season 2 episode 12 – the art within quantum computing | Dr. Erik Lucero

In this episode, we speak to a Google staff research scientist, Dr. Erik Lucero. In his work, he leads the production quantum hardware team that supplies the world with quantum computers that can perform beyond classical computations. We talked about what quantum computing is, how it can change the world, what his interest in photography has to do with it, and much more.

Nico Daswani The Artian Podcast


The transcript was produced by an AI, mistakes might appear. 

[00:00:00] Nir Hindi: Okay. Meanwhile, I am kind of just activating the goal just to see how the sound comes and I will play with it from my side. So

Erik Lucero: I see. But you and you come up above, but

Nir Hindi: Yeah. The most important is just for me that it is comfortable from the, from the above.

Erik Lucero: Yeah. How about there? Is that now? A little bit. Is this good? Yeah. Like that. Yeah. Great.

Nir Hindi: Great. So, so what we will do Yeah, I am also Erik, I did not write it in the email. I normally also record the zoom.

So maybe, you know we want in the future to use it kind of to edit a sneak peek out of the zoom store promoted. So, if it is okay with you, I will record also with the zoom.

Erik Lucero: Yeah. Yeah, that is great.

[00:01:00] Nir Hindi: And then normally I will tell you the way I do it. Since you listened to the podcast with Forest, you already know what I do is that I record the opening and the intro separately.

So just after that, I kind of… you just tell me what the official like the title I is needed to mention, because I saw on LinkedIn it is something. And then I saw a research study that you are its staff research scientist on the quantum AI team at Google. But I do not know, because last time you talk, you told me you are also the lead site of Google. So, you can, you can even just send it to me later in the, go in the Gmail, in the email. So, when I record the opening, I just can say, Hey, today we have with us, Erik, dot, dot, dot, and I say the whole title. The way we do it now is just that I would say, Hey, Erik, [00:02:00] welcome to the Artian podcast. And then you say, Hey, and then we just roll the conversation.

And later, I will plug the intro and the opening and the closing and you already, so kind of the flow, normally that’s kind of the flow, obviously, if there are interesting things, we can elaborate on them. And if you feel you want to reframe things, you want to stop and say it from the beginning.

No problem. We are editing everything.

Erik Lucero: Awesome. Thank you. That sounds good.

Nir Hindi: Erik, one second. I mean, my girlfriend called to my house, or something happened one.

second, one second, please, please. Yep.

[00:03:00] anyhow, she hangs up. So

Erik Lucero: Are you sure? Are you okay?

Nir Hindi: Yeah, I mean the world can wait.

Erik Lucero: Okay,

Nir Hindi: great. So

Erik Lucero: I have another question for you here. I have, you know I have some images you know, photos and I also have you know, some, I mean, when I explain some of the nuances in quantum mechanics and quantum computing, I know you won’t like a brief explanation.

There are, you know, some I have some other images, but I do not, I do not know if we want to even go there. I mean, I can share them with you here and you can see, but I want to make sure that we have a good explanation just with audio, right? That is probably the biggest, yeah. Part of it. So, I will do my you know, we, we can, you can let me know how those lands and I can also show you those images [00:04:00] and we can see if that is at all helpful, but

Nir Hindi: yeah.

Okay. Yeah. I mean, think about someone that just listened to it. Zero-knowledge in computers is zero knowledge on quantum. How you can simplify it as possible. I would say. Try not to make it like more than four minutes explanation. And then maybe, you know, if I see it is too complex, I will tell you, you know what, maybe it is too technical.

Maybe you can share with us an example what, give us an example. And then as you mentioned with the fertilizer and the medicine, I think people understand the the potential of it through the application. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. And then, and then I do not know if this is. Industry secrets or no, but if I, maybe I would ask you, when do you think we will see quantum computing?

So, I am happening. Yeah. So, I do not know if it is.

Erik Lucero: no, that we can, I can speak to that. Yeah. Okay, great.

Nir Hindi: Yeah. So, we have it [00:05:00] working. We have, okay. Maybe in the middle, I would say, okay, let us take a short break, and then I use it to save an okay. Hey Erik.

Erik Lucero: Hey, Nir. Hey, how is it going Nir?

Nir Hindi: Great.

Welcome to the Artian podcast

Erik Lucero: Thank you so much for having me.

Nir Hindi: No, thank you. I mean, I am super excited about our conversation today. I learned a lot from you and first, thank you for taking the time to explain to someone like me. What is quantum computing? I am super excited about our conversation today, about quantum computing, science, art, photography, and much more.

Erik Lucero: I am looking forward to it. Thank you.

Nir Hindi: Erik, maybe you can introduce yourself briefly to our listeners so they will get the chance to know who you are.

Erik Lucero: For sure. So, my name is Erik Lucero. I am a quantum mechanic and I work at Google. I lead the quantum computing service at Google, and I am also the site lead for [00:06:00] Google Santa Barbara.

So, all the operations in Santa Barbara.

Nir Hindi: Great.

So, I guess many of us hear about quantum quite often in the last few years. And before we ask you why you here, why we hear about it so often, recently I want to ask you, what does it mean quantum computing?

Erik Lucero: Great question. Yeah, there is a lot about this in the news, for sure.

And I think the important things to take away are those two words. What are, what is quantum and what is computing? So, we know computing is all around us and we have a paradigm that we call in this world. Now we call it a classical computing. That is computing that has been built on basically all the classical laws of physics and that has delivered us the cell phones.

It is allowing us to have this amazing conversation virtually. And now if you add to that quantum. [00:07:00] Quantum is what we understand is the best theory that describes nature. And that has been about the past a hundred years that we have now understood how at the very fundamental level, how nature behaves.

And so, when you combine these two, you can think about well this is now basically taking how nature works, and we are going to combine that with computing. So physically what we are doing is we are looking out in nature to see, are there ways that we can use what nature provides us as tools to do computation?

Now we do that with engineering systems. So, you could think of taking an atom. So, you go out and look around and you think of back in your, maybe your chemistry class and you remember these electron shells, right? So those are these like individual moments where these electrons get excited from say, a spherical state to these P orbital states.

And if you took those two states and you said, let us just make a quantum bit from that, [00:08:00] right? It is a two-level state, this S or P orbital, or if you like the electron, like the electron’s spin, spin up or spin down is a two-level quantum state. And from that, I can now build-up, what is called the quantum bit.

All right. That is a short for that as Q-bit. And that is the fundamental building block for quantum computation now. And what we do at Google is we design these with circuits. We design it with superconducting circuits. So, we are in a sense, fabricating atoms. Okay. These fabricated atoms are essentially the Lego building blocks that we use to stack up to make these circuits that then become a quantum processor and ultimately a quantum computer.

Nir Hindi: And I know at least for me, it is kind of difficult to understand the technical terms behind it. And I am a person that relates much more to examples. Why everyone [00:09:00] is so excited about quantum computing? What is its potential of? Can do you have some examples you can give me.

Erik Lucero: Yeah, this is a this is a great question. And, and it is, and I think it captures a lot of people’s imagination and inspiration to think about what will this new, you know, new tool is able to do for humanity as an example, one of those is the ability to simulate nature and specifically the ability that we might be able to discover better materials, better materials, say for better, more efficient batteries.

That would be a huge win for our, just our energy consumption and use. Of course, there is the idea of being able to come up with better medicines. The idea in pharmaceuticals. Just being able to predict these molecules in a better way, we kind of encapsulate all of that in this world, around quantum chemistry and material research.

Another one is around search, which you might appreciate just, you know, why Google might be interested, right. Being able to improve [00:10:00] search. And we know that there are, there are known algorithms. Like Grover’s algorithm that allows us to perform a search in a way that gets a speedup that would only be achievable using a quantum computer.

Nir Hindi: Okay. So that is a great point because that is what I hear on the news. Everyone speaks about the speed, and I do not know. I will just give an example and please forgive me for my ignorance but let us assume to develop a medicine takes on average 10 years, even though this year, we proved that we could do it even faster.

How quantum computing can help us with this development of medicine.

Erik Lucero: Yeah. So. A good way to think about this is that there are some of these problems that including those that said well, searching for better medicine or materials research that relies on the idea of being able to simulate the entire molecule.

Now that [00:11:00] requires a lot of memory like physical hard – you could think of hardware or Ram this random-access memory to just store the entire description of the problem. Today, the size of those problems. We could not even simulate say the caffeine molecule because it is just so large. Right. And so, if you are wanting to talk about much more complex ones where it is around, say medicines, just being able to store, we call that kind of the wave function of that system would just overwhelm all the computer’s memory that we have today on earth.

So, it is totally intractable, but if you have a quantum computer and you can map that to that system, Now you can watch how that system evolves naturally, and you can simulate what really happens. And then we can take measurements and explore what goes on in that, in that system, and compute the like, kind of like the ground state of that system and know some new ideas from that.

Whereas before it is completely intractable, it is not even a matter [00:12:00] of time. It is not only that we would not have the space to do it, or the computational power to do that.

Nir Hindi: So, it goes back to my next question. Why everyone excited about it? And if, if I am not mistaken last, last year, Google reached a certain point that from why they understood it is an important point. So why it is exciting? And what is this point that you achieved at Google?

Erik Lucero: Thank you. Yeah. I mean, I am, I am, I am excited about quantum computing. I have been doing it my entire life, basically at this point, my entire career. And, the, the achievement that our team at Google showed a year ago was this ability to show beyond classical calculation.

What does that mean? It meant that we, and we have our modest quantum processor of 54 Q-bits. And with that, we were able to do a particular calculation that no other computer on earth could do. And we showed [00:13:00] basically by extrapolating, how long it would take the largest supercomputer on earth to do.

And that’s around 10,000 years to do the same calculation that we did in a couple of hundred seconds on our quantum processor.

Nir Hindi: Wow.

Erik Lucero: That problem and that, this horizon that we have really, really crossed over basically introduces this whole new era of computing. And this has been coined the noisy intermediate-scale quantum era.

I will unpack all of that since there is a lot of words there, what it means is that we are now a, in an area in humanity and the computational abilities that we can now use these quantum systems. They are small. So, they are intermediate scale. They are noisy still. That is, they still are prone to what is called decohere.

So, you set up your, your quantum computer and you start to let it evolve, but there are errors that happen, and those errors will cause the system to lose [00:14:00] coherence. And decohere. So, you have a limited amount of space, time, volume to do your computation. Right. So, we prepare that system and we can run it, you know, millions and millions of repetitions and times to get good statistics of what the answer is.

But you still only have a limited amount of computational space, time, volume to do this experiment.

And you are trying to break this limitation of time.

Well, you are what you are trying to do is tend to grow that volume, right. You are trying to, by adding more Q-bits, but also by adding and making sure that they are of high quality, that is how well you can control them and how long they stay coherent.

At this point in our, in our current, but when we showed this with the Sycamore processor a year ago, that allowed us to, again, it is what opened. It is what Dawn, this NIST era, before that everything that you could do on a quantum processor could just be simulated on your laptop or your desktop or a supercomputer, [00:15:00] if you have access to one.

And what we showed was that now the game has totally changed. You basically must have a supercomputer to even kind of be in the game to do these simulations. And now, more importantly, you need to have access to a quantum computer.

Nir Hindi: Great. So first, I am positive that every time you go away to dinner with non-scientist, eh, people you have a lot of explanation to do.

And, and I am grateful because I learned a lot from the conversations we had and probably listeners now asking themselves. Why art, how art over here relates to quantum computing. And for that, I want to take you to your college, back to your own college day. And I think over here art kind of merging your own personnel and later in your professional life.

Tell me, about this.

Erik Lucero: Yeah, thank you actually [00:16:00] for that trip down memory lane. I, I grew up in Colorado. I went to a, a college university of Colorado in Denver where we shared campus in the urban area. And one of the highlights of that campus, not only what that I got to do, my bachelor’s in engineering and in physics there.

But where we had one of the world’s largest and the last wet lab for photography? So, we still use chemicals in a dark room. And I remember having in my senior year there, the access to that, and I took a class and I had had you know a spark when I was even in high school, that to be playing around with a camera and I then walked into this class and I, I just was total, I do not know. I just totally transfixed, and I ended up spending, you know, a good part of my last year of college in college. Getting into photography. And I began to shoot the things that were around me, which was a lot of science. I [00:17:00] worked in a superconducting lab. It was called the squid lab where we made these sensitive devices to study cryogenic dark matter.

So, it was part of this search for this called a CDs project. So, I had a lot of these beautiful objects around me. And I wanted to really memorialize what I had been doing and what was important to me at that time in my life. And so, I started to take pictures and at the time it was all black and white, but I got to go into a photo lab and do that.

Right. And at the time I did not really appreciate how much that would then later become something that I used even in the cleanroom when I was making devices and my graduate studies and, in an industry,

Nir Hindi: Because you, just one second.

So just for our listener to make sure yeah. You do not have any connection to art.

It will study pure science through the whole, your career. And by the way, guys, you can read scientific papers by Erik, just type in there. Right. You study pure science.

Erik Lucero: Yeah. [00:18:00] Yeah. I studied, I studied electrical engineering and then physics, and I did a Ph.D. in physics. So, my, my studies are, yeah, I am pure science and engineering.

But to me, it was all I, and yeah. So, I, you know, I. I took a class in photography. Right. And I began to just hone that skill. And I noticed the the, the parallel to the things that I was able to do with photography and, and the wave into explaining what we do when we make silicon devices or AR, or even our quantum processors when we it is very similar process to working in a dark room.

And I loved that connection and the same kinds of, you know, technique that we need to have and in cleanliness and watching what happens through each step and all the kind of you know, even the, the mise en place if you will be setting up your workplace so that you can perform the tasks that you need to do in a particular order.

And with, you know [00:19:00] exquisite care. And I think you must have that when you are in a dark room, that is a very creative space when you are making your photographs. And the same thing is true when you are working in a clean room when you are, you know, making, say quantum processors.

Nir Hindi: So now you took this same photography, and I do not know, is it now a hobby of yours?

If, if, if I would say.

Erik Lucero: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, if, if I may, I would say it is a, it is a hobby of mine. You know, I, I, I remember having you know, a, a couple of showings of my work and I have been able to have work published and, you know, people have purchased my work. So, in some ways it is a little bit more than a hobby, I guess.

But more importantly to me was that it was a way to describe and to show others this, even the scientific work that I am around, and I am privy to stuff that I have done and this access that I have to technology that most people in the world I have never even seen or even heard of in some cases, and a [00:20:00] picture can draw any audience in.

If you have got a well composed photo, it is usually the right kind of conversation starter. It is the kind of thing that someone wants to now ask you a question. What am I looking at? What is going on in this photo? Right. And I was noticing, you know, in my own scientific study and career that you know, scientists did not always think about composing a beautiful photograph to explain their work.

They would instead spend a lot of time composing a beautiful graph. Right or, you know, to show the data. And of course, that is very important as well. And I spend the time to do that, but if you can land a beautiful photograph, you can capture everybody’s imagination in the, in the audience, not just the scientists, but everybody.

And then you can have the conversations about what it is that you are doing and looking at.

Nir Hindi: So, so now actually you are using photography to advance the, the, the work of science that you are doing.

Erik Lucero: Yes.

Nir Hindi: In, in which way? [00:21:00] I am interested to hear about that.

Erik Lucero: Yeah. So, you know, as an example, if you type in quantum processor or quantum computer in Google, several the photos that come up are the photos that I have taken of these devices.

In in fact, the, the, the Sycamore device we have an image of that processor, which is one of many things to, to look at the comprise, a quantum computer, you know, there is another image I have of these refrigerators that we use to cool these devices. And when you look at that refrigerator, I mean, it looks like a sculpture it is a, it is almost like this chandelier, this beautiful piece of art, right. But that is a physical, you know, instrument that we have built and being able to show a beautiful image of that, I think helps people again, draws them in and wants them to ask questions of what it is that they are looking at.

Am I looking at a at a you know, a steam punk, squid of some kind, like, what is this, what is this beautiful piece that I am seeing? Right. So, to me, that is, that’s [00:22:00] an example of where we, we make sure that we are also sharing the things that we get to see in our everyday life that almost become, I do not want people to take it for granted.

It is not just pedestrian. I want you to be pulled into this lab with us and see what it is that we are building.

Nir Hindi: And Erik I have a question. Can we see these, these photos?

Erik Lucero: Yes. Yes. I there is, there is some that are, you know, I have shared you know, online. I would be happy to share with you Nir a nice collection of these and have the audience that is listening today be able to look at these, these photos, be happy to share.

Nir Hindi: Yeah, that is do it. So, guys, check the show notes to see Erik’s photos that he takes of all the quantum computing, pallets or I do not know how to define it. Components. Yeah.

Erik Lucero: Yeah. The quantum computer itself, the quantum processor, all the technology and things that we are building in the lab.

Nir Hindi: So, so you are, obviously you, you are, [00:23:00] you will produce the portfolio of iconic photos, documenting the quantum processors over the years. And I am interested. Why are you doing it? You already mentioned to kind of communicate. Are there any reasons, or even how people respond to these, this photo? I know when I saw it, I said, wow.

It is like, yeah. As you mentioned even the chips themselves are designed and scalped in a very symmetric beautiful way. Yeah.

Erik Lucero: Yeah. Yeah. I, and I, and I love that. I love for me, it’s not only a, an opportunity to, to drop in you know, late at night after a day of work or a long week or something and to just be with these systems that we’ve built, that, you know, our team has built and to, you know, take a fresh perspective of not only, you know, all the work that we’re putting in to get this into a, into [00:24:00] a system, but also looking at these individual components and celebrating those and celebrating the work done in every one of those pieces and trying to get a perspective. That can do that. Like in some of these, like with the processor, there is this beautiful diffraction of light that happens, and you get these amazing rainbow colors.

Right. And that is since we use very small superconducting lines of metal. So, these are metal lines, maybe the thickness of a hair. That defines these lines. And we repeat that a bunch of times, hundreds of times across the device. And so, when light hits it, you get this beautiful diffraction pattern, and it looks like a rainbow.

Right. And it, it, it is it is, I mean, lights refracting across that chip. I mean, this is beautiful and that is because of the design that we have laid out on this, on this chip.

Nir Hindi: Yeah. I am positive listeners. You cannot see me, but I am smiling because you already noticed that Eric could describe it [00:25:00] beautifully.

So. Not only that he has a photography skill, kind of a poetry skill Erik. You speak about quantum computing, which by the way, that is a great opportunity to mention it that in the Google, eh, quantum summer summit, one of the things that I, I love that you guys did is that you brought her up there and a poet to speak about a quantum computing.

And maybe even we will hear it.

Erik Lucero: Yes. Yes. There is a good chance that you will get to hear it.

Nir Hindi: Great.

Erik Lucero: Yeah, that was, you know, this is a testament to the entire team, and I think how much, how important it is to have artists working with scientists. And that was, you know, I think that’s a, a public demonstration of how much our team values it.

Right. This is a typically a symposium where we were we speak of all the great things that you can do with a quantum computer. But what a great way to kick it [00:26:00] off with a wrap or to close the evening with a rap, right. And to bring in an, you know, a world-renowned poet, and she has got these just this, this control of language that is better than our control of Q-bits. Right? It is fantastic. It was just so inspiring to listen to and what she had dropped into when she was starting to learn about quantum computing and how that made her think about the world.

Nir Hindi: And you took it one step further. And you invited Forest Stearns, who was a guest in this a last episode of our first season to become kind of a creative collaborator artist-in-residence and Google quantum computing.

So, before we even discuss the work, you and Forest are doing how you two met.

Erik Lucero: Yeah. So, I, I learned of Forest’s work while he was at planet. Which is a small, it is a, well, it is a large company now as a [00:27:00] startup satellites. And you know, I have a colleague colleagues of mine at Google that we learned about planet because there was some incubation at Google for that technology.

And they had had, we had a satellite startup kind of inside of Google and then that kind of rolled out to plan it. And so, I had colleagues who knew of it. And they had seen the pictures that I had taken of hardware of our lab. And they were like, you know, you need to talk to this guy at, you know, at, at planet.

And I remember basically cold calling Forest, sending him pictures and being like, you need to come work with me. Like here is some pictures of what quantum computing looks like. I know you are into this like space art stuff, but come, come be a quantum artist.

Nir Hindi: Amazing.

Erik Lucero: So yeah, I went and cold called him, and I asked him, I asked him to have lunch with me while I was in the Bay.

And I am based in Santa Barbara, and I was, you know, sometimes I get up to mountain view where kind of the headquarters is for Google. And I took a chance to go up to San [00:28:00] Francisco and meet him for lunch. And that was where I basically recruited him to come work with me.

Nir Hindi: Amazing. Hey, before we will ask you, what are you doing over there?

Let us take a short break.

Erik Lucero: Sounds good.

Nir Hindi: One second. Let me save it.

We are back with Erik Lucero talking about the quantum computing and art. And just before the break Erik, we started to speak about you and Forest, and now you have quantum artist. Forest became moved from space out these two quantum artists. Why have you wanted to have an artist in a, such a scientific environment?

Erik Lucero: Yeah, I, I think it is, it is just as I was describing earlier, the importance of being able to describe kind of my own work and our team’s work through the photographs of the things that, you know, were the technology and the artifacts that we build in the lab. I think it is [00:29:00] important that we understand the, you know, just the levity that the gravity of what quantum computing is for the world and appreciating that artists are the ones that really do a great job in providing a narrative and helping everyone in the world understand what it is they are looking at. And some ways artists beat people to scientists to the punch, right? There is even, I think of chefs, you know, they, we had amazing chefs in the world that created these flavors and all these amazing dishes that we have enjoyed in our lives.

And only later have we understood in science really the underlying reasons and taste buds and all the way that we under inexperience food and delicious and amazing things. Right? So, for, for this case, for, for our team at Google, it was important for me to, to get ahead of this and to say, we have got we have got, we owe this to the world to be able [00:30:00] to explain this and to show this, this technology as a beautiful thing.

Right. This is a, this is a human creation, and it is working with you know, it is harnessing its harnessing nature. It is working with nature and being able to describe that in a beautiful way. I think that is very important. So that is one that is, those are some reasons. I think another one is that you want to, you want to have this I call it, you know Intellectual diversity on your team, right.

And not just a bunch of scientists trying to push on one in one direction, but also to have you know, some heterogeneity to the way that we all work together and think, and having an artist in residence, in the labs with us working shoulder to shoulder or being around all the other scientists in our lab, that is an important thing that I wanted to get ahead of.

Right. And I wanted to have Forest again you know, I look at the things that Forest had [00:31:00] done and his connection to nature and how much he celebrates that. And I look at that is exactly the right person to start this project with.

Nir Hindi: So, you, you talked about, if I kind of a summarize it, you mentioned external values that the artist-in-residence brings like the education of what you guys are doing and communicating it and internal things like kind of maybe spark curiosity and creating new conversations. And one of the things you also did, and I will be happy if we can talk about it because I love the way you frame it.

You also invited Forest to take part in the designing of the new building. Now, one of the things that you said, I did not want to have an artist there just because we have empty walls, but I wanted him to take really part in the design of the building. Tell us about how, how it works and why you want it for us to be involved in this process.

Erik Lucero: Yeah. Well, thank you for the [00:32:00] nice summary of and that, that question. So, what was about three or four years ago in my mind was building a new building for our team. And we started that process you know, with, with, with my team and with, you know, we hired architects on that team.

And as we start to build out that space and laying it out, there were several things that we wanted to make sure that we got right. For example, an important part to any deep-thinking scientist or engineer or creative type is the ability to be able to think and have that uninterrupted time and space to do that.

There is also an important touchstone to our technology and our group is that we build hardware. So, in our current space, it is much like a garage feeling where you get up from your seat, you walk a few steps, and you are into the lab. Well, as soon as the team grows and the space gets bigger, you are naturally going to have these distances from you in the [00:33:00] lab.

So, we really wanted to make sure that we had almost like a fishbowl setup where you can look and peer into the lab and you are not ever very far from it. You can still see it and almost experience it. And then it is a short walk to get into the lab. So, when we started to arrange the space and look at what we had, where we had, it is a beautiful high Bay lab, 30-foot ceilings with this you know, glass area around it that you can peer in and see the lab space. There is an important part of geometry and how we wanted to arrange really the focal points as you move through the space. So not only as a visitor, not only as an employee, that you experienced the space, and you go on that same journey of what we have done when we have built the space. So, when someone enters the space, they walk through, what is called a museum walk and that museum walk takes you through all the sequences that we take to build the quantum computer. You see these individual components in these systems to get there.

And Forest has helped to work with each [00:34:00] individual engineer who may have built some of these pieces of technology, right. Those pieces. But as you walk through kind of the, almost, you know, it is a reception area, but it is, we call it the museum walk. As you come past that you see all these pieces and they all start to come together.

And then as you open into the lab, you will see these amazing works of art. That those are our cryo stats and they are the, the, the, the murals that Forest has painted. And these murals are the things that communicated to the architecture of that space. The building and the technology that we are building.

So, Forest was there. When, you know, we would sit with the architects, he was there when he would sit with my team, and we would go in, and we described the spaces and what we were trying to achieve. And now we have this beautiful space. We cannot wait to share with the world. Right. What this looks like and feels like to do science and to build a quantum computer there.

Nir Hindi: Sounds amazing. And Erik I am interested. I mean, how do you think, or [00:35:00] what do you feel that the team or how the team responds to respond to these initiatives that you brought an artist and now you have these murals, and you have different activities with, with an artist.

Erik Lucero: I think it is a very positive response.

I see the, the, the team is very creative already, and I think this tap into other ways that they may not always exercise those parts of their brain. And in some cases, it heightens it because some of them are already that creative and they have these artistic outlets, or they have other folks that they want to bring in.

And that is, that is what we are starting to bring up is how do we start to scale this process and bringing Forest on to establish an artist in residence where he has this just great experience to pool on where he has already done this, he is built you know, an artist in residence at planet.

Where these artists have gone on to do amazing things. I [00:36:00] worked with him. I would love to do the same. That is exactly the idea is to now bring this and let it be an inclusive environment where our, our scientists are also working with artists and not just Forest, right. To grow that and for Forest to help to direct and curate I mean this, this to me is a great way to grow.

Not only the science and engineering, but the artistic community well in quantum computing.

Nir Hindi: And I am positive that you get some critiques or maybe cynical, eh, eh, response and people say, Erik, why do you waste time and money on this? Why, how do, how do you deal with that? Or what would you answer or what are you answering?

Erik Lucero: Yeah. I invite them to look at what we are doing. I, and usually it does not take much too shy to, once you start to share, share the, the artifacts that have been created or for them to experience and walk there with you that minds change quick.

[00:37:00] Nir Hindi: Yeah. So, people, people are kind of transforming from, from being a critic of the arts to kind of support this.

Erik Lucero: I believe so. And you know, in any, in any situation you are going to always have, you are not going to have to please everyone. Yeah, there is going to be an art is an artist and it is an important one, an important, an experience that is, it is very individual experience, right? And it can evoke very different emotions for everyone.

And it is important to hear those out and to really listen to how people feel because of that. And, and know that our, my intention in doing these things has been to inspire. It is to bring people into a space where they work, that they feel inspired to do and build the future.

And if those are not the things that they are feeling, I want to hear from them and understand what we can do to help celebrate the work that they are doing. [00:38:00] Right. And they know that the intention is there. And so now it is a little bit more about these perspectives that you must help shape and not everybody understands or can critique art or even speak about it in ways.

So, you sometimes must drop in with them to hear what the words are they are using to describe their work. And how can I bring that out in some great art around us?

Nir Hindi: And do you have example like this, that, because I think you are saying things that kind of spot on to some of the things that I talk about because we often hear about vision of a company and, and how to translate it.

And one of the things you just mentioned is that. Yeah. I want to hear from my people, what is their vision and how I can translate it. So, do you have projects that you are already working that I am helping bring this vision or aspiration that your team has in using the work of a Forest?

Erik Lucero: So, I spoke a little bit, I [00:39:00] briefly mentioned it earlier on this museum walk.

And this is just beginning to, you know, it is in the early stages of taking the artifacts that have been built by our team and, and, and celebrating those. Not only, I mean, if you just, you know, you take a piece of hardware, And if you, if you present it in a, in a, in a way that celebrates it, like a piece of art, suddenly that piece of hardware has elevated it is almost graduated from, it was just this thing on a table to, wow. I need to take a moment and kind of contemplate all the work, the blood, sweat, and tears that went into making that thing. Right. That, that object and it functions. It has a, you know, a function to control a quantum computer, for example and interesting the way that Forest was introduced to the team was to do [00:40:00] just that. We had just completed this nice electronic custom control electronics for our quantum computer.

And we had a kind of celebration for the team Forest came on and he painted these beautiful paintings of birds. So, we call the collection of our control electronics we call that an aviary. And so, each one of the different control electronics. So, there is like a Heron board and that does a specific function.

There is you know, a an eagle board, right. Which has a specific function. And what Forest did, was he painted live while everyone was there doing the meeting, right. With this huge all hands meeting, he painted live these beautiful pictures of these birds. And now these are up, you know, in the, in our lab celebrating again, this idea of an aviary, but all these birds that are corresponding to people’s work.

I mean, I have people who like, you know, stand up next to that and like have taken pictures next to the bird or did they create it? Right. It is [00:41:00] beautiful.

Nir Hindi: So, so, so wait, so now I have another question. Can, can we see those pictures? Oh yes.

Erik Lucero: Yes. So, w that one we have w I will work with Forest, and we will have, we have some nice pictures of the paintings.

Okay. We will share the audio.

Nir Hindi: Great. So, we will have it as well on the show notes. I love it. The point that you just mentioned, because I think it brings another flavor to out in the world of a business of workspaces that you make your own employees happy or proud about their own work or see it in a different light.

So that is, I think it is a, it is a, it is another beautiful layer, eh, aspect. And Erik, I am interested, you, you, you are a scientist, and you have obviously passion for the arts and you yourself, eh, using photography. I am interested. What are the similarities that you see between artists [00:42:00] and scientists and then maybe what are the differences?

Erik Lucero: I see them as very similar you know, the, especially the space that, you know, the creative minds, right. I think you have a very similar process where you need these, you know, uninterrupted deep, deep, deep thought. You know, kind of moments to really get into your craft. I see in both cases, the similarity of getting things done, like creating objects or artifacts or, or even performances.

Every one of those, you know, even if they are a theory like that for like a performance those are you are, you are, you are completing a task, you are completing something and a scientist or engineer, like that is an important part of being able to complete an experiment. I have a my, my oldest sister is a, is a chef.

She is an executive chef and has, as we have tracked our careers, I have noticed the [00:43:00] similarities in our career. I can call her and basically, we drop into conversations, and it seems like we are living a very similar life. Even though she is in, you know, the, the hot place, making food, amazing food. And you know, and I am in a, I am in a lab, you know, creating, you know, a quantum computer and the similarities there to me are, there is more similarities than there I think there are differences in my mind.

Nir Hindi: And if you have, if you were to mention one differences, what is friends?

Erik Lucero: Well, I think one difference and this well I am, I will see if this is a different, so let us go down this track. So, I think about, you know, there’s. A lot around these. Sometimes we say the words like a bespoke or artisanal kind of craft and artisanal has the word art in it.

Right. That, you know, these are kind of these unique one-off things well, in what we are trying to do and what a lot of scientists and engineers try to do is they try to [00:44:00] show that we can make it more than just once. Right. That we can make it a bunch of times and make it better every time.

And, and sometimes an artist and same with a scientist too, I guess. But sometimes an artist might be like, I have made that once. I do not need to make it again. Right. So, I, again, I am, we will see that still as a similarity, but there are these unique, you know, aspects that you want in engineering and science sometimes to then show that you can make things, you know, reliable and better over time.

Nir Hindi: So, I have, I have maybe a, another kind of a question. I want you to recommend the scientists that listening to us, why they should engage with art if they are still not convinced after this conversation. Because one of the things that, you know, I always say that at least for me, artists, entrepreneurs, and scientists are very similar in the way they do things in the way they think, but still our [00:45:00] education system. Our work environment is very siloed in a way that even in a way that entrepreneurs and scientists are much closer because science is the core of innovation, but art is kind of out there. It is nice to have. It is must does not have. And one of the things that I get excited is when I meet people like you, that understand that science is important, but we cannot lose the connection to our humanity, which is the art. So why, why a scientist? Should engage with our should get to know out this.

Erik Lucero: I will give you. I will get, I could list a bunch of reasons. The first one that comes to mind is the, the ability to inspire and tell your story to be able to give narrative to the work that you are doing.

That is always really, well done by an artist. That is one. So being able to [00:46:00] educate, explain to, you know, a broader audience to reach more people about what it is that you are doing. And now that can look from a scientist point of view, Hey, you need to get funding to do your science, to do your work, right.

How well are you telling the story of what it is that you are doing and the impact that it has on humanity? Right. And artists can help with that. I talked about it earlier about the, the inspiration that it brings to the team and the others that are working in the lab together. Right. And these different views.

I think, as we look back at this year in 2020, we look back at 2020 is a year that we all went to our, our artists to, to, to, to make it through this year, whether it was the music that we used to go to, you know, these amazing live performances. And we just do not have those right now. So, what do we fall back to that?

We, we listened to those albums that, you know, changed our lives. Right? We listen, we, we read the books that, you know, all these things that these are. Artistic creations that were [00:47:00] very important to the inspiration and getting us through 2020. And I love to think about how that is going to propel us forward.


Nir Hindi: Great. Erik, where one last question. When will we see a quantum computing what quantum compute them function?

Erik Lucero: Well, let me be specific and say we do have, we have a quantum computer functioning today. That was the Sycamore processor that we talked about earlier. And what we are driving towards is this idea of an error corrected quantum computer.

So, I talked, we had this old mouthful of a noisy intermediate scale quantum computer. That is where we are today. And we want to get to this error corrected fault, tolerant error, corrected quantum computer. I believe that is within the decade. It is 10 years out. Maybe even see it before 2030. And that is what we are doing at Google.

We are trying to build towards an error corrected quantum [00:48:00] computer within the decade. And that is, you can think about some important parts there are these ideas that we have. The first kind of digital component of a quantum computer is this, you know, forever Q-bit. And once we show that we can build a forever Q-bit, we just must copy and paste that a bunch of times, like I said, these engineers really love to do then make it a bunch of times good.

And with that, we will have an error corrected quantum computer, and we can start to solve some of these you know, exciting problems that I talked about earlier in the show.

Nir Hindi: Erik, first, good luck on this mission. Thank you. I am positive that, eh, with this energy and this, eh, not losing sight about our humanities, it is, it is a great place to be.

Thank you very, very much for taking the time to share all these information and. For bringing out into the world of science because I always say it is these individuals like you. I always say again, I would say [00:49:00] that behind every creative and innovative company or department, there is a first name and a last name, and I am fortunate and grateful to speak with Erik Lucero, the first name and last name in Google, a quantum computing.

Erik Lucero: Thank you very much. It is really a pleasure talking with you and thank you for having me. Great.