Whurley’s Quantum Keynote at SXSW
William Hurley is founder and CEO of Strangeworks, a quantum computing startup based in Austin. He is also the Chair of the Quantum Standards Working Group at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and blogs about quantum computing on superposition.com. His soon-to-be-published book “Endless Impossibilities” will bring the realities of a quantum future into the present, helping readers understand and prepare for the coming age of quantum computing. We caught up with Whurley for a few minutes to preview his keynote speech at SXSW 2018.
I know you’ve already been working a lot on your quantum-related keynote for SXSW 2018. Can you give us a bit of a preview of what you’ll talk about when you hit the big stage in March?
Absolutely. My talk is really centered around two main goals. First, to educate the audience on quantum computing, what it is, it’s history, where we’re at in its evolution, and why it’s important to them. Second, to engage the audience in quantum computing by providing them with educational resources, open source tools, etc that they can use that same day to experiment (play) with this amazing technology. I want people to leave not just with a solid understanding of quantum computing, but also with the opportunity to get some hands-on experience.
Will the concepts that you cover in this keynote be easy to understand for people who don’t have a degree in physics?
A degree in physics will NOT BE REQUIRED. In fact, that’s kind of the entire point of the talk. I’m on a mission to help democratize quantum computing and making it easy to understand and more importantly relatable to basically anyone. So everyone should feel welcome!
Why should the digital creatives who come to SXSW care about quantum computing? Isn’t blockchain the next big thing that everyone needs to know about?
Blockchain is without a doubt something to pay attention to. But where blockchain creates new efficiencies in existing systems, quantum computing heralds the coming of an entirely new system, a completely different way of computing. That’s something I believe everyone should be interested in.
In early November, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius published a spy thriller titled “The Quantum Spy.” Are you concerned that for many people, this cloak-and-dagger novel will be their first real taste of quantum computing?
So it’s interesting. Two weeks ago I would have said no. However recently Wired published a piece titled “The Quantum Spy Author David Ignatius on the Future of High-Tech Espionage.” In this story, Wired explains how this book offers a “provocative” look at quantum computing. I translate that a little into stirring the fears that are already popping up all over the internet. To be fair I haven’t read Ignatius’ book — but I did recently receive a copy and plan on getting to it asap to see just how provocative, and technically accurate, it is.
Last month, the EU released its European Quantum Technologies Roadmap. Are you concerned that the US doesn’t have anything as specific and detailed for the next decade for this new technology?
Yes. I have written about this on my blog. The United States isn’t in the leadership position it should be. Recently several commercial quantum companies went to Washington for the Subcommittee on Research & Technology and Subcommittee on Energy’s “American Leadership in Quantum Technology” hearing to express the concern that America is falling behind. Hopefully something will come out of that, but at the current moment the EU, China, Australia, and even Sweden are all out investing the United States.
Read more about Whurley’s takes on quantum computing via this interview from late July.
Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.