Quantum Insider catch up Kristin M. Gilkes, EY’s Global Innovation Quantum Leader. Gilkes discusses his journey to quantum technology, the future of the quantum industry, and how EY is helping to ethically shape that future.
Tell us about your personal journey into the quantum technology market? Personal stories are great here!
I’m a PhD mathematician drawn to the commercial sector rather than staying in academia — first in the steel industry where I worked in data analytics for about six years, and then in banking, where I became Chief Data Scientist at Morgan Stanley. Based on that background, I wanted to be a part of quantum from the start. EY has a very forward-thinking Global Innovation Leader named Jeff Wong, and he and his team felt it was the right time to prepare clients for the quantum revolution. With this foresight, he allowed me to direct our quantum agenda.
Can you introduce us about how EY first got interested in quantum technology and why?
EY strives to be the market leader in all new technologies that will impact how the world works. For quantum specifically, we see how it aligns with our core value and purpose as an organization: to build a better world of work. Quantum can be a key driver of trust and sustainability and drive meaningful transformation —harnessing it to solve some of today’s most “unsolvable” problems, such as sequencing the entire human DNA genome. The technology has advanced enough that we prioritize helping our clients 1) become quantum-safe and 2) capture the value-added components of R&D.
How do you envision quantum technology changing the way businesses operate, and what steps is EY taking to help clients prepare for these changes?
The “art of possibility” is completely redefined via quantum. Executives are probably hearing more about the quantum cyberthreat component than its positive, transformational side. The conversation must be balanced because both aspects are important. Through quantum, businesses can complete projects much more quickly, including projects that would never have been completed at all under the classical model. And because it’s quantum mechanics, you can get results you never expected.
The classical model will tell you that 2 + 2 = 4. But the quantum can tell you the probabilities around producing so many other dimensions. Returning to DNA sequencing, we see the potential in a field like this where so many exponential factors are thought to burden the classical model but can be explored together at once via quantum. EY has provided other frameworks and support as far as strategy is concerned — for example, in cyber security — which includes the initial immediate steps to be taken.
Quantum technology is still in the early stages of development. How will EY navigate the uncertainty and risk associated with investing in a growing field? Where do you focus your time and energy?
We recognize that not everyone can afford to invest in experimental quantum hardware. Our broader goal is to democratize the quantum, and EY has tested and orchestrated an ecosystem of vendors entering the market in droves – just in the last two years we’ve seen 800 new vendors emerge. A client can work with us and have access to the best in all these disciplines without spending a lot of money, because we have done trial and error.
For me personally as EY’s Global Quantum Innovation Lead, I focus my time and energy on quantum research projects including portfolio optimization, anomaly detection, sustainable energy demand planning, and DNA sequencing and drug discovery, as well as more defensive cybersecurity efforts. Right now, our team is really focused on quantum sensing because it is on the “now” time horizon – this is advanced sensor technology that delivers extreme accuracy for a wide range of applications, from developing more reliable geolocation systems, to more accurate medical diagnostic imaging, and safer autonomous vehicles. About a quarter of my time is spent educating people within EY and externally on what quantum is.
Can you discuss any ethical dilemmas or issues related to quantum technology that EY is currently facing?
I’m glad you asked this question, because there are concerns we must consider today before wide-scale adoption. We see the conversation about ethics in AI becoming more pressing after adoption, when it should have been discussed before. At Quantum, we have the opportunity to start driving ethical behavior and research today, and EY is taking the lead in working to define common principles. Black box modeling and explanation is a concern in Quantum too, along with ways of validating results through audits, in systems that are constantly changing. Ethical models can also guide us on the topic of what quantum computation should fight against — not all of it should.
How does EY plan to differentiate itself from competitors in the quantum technology space, and what unique value does the company provide to clients in this area?
In addition to our curated ecosystem of vendors and our thought leadership, we have more than 300 quantum scientists and engineers worldwide. Today, quantum is such a fuzzy field of study that entire industries are plagued by not having enough resources. It didn’t happen to us. We have been preparing for this from time to time and have dedicated resources to creating a quantum training platform to enhance our workforce and our clients. We are truly equipped with the knowledge of what quantum can do, along with everything that can help our clients scale quickly.