Quantum Science Needs a Global Community
(Medium) Ryan F. Mandelbaum, Senior Technical Writer, Qiskit writes that “The progress already made on today’s quantum computers demonstrates that this kind of world-bettering science requires a global community of researchers cooperating on a shared vision of the future.”
International collaboration has long been at the heart of the quantum computing field. It’s safe to assume that every major company pursuing quantum computing today has scientists hailing from other countries. Jay Gambetta, IBM Fellow and Vice President of Quantum Computing on the IBM Quantum team, was born in Australia. IBM Quantum has staff in Zurich, Tokyo, Johannesburg, and elsewhere. Microsoft and Intel both collaborate with the Technical University of Delft. The founder and manager of Google’s Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, Hartmut Neven, was born in Germany. It’s unlikely these companies would be where they are today without the talent and expertise of a global team of scientists.
“Different cultures might prioritize different things in a scientific sense. So when students go to a new place, they bring a fresh emphasis,” said Sougato Bose, professor of physics at University College, London. Bose himself traveled from Europe to the United States earlier in his career and noticed that quantum computing and quantum error correction were getting much more emphasis than in Europe, where universities focused more on entanglement and quantum communications. International collaboration spreads localized pockets of expertise more globally, while institutions gain knowledge by attracting broader selections of students.
Now, countries are re-thinking their visa policies, or writing rules surrounding export control when it comes to quantum computing technology and expertise in order to maintain a competitive advantage. Still, we can’t forget that as a quantum physics community and here at IBM, we have a common goal that requires diversity of people and thought contributing to a global community.
This isn’t to say that there shouldn’t be competition, and international competition can often lead to rapid technological process, said Vlatko Vedral, Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Oxford and Centre for Quantum Technologies, but there’s a difference between rivalries among labs, companies or even countries that drives the field forward and a Cold War-style arms race.
Science need not be a tool of international rivalry — it can be a unifying tool as we strive to put an end to these problems afflicting the entire human population, said Heike Riel, IBM Fellow and Head of Science & Technology and Lead of IBM Research Quantum Europe at IBM Research. “I think science can really help to create understanding, build relationships, and keep peace,” she said.