Home Technology Simone Severini, the computer philosopher: “Quantum computers beyond the boundaries of knowledge”

Simone Severini, the computer philosopher: “Quantum computers beyond the boundaries of knowledge”

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Simone Severini, the computer philosopher: “Quantum computers beyond the boundaries of knowledge”

“The quantum computer is like one search tool. It will allow us to understand reality in a profound way and improve the world ”: there is a trained philosopher on the roof of quantum computing, the field that studies how to make the most powerful computers that can be built by human beings. He is Italian, lives and works in Seattle, where he is responsible for quantum technologies for Amazon Web Services. His name is Simone Severini and he has a unique expertise in this sector, where different disciplines converge: “A computer is first of all a material object. And what computers can do is determined by the laws of physics even before software ”.

Severini has an extraordinary professional career behind him. Degree in Philosophy in Florence, 110 cum laude. 2003 PhD in Computer Engineering in Bristol, the navel of the world of quantum physics. His professor is Richard Jozsa, a pioneer in the study of the relationship between physics and computer science, himself a student of Roger Penrose, Nobel Prize in Physics in 2020: “I arrived in Bristol without basic technical preparation. Never mental processes that are used to study philosophy and physics are not very different from each other. On the contrary. I believe that the awareness that we form through the humanities is fundamental for working in science and technology ”.

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From Bristol goes to Canada: University of Waterloo. Post Doctorate at the Institute for Quantum Computing. Then he returns to Europe. He becomes Full Professor of Information Physics at University College London. Scientist, entrepreneur, manager, Severini is among the first to devote himself to quantum computing between university and business. He started projects with Google and Siemens. He founded startups and collaborated in the birth of several companiesincluding Quantinuum (formerly Cambridge Quantum Computing), a startup that builds quantum computers.

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“The quantum computer is a machine that processes information encoded in nanoscopic objects such as atoms, which are the components of matter, or photons, which are the components of light. The behavior of these machines is governed by the laws of quantum physics. In theory, thanks to phenomena admitted by quantum physics, problems can be solved in minutes for which even the most powerful super computer in the world would take a thousand years. The quantum computer is a research tool. Imagine a telescope. The telescope allows us to look further. The quantum computer it allows us to solve more difficult computational problems ”.

In 2018, Severini arrives in Seattle to understand what it would have been interesting to do in the field of quantum technologies for a company like AWS. Create Amazon Braket, the first service in the world that offers everyone the opportunity to have access to quantum computer prototypes built with different technologies and integrated into the AWS IT infrastructure. Five machines made by startups in Europe and North America are ready, accessible to all to experiment: “If you want to push innovation in a field, you have to allow everyone to access this world and create communities of different skills that interact with each other. They”.

Building quantum computers beyond prototypes is very difficult: “Nobody knows yet when we will have them available and when they will be able to solve concrete problems”. Like this Severini pushes on research. He helped found two excellent study centers: one in collaboration with the California Institute of Technology and the other with Harvard University. The goal: to enhance research and allow new generations to approach the field of technologies based on quantum physics.

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Severini imagines a future in which science will be done less and less in the laboratory and more and more through computers, otherwise known as quantum computers, which they will be able to simulate the physical world, which today requires a computing power that we do not yet have. This will allow the discovery of new materials, new medicines, new batteries and new ways to transfer energy.

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Started in 1999 from Sarteano, a small town in the province of Siena, Severini never returned to Italy: “I lived in Canada, the United Kingdom, California, Paris, Singapore, Shanghai, Israel. But nowhere do I feel at home ”. Again: “There is a sentence by Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize in Physics, which has always struck me”. The phrase is “fall in love with one thing and do it, because once you fall in love and look deeply, you will discover a universe” and “philosophy gave me that mindset that pushes me to go deep. I get lost in the details and I like too many things different from them. Then it would take 100 lives. One life to do science, one to travel, one to talk to people, one to write, one to serve others “.

When we contact him, in Seattle it is 7 in the morning, but Severini has already been awake for some time: 46 years old, father of a little girl, is writing a book. He says he is not familiar with computers, he counts with his fingers, he tells you that what has made the difference in his life is that he grew up in a small town, where everyone knows each other. He is not afraid to talk to others. He is not afraid to ask for help. He speaks of quantum computers as a challenge in relation to human nature: “I am trying to understand how many people can work together in harmony and do something extraordinary that is not yet there. A challenge that we are already winning: we are exploring new directions that can impact the life of human beings. We can face difficult problems if we keep the right expectations and humility. Our understanding of reality is minimal, all we are able to discover is a gift. And if we do not forget that science and technology are human activities and that we are emotional beings, during this process of discovery, we will be able to do even deeper things. Because in the end we are looking for meaning ”.

In short, according to Severini, “today’s science is tomorrow’s technology. But interesting things happen when so many people are able to work together. There are a lot of builders here at AWS, people who want to build something to solve problems and make an impact. Quantum technologies are an interdisciplinary field and the conditions for changing the world, for the better, are there. And there are many “.

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