical.
00:06:30 Dr. Mark Jackson
Was quantum computing really a thing?
00:06:32 Dr. Mark Jackson
Was this a wise career decision?
00:06:35 Dr. Mark Jackson
And no one is questioning it.
00:06:38 Dr. Mark Jackson
00:06:39 Dr. Mark Jackson
There's so so much money and so much talent being put into this.
00:06:43 Dr. Mark Jackson
It really is amazing.
Yeah, I mean it's funny because you you know you'd said you didn't have a background in when you when you look to get into this in quantum computing, but I'm thinking like.
Who does? I mean? There are people, obviously, but I mean I could probably. I mean going back, maybe the 2000.
14 When Stephen Hawking kind of had his, you know, had his say and created your you know kind of inspired the launch of your company.
I would say there's probably maybe a dozen people worldwide would would would be in quantum computing, at least commercialization of it and not just the research.
So I find that I find that interesting because a lot of folks, when they look to to to get into a new career, even though I guess technically you're still heavy in.
In in, in the deep sciences I would call.
You know people, still you know with your pedigree.
Having worked under Brian Greene and even being in one of his documentaries, even if it's for a half a second I I mean you face that challenge.
So I think I think it I think for anyone here who's looking to transition into a quantum career, know that you know you are going to face skepticism, but I also think that there will be an inflection point and mark.
And tell me this has happened.
Now where the demand is going to be far outstrip the supply, that as long as you kind of know more than the average Joe or Jane on the street, I think that there's still good opportunity.
00:08:11 Dr. Mark Jackson
Right, you are correct that even a few years ago there were very few people doing quantum computing as a specialty, so quantum computing was first suggested about 40 years ago by Richard Feynman.
00:08:23 Dr. Mark Jackson
This physicist, when he pointed out that there were a lot of problems that we never could hope to solve using normal computers and a prime example is.
00:08:31 Dr. Mark Jackson
Is chemistry doing molecular simulations?
00:08:34 Dr. Mark Jackson
Is very difficult for a computer.
00:08:35 Dr. Mark Jackson
We can only simulate only the very simplest model.
00:08:38 Dr. Mark Jackson
Schools and so he pointed out we have to build a new type of computer, one based on quantum physics.
00:08:44 Dr. Mark Jackson
This was about 40 years ago and no one knew how to do this at any feasible level, and so there was there was academic progress, so research labs and such would work on this, but it wasn't anywhere close to being commercialized for many years.
00:08:59 Dr. Mark Jackson
And then it was. It was around 2014 that started to change.
00:09:02 Dr. Mark Jackson
So it's only in the past few years that quantum information science, the academic term for this.
00:09:09 Dr. Mark Jackson
Really emerged, so there are now several universities offering degrees in quantum information sciences, but that's a relatively new development.
00:09:19 Dr. Mark Jackson
Most of the people.
00:09:21 Dr. Mark Jackson
Kind of the older people just had to pick it up on the street.
00:09:25 Dr. Mark Jackson
They were there or their physics professors.
00:09:27 Dr. Mark Jackson
So like very few people who really did this or there are people who came from other areas of science and technology who were able to pick up enough.
00:09:37 Dr. Mark Jackson
For example, I'm not even on the scientific team.
00:09:39 Dr. Mark Jackson
I'm on the business team, so even though my background is in theoretical physics, I actually don't know enough that I could.
00:09:46 Dr. Mark Jackson
Be a scientist in this area.
Interesting, I see a lot of parallels with kind of how traditional computer science had kind of evolved, right?
First you had to be an electrical engineer.
Or have that kind of a pedigree?
Then then you know, as computational.
Well, computer science kind of came out into its own as an active separate academic discipline.
You know there was there, you know it kind of evolved from there.
And I I see.
You know, obviously we're we're pretty early, so we don't know how the movie is going to end, but I kind of seen this story structure before in that regard.
00:10:25 Dr. Mark Jackson
Yeah, that that's actually a very good analogy.
00:10:27 Dr. Mark Jackson
The computers that we have now look a lot like the computers from the 50s and 60s.
00:10:32 Dr. Mark Jackson
That there there are these big machines in big rooms with wires hanging out and you do have to be a specialized engineer fiddling with things and it changes on a day to day basis which parts are working or not.
00:10:45 Dr. Mark Jackson
Things are very experimental, they're very expensive to use.
00:10:48 Dr. Mark Jackson
Uh, only a few people really know how to use them.
00:10:51 Dr. Mark Jackson
There are some differences in that back then you had to be physically there next to the machine, whereas now we have the Internet.
00:10:58 Dr. Mark Jackson
So fortunately people can access it from anywhere.
Which is great in the pandemic.
00:11:04 Dr. Mark Jackson
Which is great during the pandemic that we can access these quantum computing machines, but but they are still experimental and engineers have to be on site to fiddle with them.
00:11:12 Dr. Mark Jackson
Things in a few years, though that probably won't be the case.
00:11:16 Dr. Mark Jackson
There will be a few people.
00:11:18 Dr. Mark Jackson
Uh, specialized in them, but a lot of people will be able to use them without having to be.
00:11:23 Dr. Mark Jackson
An expert in them, right?
So I mean, there's definitely this.
This evolution that's happening, and it's it seems to be picking up pace.