Will Quantum Computing Fall into the Adatran Trap?

  1. Switch to pure quantum solutions early even on classical computers by using quantum simulators running on classical computers. The Adatran trap still exists, but you could buy more time to evolve away from it with more experience.
  2. Quantum-inspired classical algorithms. Get into the swing of proper use of quantum algorithms even when still running on classical computers. A hybrid mix that is much closer to pure quantum. Again, the Adatran trap still exists, but you could buy more time to evolve away from it with more experience.

What could cause quantum computing to fall into the Adatran trap?

There are a number of missteps which can result in falling into the Adatran trap, as detailed in the Adatran paper. The raw list is presented here, but substitute “quantum computing” for Ada or “the new technology” and “classical computing” for “the old/older technology”:

  1. Minimal or weak training in the new technology.
  2. Training using analogy, showing how features of the existing, older technology can be very easily mapped directly into features of the new technology, but without thinking through whether this is really exploiting the advanced features of the new technology.
  3. Insufficient training in the philosophy and benefits of the new and advanced features of the new technology.
  4. Insufficient time and staff to become more thoroughly acquainted with the new and advanced features and benefits of the new technology. Raw schedule pressure.
  5. Too much attention on features rather than on modern methodology.
  6. Insufficient examples of how to upgrade existing metaphors in for the older technology to more appropriate metaphors in the new technology.
  7. Individuals are still “thinking in (the mindset of) the old technology” rather than “thinking in (the mindset of) the new technology.” A change of mindset is definitely needed, but difficult to arrange. It takes both commitment and time. And management and social support as well.
  8. An explicit goal to use the Adatran approach as a teaching tool, despite its limitations. Sure, it gets more people onboard more rapidly, but at the longer-term cost of not taking advantage of the new and advanced features and benefits of the new technology.
  9. Lack of methodical code reviews with explicit technical criteria for proper exploitation of the full features of the new technology.
  10. Desire to rapidly bulk migrate large and complex applications over to the new technology with no real attention to restructuring to take advantage of the advanced features and modern methodologies of the new technology.
  11. Use of automated tools to rapidly bulk migrate large and complex applications over to the new technology with minimal human intervention. No provision for evolving the application to exploit the advanced features and modern methodologies of the new technology.
  12. Lack of any deep institutional support for the advanced methodology and features of the new technology. Including and especially inadequate funding by management, including non-technical management.
  13. Lack of sufficient experience by technical management with the advanced methodology features of the new technology, or with the requirements for staffing a project with emphasis on modern methodologies.
  14. “We don’t have time to do it right.” Ignorance or incompetence on the part of management — or the simple reality that external factors preclude proper scheduling.

How to avoid falling into the Adatran trap?

To avoid the Adatran trap, follow the advice detailed in the Adatran paper, essentially reverse each of the causes of Adatran — substituting “quantum computing” for Ada or “the new technology” and “classical computing” for “the old/older technology”:

  1. Provide thorough and deep training in the new technology.
  2. Refrain from training using analogy — showing how features of the existing, older technology can be very easily mapped directly into features of the new technology. Instead look more broadly how larger portions of the application can be restructured to exploit the advanced features of the new technology, rather than a too-simplistic one-for-one feature mapping.
  3. Provide sufficient training in the philosophy and benefits of the new and advanced features of the new technology.
  4. Allow sufficient time and staff to become more thoroughly acquainted with the new and advanced features and benefits of the new technology. Make room in the schedule to reduce time and staff pressure.
  5. Focus more attention on modern methodology rather than features of the new technology.
  6. Develop a comprehensive set of examples of how to migrate existing metaphors in the older technology to more appropriate metaphors in the new technology.
  7. Make the commitment and time to getting people to “think in (the mindset of) the new technology.” A change of mindset is definitely needed. Get commitment and time from management and social support as well.
  8. An explicit goal to refrain from using the Adatran approach as a teaching tool. Sure, it has the short-term cost of taking longer to get more people onboard, but at the longer-term benefit of taking advantage of the new and advanced features and benefits of the new technology.
  9. Methodical code reviews with explicit technical criteria for proper exploitation of the full features of the new technology.
  10. Avoid bulk migration of large and complex applications over to the new technology with no real attention to restructuring to take advantage of the advanced features and modern methodologies of the new technology.
  11. Avoid use of automated tools to rapidly bulk migrate large and complex applications over to the new technology with minimal human intervention — and without attempting to fully exploit the benefits of the new technology.
  12. Achieve deep institutional support for the advanced methodology and features of the new technology. Including and especially adequate funding by management, including non-technical management.
  13. Achieve sufficient experience by technical management with the advanced methodology features of the new technology, and with the requirements for staffing a project with emphasis on modern methodologies.
  14. Make time to do it right. Train or replace management, technical and non-technical, to adequately schedule project resources for the new technology. Work with external actors to gain sufficient schedule flexibility.

Quantum simulators and quantum-inspired classical algorithms

An alternative to having a hard split between the two worlds of computing (classical and quantum) might be to transition to quantum computing even on classical computers by using either quantum simulators running on classical computers or to come up with a software framework for developing quantum-inspired algorithms on a classical computer so that developers could write quantum-like code which is then translated by the framework into optimized classical code, providing at least a subset of the benefits of quantum computing with the convenience of continuing to develop and run the full application on a classical computer — at full classical speed, not the speed of a simulator.

Tall order?

Yes, all of that is a very tall order.

Conclusion

Management and technical experts need to stay on top of the issue and try to avoid half-hearted, underfunded, and understaffed efforts that seem to suffer from an Adatran mentality — trying to brute-force shoehorn classical algorithms into a quantum computer.

  1. Sufficient hardware — enough qubits, enough connectivity, and enough coherence time.
  2. A real and substantial application that really does prove the merit of quantum computing. Probably a few such applications are needed, but certainly at least one which illustrates many of the relevant issues and solutions. This implicitly proves a quantum advantage, at least for this one application.
  3. A high-level programming model and associated high-level programming language which obviate much of the tedious and error-prone efforts that the early application developers were forced to tolerate and slog through at very great effort — too great an effort for most mainstream projects.

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