Quantum AI Computers Offer 'Supernatural Powers,' Chinese Turing Prize Winner Says
Qian Tongxin
/SOURCE : Yicai
Quantum AI Computers Offer 'Supernatural Powers,' Chinese Turing Prize Winner Says

(Yicai Global) Sept. 4 -- Renowned Chinese computer scientist and a previous recipient of the Turing Award Andrew Chi-Chih Yao has spoken highly of the future use of quantum computers to further artificial intelligence technology in a recent interview with Yicai Global.

"The integration of QC and AI will be a significant moment in the future," he told Yicai Global on the sidelines of the International Conference on Quantum Cryptography held in Shanghai last week. "With the progress made on QC, we can integrate quantum and AI. In other words, we can use quantum algorithm to learn or create new intelligence and acquire supernatural powers."

Quantum factors can greatly improve the efficiency of machine learning if they can be integrated into neural network technology that support deep learning.

Yao introduced the virtues of such network technology, stating that they can process data faster than classic neural networks, indicating a big improvement. The integration can enhance the capacity of mass data processing to naturally improve AI capacity.

Yao, an academic at Chinese Academy of Sciences, is over 70 years old now. He has focused on the research of quantum computing, communication and information theory since the 1990s. As early as 1993, he proposed the complexity of quantum communication, basically completing the theoretical basis for quantum computers.

In 2000, due to the outstanding contributions to the theory of computation, including the pseudorandom number generation, cryptography, and communication complexity, he won the Turing Award and is the only Chinese computer scientist to receive this honor.

Yao resigned as a tenured professor at Princeton University in 2005 and officially joined the Center for Advanced Study at Tsinghua University as a full professor. In 2011, he began to serve as Dean of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Information Sciences at Tsinghua and established the Center for Quantum Information.

"Yao, one of the few computer scientists to have entered the field of quantum information and carry out research in China, completed pioneering work in the field," Pan Jianwei, an academic of the CAS told Yicai Global.

Yao's research directions include the theory of computation and its applications in cryptography and quantum computing. Informally speaking, if business partners send emails to each other, even if they use a whisper that only the two parties know, there is a possibility of information leak. Yao's research into information security and encryption can help to solve such problems.

"After more than 30 years of scientists' exploration, the field of quantum information has developed into a significantly important breakthrough stage. Especially in recent years, QC has entered the manufacturing proess and will emerge soon, " Yao said.

In Yao's opinion, QC is a key field of knowledge. He said that the successful development of such computers would be deemed to be another moment as significant as Turing's achievements in history. "You can say we will enter a primeval forest, a place where no man has ever been. Every time that we make progress in the field is important."

"If we develop quantum computers, we can better explain various physical phenomena, especially those that are microcosmic and belong to materials science. We can utilize it to conduct practical computing and obtain unprecedented new knowledge," he told Yicai Global.

In the past 15 to 20 years, QC has evolved significantly. Large companies such as Google, Microsoft and IBM have carried out research in the field and many have made great progress. D-Wave even developed a chip boasting 2,000 qubit.

"It not only requires a great effort in experiments but also requires us to manufacture with engineering science together. In order to build a super-power quantum computer, engineers must participate too," Yao told Yicai Global.

Yao is optimistic about the future of the quantum computer. "We can see that not only countries but also enterprises are investing in manpower and putting effort into quantum technology," he said. "These enterprises and research institutions are farsighted as they know such a significant cutting-edge field can bring a profound effect on knowledge for humankind."

Although Yao believes that quantum computers will emerge, he still the development of a practical product will be greatly challenging. "The road ahead will be long and I cannot predict how successful it will be, but we should set a great target while constantly keeping in awe at the continuous progress," he said.

Yao, a man who has devoted his whole life to education, started his first business at the age of 72. He initiated and established a new type of research and development institute - Nanjing Turing Institute of Artificial Intelligence. The institute is committed to applying research results of computers to practical industries and to producing effective intellectual property.

In August this year, Tsinghua University's Institute for Interdisciplinary Information Sciences was established in a high-tech zone in Xi'an in the country's central Shaanxi province. Yao has personally taken charge of the institution and aims to make the institute lead its rivals in terms of industry-university-research for AI in China and even the world.

"The difference between the project in Xi'an and the Nanjing Institute is that the Xi'an project mainly lays emphasis on chip design," he said.

Yao is looking forward to witnessing AI's bright future. "AI will generate great influence on science and industry over the next 20 or 30 years, I hope to see some original achievements with intellectual property in the next development stage of AI in China," he added.

He also pointed out two disadvantages in the research and development of China's current AI industry. Firstly, China does not pay enough attention to computer system engineering. China leads its rivals in computing capacity and hardware as it owns the world-leading super computer; but system engineering is a great hindrance in the next development stage.

Secondly, China lacks algorithmic and corresponding theories. AI industry's future development lays in the algorithm and theory. Foreign countries have a profound theoretical basis while it is relative weak in China, thus China needs to pay more attention to the research of theoretical basis.

Editor: William Clegg

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Keywords: Andrew Chi-Chih Yao, Scientist, R&D , Innovation , AI , Quantum Computer, Chinese Academy of Sciences