“Google's Top Quantum Scientist Explains In Detail Why He Resigned - Forbes” plus 3 more

“Google's Top Quantum Scientist Explains In Detail Why He Resigned - Forbes” plus 3 more

Google's Top Quantum Scientist Explains In Detail Why He Resigned - Forbes

Posted: 30 Apr 2020 07:32 AM PDT

The news that Professor John Martinis had resigned from Google sent ripples through the entire quantum community. A few days after the announcement, I was on two previously scheduled calls with quantum executives and a call with another quantum CEO. Each was as baffled and as curious about Professor Martinis' departure from Google as I was.

I had read a few quotes attributed to Professor Martinis as the reason he resigned. Somehow the remarks seemed to lack enough  justification for such a big move on his part. I thought more detail was needed, and Professor Martinis agreed to clarify the record.

We are in an era of quantum experimentation and development. There are a handful of quantum scientists today that I believe will be historical figures a hundred years from now. John Martinis is one of those people. He has made monumental contributions to quantum computing, including handing Google the title to the historic achievement of quantum supremacy.

For those reasons, instead of an article with a few quotes by him, I decided to publish the full transcript of our conversation, and Professor Martinis gave his permission. In the interview, he describes details of his complex situation and why he ultimately decided to resign.  Additionally, you'll find many nuggets and surprises in the  interview.

Small parts of the transcript have been edited for clarity and I have entered notes where appropriate. My original plan was to provide a summary of my thoughts and conclusions. However, Professor Martinis was completely open about his relationship with the hardware group and with his manager, Hartmut Neven, founder of the Google Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab. After reviewing the transcript, I  felt everything was said that needed to be said. All my questions were answered. I will say this: Professor Martinis has no ill feelings toward the people who worked for him or toward Hartmut Neven. He expressed only respect for them.

After a few introductions and small talk, we started the discussion:

Paul Smith-Goodson (PSG):

I was very curious about the reason you left Google. The quote that was attributed to you as the reason didn't make sense to me. So maybe we could start at the beginning for some background.

Professor Martinis:



You and your group went to Google in 2014. Is that right?

Professor Martinis:

Yes, that's right. I was a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and we had government funding and were doing quite well. Google got interested and my group and I came over to work at Google, basically because we both wanted to build a useful quantum computer. 


How many people were in your group that went over with you?

Professor Martinis:

I think at the time it was in the teens. It was a good-sized group, but not everyone came over at first. For most of the students, they came to Google after they graduated with their PhD. 


I did a count and it appears that you and your group published about 200 papers while you were at Google.

Professor Martinis:

While at Google, that seems high, but I have published a large number of papers in my career and a lot of them on quantum. I was also involved in other research. I actually started with quantum computing when I was a PhD student way back in the mid-eighties at UC Berkeley.


What was the agreement when you first went to Google as far as maintaining a leadership role?

Professor Martinis:

So, of course I had a leadership role at UC Santa Barbara, and I was quite concerned about changing that. When I moved to Google, Hartmut [Neven] was running the project. He had started a quantum project [at google] and he's the one who wanted to hire me. I was the head of the hardware group and he was head of the whole quantum AI group. So that's the way we started.


You did some amazing work while you were at Google. You handed them the title to quantum supremacy. There was some controversy, but it was an important milestone, and you did it.

Professor Martinis:

We talked publicly about quantum supremacy for a couple of years and how we were going to do it. I think a lot of people thought it was a pretty bold milestone, but we were excited about the challenge. I thought the later controversy drummed up by IBM was a kind of fake news. But in the end, it worked out okay, as controversy brought attention. 


As it turned out, if you'd used a few more qubits, it would have been far beyond the reach of any classical computer and there would have been no question about its validity.

Professor Martinis:

Yes, that's correct. Scott Aaronson at UT Austin wrote a piece in the New York Times describing the impact. You can quibble about details, but the strangest part is that IBM said that the Summit computer was able to do this, but it was basically a white paper, and they [IBM] actually didn't run a program.  Of course, if you're going to claim something for experimental physics or computer science, you should actually run programs. I've mentioned it in my talks, and physicists understand what's going on. In the end, I hope this motivated people to just read the paper to find out what we did.


When did you first sense there was a problem with your relationship at Google with Hartmut Neven?

Professor Martinis:

This is a complex situation, but I can outline it for you. There has been tension for several years now, but it mostly has been with the hardware group. It started around the time we first proposed quantum supremacy.   To explain the tension, you should understand that my personal research style tends to be very intently focused. For example, with the quantum supremacy experiment, I focused on doing the experiment because I thought it would be a milestone and very challenging, but doable. I thought it would strongly focus the group on important problems. I think it was hard on people in the group to focus on quantum supremacy because it meant they couldn't work on other things they wanted to do, and most importantly, we could fail. And it seems tension comes with focus. I could also describe this more philosophically.

Note: At this point, Professor Martinis asked me if I had read Peter Thiel's book, Zero to One. Thiel was a co-founder of PayPal and Palantir. He explained that Peter Thiel defines personality styles as either a definite optimist or indefinite optimist. Professor Martinis considers himself to be a definite optimist. One quote from Thiel's book seems to mirror his thinking: "…a definite person determines the one best thing to do and then does it." I admitted that I started the book but failed to  finish it.

Professor Martinis:

It's okay. Anyway, he [Peter Thiel] says that most people in the US are indefinite optimists. And everyone says, oh yeah, we can build a quantum computer, but everyone is doing very general research on it, but with indefinite goals. My view is, I definitely want to create a quantum computer with some particular design. I saw the quantum supremacy experiment and I thought let's focus on this and let's get it to work. So, there's a natural conflict because it's very unusual to be a definite optimist. As Peter Thiel points out in the book, most people aren't this way. And I think my success in physics is because of this trait.


So, your intense focus created tension in the group?

Professor Martinis:

My personality is to intensely focus on some goal.  I think this was hard on the group. Once we got quantum supremacy to work, and we didn't need such intense focus, people naturally wanted more independence. 

Also, leaders of the group came from UC Santa Barbara, and it's very natural to want to leave your advisor and form your own group and be independent. Hartmut saw that too, and he is much more of an indefinite optimist than I am. Seeing all the tension, they [the group] and management thought it would be better if I wasn't leading the project anymore. Three people in the project would be co-leaders and I would be advising.


How did you feel about that?

Professor Martinis:

Initially, I thought it wasn't going to work for me. But it was clear that's what everyone wanted. We went ahead and I tried it for nine months. During those nine months I was productive, as I invented a way to scale up the qubits and solved some wiring technology. I was doing my job, but I felt uncomfortable about the direction the project was going on the five to ten-year time scale. After some other bad events happened, I just decided that this was no longer working, especially with my personality of definite optimism. Google no longer seemed like a good fit. Things were going well, and the group could definitely figure out what to do on their own. They're smart. But I can use my skills to do something even more productive. Does that make sense?


Yes, I completely understand. What was competing for control of the group at the time? Was it anything in particular or was it just that the group wanted more freedom?

Professor Martinis:

Yes. I'll give you a specific example that happened last year. It was very difficult for me at the time. 

When wiring a qubit system, it is very important to figure it out in a scalable, cost-sensitive way. I had been developing some new technology that was quite far along. I was quite proud of various inventions, as solutions were somewhat tricky, and you had to think very carefully about how to build a system. Wiring is funny as it is something that everyone thinks they can do, but it's subtle. But one theorist, who did not have experimental experience, felt that he knew how to do wiring better than me. We talked and I said look, this isn't going to work, and you should not be doing it. But he didn't accept no and kept working on it.

This went on and on, so I started talking to Hartmut about it, explaining that it didn't make sense. We have a relatively small group and we don't have an abundance of  resources. And I have it covered, so we should stop this other program. But Hartmut didn't back me up and wanted to go ahead and try both. 

I guess I just didn't handle that very well. I was the lead of the hardware group, but I couldn't stop a project that didn't make any sense to me.


Did you feel like you were losing control?

Professor Martinis:

More precisely, I had already lost control.  I wasn't really leading the hardware group, but of course still felt responsibility, like getting the quantum supremacy experiment to work. In the end, Hartmut and I just disagreed on what to do. But he's the boss, so it's his decision.  I think this whole year-long process made me very uncomfortable, and I just couldn't handle it because I have been making hardware decisions for a very long time. I think I know the best way to make technology work, in a definite direction.  


You were making good progress toward increasing the number of qubits. I think one of the quotes I read said that you were on the path to making a quantum computer with a few hundred to a thousand qubits.

Professor Martinis:

Yes, we have this plan, and even one for a much larger quantum computer. As a definite optimist, I liked that we had a definite plan that made sense to the group. After the quantum supremacy results, google management was very supportive, so everything was going great.


It sounds like everything was fine at that point.

Professor Martinis:

Yes, but I was not very happy because I disagreed with some important decisions. I had many talks with Hartmut about it, especially about the leadership role. I thought it would be the most reliable path to follow my expertise, since I have had a successful history. 

And in the end, I felt that the group had a good plan, and they know what they're doing. They're all very smart, they're going to be happy doing it their way. And I can go off and do science in the way I know best. I want to help the world of quantum computing in a way that makes sense to me.  

I'm sad because I really thought we really could build something amazing together, but you know, things don't always work out the way you want. You just have to figure out the best way forward.


When you get in a situation like that, it's a lot easier if you just step away. I assume you're going to keep working on quantum projects.

Professor Martinis:

I've had a lot of inquiries from people. And I still would like to build a quantum computer with this definite-optimistic approach. But this requires a good amount of funding, so I'll see if it's possible. 

One idea is to work with other qubits groups, who are making different qubits, to figure out how they can scale up and build a large quantum computer. Because I have an example with superconducting qubits that I now understand well, I hope to use those ideas for these other approaches. So, this might be a great opportunity. 


Would you ever go back to Google if the situation changed?

Professor Martinis:

Yes, I would. We would obviously want to discuss all of this. Maybe we just need right now some social distancing. I did like working for Google and Hartmut, and maybe there is some way to make everyone happy. I wish them the best. They're a great team.


Will there be anything coming out from Google that you worked on?

Professor Martinis:

There's going to be some really nice papers coming out using the quantum-supremacy Sycamore chip. Maybe not be quite so impactful [as quantum supremacy], but they are really going to advance the field a lot in applications as a cloud quantum computer. There should be more great results coming out of the group in the next few years.


Did all of your original group stay with Google when you left?

Professor Martinis:

Oh yes. Everyone is still working there, which is great. They will have more independence and say in planning their project, so I am happy for them.  


When do you think we'll see a useful superconducting quantum computer? Can we do it in the next five years?

Professor Martinis:

Hartmut has talked about this, so I can explain some more. The Google plan is roughly to build a million-qubit system in about ten years, with sufficiently low errors to do error correction. Then at that point you will have enough error-corrected logical qubits that you can run useful, powerful algorithms that you now can't solve on a classical supercomputer. And maybe even at a few hundred qubits, with lower errors, it may be possible to do something special purpose. As a definite optimist, I'm excited that they know what to do with both algorithms and hardware.


Well, that's all my questions. I really appreciate your time. Is there anything I didn't ask that you would like to say?

Professor Martinis:

Oh, I'm just going to say that technically the group at Google is doing great. They have a good plan. They have really good scientists there. And I'm excited that they'll be able to make progress and push this forward. I wish them the best.


Well, I think that's it. Thank you for your time.

Professor Martinis:

Okay. Thank you. It was nice talking to you. I enjoyed it. This has been a good conversation.

End of Transcript

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article. 

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Churros is top-trending Google recipe during US lockdown - The Jakarta Post - Jakarta Post

Posted: 30 Apr 2020 05:05 AM PDT

Over the last month, households across America took to their kitchens to try their hand at making churros, deviled eggs and carrot cake. At least that's according to Google Trends.

In the last 30 days since much of the United States went into lockdown with the pandemic, and restaurants were forced to shutter, Google Trends reveals the recipes American households looked up on the online search engine.

The top rising recipe search term as of April 28? Churros, which saw a 350 percent spike in searches compared to the same period last year.

One possible explanation could be because earlier this month, Disney Parks revealed the secrets to their popular Churro Bites recipe. The quarantine-friendly recipe calls for common household ingredients: just butter, flour, frying oil, eggs, cinnamon and sugar.

Read also: DoubleTree shares its signature chocolate chip cookie recipe

Easter drove up search terms for foods like deviled eggs, ham, lamb and mutton, while ambitious (and bored) home bakers took to Google to look up how to make sourdough, bagels and cinnamon rolls.

Here are the top-trending recipe search terms over the last 30 days on Google in the US, in order:

  1. Churros
  2. Deviled egg
  3. Ham
  4. Sourdough
  5. Whipped cream
  6. Carrot cake
  7. Lamb and mutton
  8. Bagel
  9. Cinnamon roll

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Google reveals the top recipes every state is searching for right now - Time Out

Posted: 30 Apr 2020 07:46 AM PDT

You can tell a lot about what's going on in someone's life based on their search history. And right now, we're all turning to recipes to bide our time indoors and create comforting dishes. There's data to back that up: Google recently revealed that the search interest around the term "recipe" has reached an all-time high between 2004 and now.

Of course, the wizards at Google can also tell us exactly what folks are searching for and break it down by geographical location. The tech giant just released a list of the most uniquely searched recipes by state over the last 30 days—"unique" is when a state searches for something more than all of the USA. That explains why Louisiana's top result is crawfish etouffee.

It's worth noting that the most popular recipe over all—the one that 13 states have in common—is "hamburger (or hamburger meat) recipe," which feels especially patriotic. If you're still searching for the perfect burger tutorial, might we suggest recreating Shake Shack's signature cheeseburger at home tonight? It's easier than you'd expect.

But the grand prize goes to Washington, D.C., where folks are turning to Google not for dinner inspiration but for a solid margarita recipe. We raise our glass to you, D.C. Thanks for keeping it real. Without further ado, take a look at which in-demand dishes the other 50 states are Googling right now.

Alabama: chicken salad recipe

Alaska: cinnamon rolls recipe

Arizona: lemonade recipe

Arkansas: hamburger meat recipe

California: snickerdoodle recipe

Colorado: egg salad recipe

Connecticut: salmon recipe

Delaware: salmon recipe

Washington, D.C.: margarita recipe

Florida: zucchini recipe

Georgia: baked chicken recipe

Hawaii: shoyu chicken recipe

Idaho: cinnamon roll recipe

Illinois: pork tenderloin recipe

Indiana: hamburger recipe

Iowa: hamburger recipe

Kansas: hamburger recipe

Kentucky: hamburger recipe

Louisiana: crawfish etouffee recipe

Maine: bread recipe

Maryland: salmon recipe

Massachusetts: bread recipe

Michigan: hamburger recipe

Minnesota: bread recipe

Mississippi: cornbread recipe

Missouri: hamburger recipe

Montana: cinnamon roll recipe

Nebraska: hamburger recipe

Nevada: pork loin recipe

New Hampshire: bread recipe

New Jersey: salmon recipe

New Mexico: tortilla recipe

New York: charoset recipe

North Carolina: pound cake recipe

North Dakota: sloppy joe recipe

Ohio: hamburger recipe

Oklahoma: hamburger meat recipe

Oregon: cinnamon roll recipe

Pennsylvania: egg salad recipe

Rhode Island: chicken parm recipe

South Carolina: pound cake recipe

South Dakota: bread recipe

Tennessee: baked chicken recipe

Texas: hamburger meat recipe

Utah: crepe recipe

Vermont: pancake recipe

Virginia: banana pudding recipe

Washington: sourdough bread recipe

West Virginia: hamburger recipe

Wisconsin: ham recipe

Wyoming: sourdough recipe

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Top Google AI expert attended Sage meeting of Government scientific advisers about coronavirus - Daily Mail

Posted: 30 Apr 2020 01:59 PM PDT

A top Google executive specialising in artificial intelligence joined the Government's science experts at a top-level coronavirus meeting, it was revealed today.

Demis Hassabis, the founder and chief executive of the tech giant's DeepMind operation, sat in on a meeting of Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) last month.

His attendance at the invitation of Sir Patrick Vallance comes at a time when membership of the body remains largely a secret on security grounds, despite pleas for greater transparency.

His presence at the meeting will raise questions about how many private companies are involved in developing public policy and the UK's response to the pandemic. 

Google is already believed to be working with the NHS on a contact tracing app due to be rolled out in May. 

A DeepMinds spokesman said: 'Demis was one of several scientists asked to contribute his thoughts on the government's response to COVID-19. 

'He attended one Sage meeting in-person on March 18 when invited to by the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser. He shared his views in a personal capacity.

'Following that, Demis joined a Royal Society-convened effort to learn from the different approaches countries are taking to managing the pandemic, called DELVE, in a personal capacity as a Fellow of the Royal Society.'

Demis Hassabis, the founder and chief executive of the tech giant's DeepMind project sat in on a meeting of Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) last month

Demis Hassabis, the founder and chief executive of the tech giant's DeepMind project sat in on a meeting of Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) last month

Boris Johnson, pictured this morning, and other ministers have repeatedly stressed that the government's approach has been guided by expert advice

Boris Johnson, pictured this morning, and other ministers have repeatedly stressed that the government's approach has been guided by expert advice

London-based DeepMind was swallowed up by Google owner Alphabet for £400 million in 2014. 

Three years later it was involved in a data protection breech involving a smartphone app pilot project with London's Royal Free Hospital. But last year it was given the go-ahead to access five years' worth of sensitive NHS patient data.

The internet giant was handed hospital records of thousands of patients in England, including medical history, diagnoses, treatment dates and ethnic origin, raising concerns about the privacy of the data.

It came as it was revealed Government scientific advisers fear ministers are trying to 'pass the buck' over the UK's coronavirus response by constantly insisting decisions are driven by expert advice. 

Members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) are thought to be concerned ministers have gone too far in always referring to guidance because ultimately it is 'political decisions' which have dictated the approach to the outbreak.

Many senior figures in Whitehall now have one eye on the inevitable public inquiry into the government's handling of the current crisis. 

That probe is likely to focus heavily on the substance of the advice handed to ministers, when it was made available to them, how the government responded to it and when it did so. 

The government's early response to the outbreak is facing increasing scrutiny as critics ask why Boris Johnson failed to impose lockdown until March 23 despite experts warning of the disastrous consequences of failing to suppress the disease. 

But some members of the SAGE committee fear ministers are trying to 'pass the buck' over the government's response. SAGE member Professor Chris Whitty is pictured in Downing Street today

But some members of the SAGE committee fear ministers are trying to 'pass the buck' over the government's response. SAGE member Professor Chris Whitty is pictured in Downing Street today

Mr Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock have relied heavily on advice from Prof Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance during the crisis. The four are pictured in Downing Street on March 12

Mr Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock have relied heavily on advice from Prof Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance during the crisis. The four are pictured in Downing Street on March 12

Professor Graham Medley, a SAGE member and chairman of its modelling sub-committee, told The Guardian it was always ultimately a 'political decision' about how to respond.

Senior ministers have repeatedly stressed throughout the crisis that all action has been guided and informed by expert advice. 

But there are some concerns that ministers are simply trying to shift the blame if things go wrong. 

Prof Medley said ministers' public insistence they are following the advice has 'sometimes gone a bit past the mark'. 

Asked if there was an element of politicians 'passing the buck', Prof Medley apparently replied: 'Yes.' 

SAGE is tasked by ministers with providing impartial answers and evidence to key questions. Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance both attend the group.

But the secrecy surrounding the group, with its membership and evidence not being routinely published, has sparked controversy. 

That controversy has only grown in recent days after it emerged Mr Johnson's top aide Dominic Cummings had attended SAGE meetings. 

Number 10 insisted this was so he could be informed of the latest scientific thinking but some sources have claimed he was 'more than a bystander', prompting critics to ask just how impartial the SAGE advice is.

However, some on SAGE privately believe Mr Cummings' presence was actually helpful because it meant important points could be guaranteed to be passed on to the Prime Minister. 

The relative lack of public information relating to SAGE's coronavirus work means it is difficult to comprehensively assess the dynamic between the committee and government ministers. 

However, one paper from a SAGE sub-committee on March 2 did say it was 'highly likely' there was already 'sustained transmission' of the disease in the UK.

It warned that without restrictions some 80 per cent of the population could become infected. 

It also estimated the death rate could be up to one per cent which would have equated to 500,000 deaths.

The government subsequently moved to the delay and mitigate phases of its coronavirus response.

The government revealed new data showing the numbers of deaths inside and away from hospitals for the first time - but the seven-day average of deaths is falling

The government revealed new data showing the numbers of deaths inside and away from hospitals for the first time - but the seven-day average of deaths is falling

Yesterday's daily Downing Street briefing revealed the numbers of new cases of coronavirus in the UK, the numbers of intensive care beds in use and total hospitalisations

Yesterday's daily Downing Street briefing revealed the numbers of new cases of coronavirus in the UK, the numbers of intensive care beds in use and total hospitalisations

But the messaging remained on the importance of washing hands even as other European nations started to impose more draconian measures.

The UK approach was already under fire after the World Health Organisation said testing was the key to tackling the spread of the disease but Britain's testing efforts were underwhelming. 

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson had been accused of being a 'part time' prime minister after he spent an extended period at Chevening and failed to attend four of the first five Cobra coronavirus meetings. 

It was in the middle of March that the government appeared to switch its approach from one of trying to slow the spread and obtain 'herd immunity' to one of aggressively suppressing the disease. 

On March 13 Sir Patrick said the 'aim' was to reduce the peak of the outbreak and also 'because the vast majority of people get a mild illness, to build up some kind of herd immunity'. 

The government has always rejected the suggestion that it was pursuing a strategy of 'herd immunity'. 

The WHO had declared coronavirus a pandemic on March 11 but major gatherings were still going ahead across the UK. 

Thousands of people visited Cheltenham Festival between March 10-13 while Athletico Madrid fans descended on Liverpool for a Champion's League game on March 11.

On March 12 the government did start to ramp up its approach as it urged the elderly not to go on cruises and suggested more measures were in the works. 

The main point of change is widely believed to have been the publication of modelling on March 16 by Professor Neil Ferguson which suggested a mitigation approach could result in 250,000 deaths and the NHS being overwhelmed. 

Professor Ferguson told The Guardian the way ahead was up to ministers: 'While policy can be guided by scientific advice, that does not mean scientific advisers determine policy.'  

The government maintained that all action needed to be taken at the right time as they warned of potential social distancing 'fatigue'. 

Essentially they argued that people would eventually get tired of restrictions so the timing needed to be right in order to get the maximum benefit from them.

But behavioural scientists on one of Sage's sub committees apparently never referred to 'fatigue' in official reports because it is 'not a concept that exists in behavioural science' and ministers choosing to use it was 'unhelpful'. 

Conversation in Whitehall increasingly turned to when a state of lockdown would be imposed. 

The Cabinet was split on timing and the severity of the measures amid fears of what a lengthy shutdown could do to the economy. 

Eventually lockdown was imposed by Mr Johnson on March 23 before the government's own adherence to social distancing was put under the spotlight as the PM and Health Secretary Matt Hancock both tested positive for the disease on March 27. 

A Downing Street spokesman rejected criticisms of its approach and said: 'This is an unprecedented global pandemic and we have taken the right steps at the right time to combat it, guided by the best scientific advice.'    


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