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Martin Larocca, Supanut Thanasilp, Samson Wang, Kunal Sharma, Jacob Biamonte, Patrick J. Coles, Lukasz Cincio, Jarrod R. McClean, Zoë Holmes, M. Cerezo

Variational quantum computing offers a flexible computational paradigm with applications in diverse areas. However, a key obstacle to realizing their potential is the Barren Plateau (BP) phenomenon. When a model exhibits a BP, its parameter optimization landscape becomes exponentially flat and featureless as the problem size increases. Importantly, all the moving pieces of an algorithm -- choices of ansatz, initial state, observable, loss function and hardware noise -- can lead to BPs when ill-suited. Due to the significant impact of BPs on trainability, researchers have dedicated considerable effort to develop theoretical and heuristic methods to understand and mitigate their effects. As a result, the study of BPs has become a thriving area of research, influencing and cross-fertilizing other fields such as quantum optimal control, tensor networks, and learning theory. This article provides a comprehensive review of the current understanding of the BP phenomenon.

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Ricard Puig i Valls, Marc Drudis, Supanut Thanasilp, Zoë Holmes

The barren plateau phenomenon, characterized by loss gradients that vanish exponentially with system size, poses a challenge to scaling variational quantum algorithms. Here we explore the potential of warm starts, whereby one initializes closer to a solution in the hope of enjoying larger loss variances. Focusing on an iterative variational method for learning shorter-depth circuits for quantum real and imaginary time evolution we conduct a case study to elucidate the potential and limitations of warm starts. We start by proving that the iterative variational algorithm will exhibit substantial (at worst vanishing polynomially in system size) gradients in a small region around the initializations at each time-step. Convexity guarantees for these regions are then established, suggesting trainability for polynomial size time-steps. However, our study highlights scenarios where a good minimum shifts outside the region with trainability guarantees. Our analysis leaves open the question whether such minima jumps necessitate optimization across barren plateau landscapes or whether there exist gradient flows, i.e., fertile valleys away from the plateau with substantial gradients, that allow for training.

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Weijie Xiong, Giorgio Facelli, Mehrad Sahebi, Owen Agnel, Thiparat Chotibut, Supanut Thanasilp, Zoë Holmes

Quantum Extreme Learning Machines (QELMs) have emerged as a promising framework for quantum machine learning. Their appeal lies in the rich feature map induced by the dynamics of a quantum substrate - the quantum reservoir - and the efficient post-measurement training via linear regression. Here we study the expressivity of QELMs by decomposing the prediction of QELMs into a Fourier series. We show that the achievable Fourier frequencies are determined by the data encoding scheme, while Fourier coefficients depend on both the reservoir and the measurement. Notably, the expressivity of QELMs is fundamentally limited by the number of Fourier frequencies and the number of observables, while the complexity of the prediction hinges on the reservoir. As a cautionary note on scalability, we identify four sources that can lead to the exponential concentration of the observables as the system size grows (randomness, hardware noise, entanglement, and global measurements) and show how this can turn QELMs into useless input-agnostic oracles. Our analysis elucidates the potential and fundamental limitations of QELMs, and lays the groundwork for systematically exploring quantum reservoir systems for other machine learning tasks.

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M. Cerezo, Martin Larocca, Diego García-Martín, N. L. Diaz, Paolo Braccia, Enrico Fontana, Manuel S. Rudolph, Pablo Bermejo, Aroosa Ijaz, Supanut Thanasilp, Eric R. Anschuetz, Zoë Holmes

A large amount of effort has recently been put into understanding the barren plateau phenomenon. In this perspective article, we face the increasingly loud elephant in the room and ask a question that has been hinted at by many but not explicitly addressed: Can the structure that allows one to avoid barren plateaus also be leveraged to efficiently simulate the loss classically? We present strong evidence that commonly used models with provable absence of barren plateaus are also classically simulable, provided that one can collect some classical data from quantum devices during an initial data acquisition phase. This follows from the observation that barren plateaus result from a curse of dimensionality, and that current approaches for solving them end up encoding the problem into some small, classically simulable, subspaces. This sheds serious doubt on the non-classicality of the information processing capabilities of parametrized quantum circuits for barren plateau-free landscapes and on the possibility of superpolynomial advantages from running them on quantum hardware. We end by discussing caveats in our arguments, the role of smart initializations, and by highlighting new opportunities that our perspective raises.

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Manuel S. Rudolph, Sacha Lerch, Supanut Thanasilp, Oriel Kiss, Sofia Vallecorsa, Michele Grossi, Zoë Holmes

Quantum generative models, in providing inherently efficient sampling strategies, show promise for achieving a near-term advantage on quantum hardware. Nonetheless, important questions remain regarding their scalability. In this work, we investigate the barriers to the trainability of quantum generative models posed by barren plateaus and exponential loss concentration. We explore the interplay between explicit and implicit models and losses, and show that using implicit generative models (such as quantum circuit-based models) with explicit losses (such as the KL divergence) leads to a new flavour of barren plateau. In contrast, the Maximum Mean Discrepancy (MMD), which is a popular example of an implicit loss, can be viewed as the expectation value of an observable that is either low-bodied and trainable, or global and untrainable depending on the choice of kernel. However, in parallel, we highlight that the low-bodied losses required for trainability cannot in general distinguish high-order correlations, leading to a fundamental tension between exponential concentration and the emergence of spurious minima. We further propose a new local quantum fidelity-type loss which, by leveraging quantum circuits to estimate the quality of the encoded distribution, is both faithful and enjoys trainability guarantees. Finally, we compare the performance of different loss functions for modelling real-world data from the High-Energy-Physics domain and confirm the trends predicted by our theoretical results.

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Sofiene Jerbi, Joe Gibbs, Manuel S. Rudolph, Matthias C. Caro, Patrick J. Coles, Hsin-Yuan Huang, Zoë Holmes

Quantum process learning is emerging as an important tool to study quantum systems. While studied extensively in coherent frameworks, where the target and model system can share quantum information, less attention has been paid to whether the dynamics of quantum systems can be learned without the system and target directly interacting. Such incoherent frameworks are practically appealing since they open up methods of transpiling quantum processes between the different physical platforms without the need for technically challenging hybrid entanglement schemes. Here we provide bounds on the sample complexity of learning unitary processes incoherently by analyzing the number of measurements that are required to emulate well-established coherent learning strategies. We prove that if arbitrary measurements are allowed, then any efficiently representable unitary can be efficiently learned within the incoherent framework; however, when restricted to shallow-depth measurements only low-entangling unitaries can be learned. We demonstrate our incoherent learning algorithm for low entangling unitaries by successfully learning a 16-qubit unitary on \texttt{ibmq\_kolkata}, and further demonstrate the scalabilty of our proposed algorithm through extensive numerical experiments.

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Supanut Thanasilp, Samson Wang, M. Cerezo, Zoë Holmes

Kernel methods in Quantum Machine Learning (QML) have recently gained significant attention as a potential candidate for achieving a quantum advantage in data analysis. Among other attractive properties, when training a kernel-based model one is guaranteed to find the optimal model's parameters due to the convexity of the training landscape. However, this is based on the assumption that the quantum kernel can be efficiently obtained from a quantum hardware. In this work we study the trainability of quantum kernels from the perspective of the resources needed to accurately estimate kernel values. We show that, under certain conditions, values of quantum kernels over different input data can be exponentially concentrated (in the number of qubits) towards some fixed value, leading to an exponential scaling of the number of measurements required for successful training. We identify four sources that can lead to concentration including: the expressibility of data embedding, global measurements, entanglement and noise. For each source, an associated concentration bound of quantum kernels is analytically derived. Lastly, we show that when dealing with classical data, training a parametrized data embedding with a kernel alignment method is also susceptible to exponential concentration. Our results are verified through numerical simulations for several QML tasks. Altogether, we provide guidelines indicating that certain features should be avoided to ensure the efficient evaluation and the trainability of quantum kernel methods.

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Joe Gibbs, Zoë Holmes, Matthias C. Caro, Nicholas Ezzell, Hsin-Yuan Huang, Lukasz Cincio, Andrew T. Sornborger, Patrick J. Coles

Much attention has been paid to dynamical simulation and quantum machine learning (QML) independently as applications for quantum advantage, while the possibility of using QML to enhance dynamical simulations has not been thoroughly investigated. Here we develop a framework for using QML methods to simulate quantum dynamics on near-term quantum hardware. We use generalization bounds, which bound the error a machine learning model makes on unseen data, to rigorously analyze the training data requirements of an algorithm within this framework. This provides a guarantee that our algorithm is resource-efficient, both in terms of qubit and data requirements. Our numerics exhibit efficient scaling with problem size, and we simulate 20 times longer than Trotterization on IBMQ-Bogota.

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Matthias C. Caro, Hsin-Yuan Huang, Nicholas Ezzell, Joe Gibbs, Andrew T. Sornborger, Lukasz Cincio, Patrick J. Coles, Zoë Holmes

Generalization bounds are a critical tool to assess the training data requirements of Quantum Machine Learning (QML). Recent work has established guarantees for in-distribution generalization of quantum neural networks (QNNs), where training and testing data are assumed to be drawn from the same data distribution. However, there are currently no results on out-of-distribution generalization in QML, where we require a trained model to perform well even on data drawn from a distribution different from the training distribution. In this work, we prove out-of-distribution generalization for the task of learning an unknown unitary using a QNN and for a broad class of training and testing distributions. In particular, we show that one can learn the action of a unitary on entangled states using only product state training data. We numerically illustrate this by showing that the evolution of a Heisenberg spin chain can be learned using only product training states. Since product states can be prepared using only single-qubit gates, this advances the prospects of learning quantum dynamics using near term quantum computers and quantum experiments, and further opens up new methods for both the classical and quantum compilation of quantum circuits.

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Nic Ezzell, Zoë Holmes, Patrick J. Coles

We consider a quantum version of the famous low-rank approximation problem. Specifically, we consider the distance $D(\rho,\sigma)$ between two normalized quantum states, $\rho$ and $\sigma$, where the rank of $\sigma$ is constrained to be at most $R$. For both the trace distance and Hilbert-Schmidt distance, we analytically solve for the optimal state $\sigma$ that minimizes this distance. For the Hilbert-Schmidt distance, the unique optimal state is $\sigma = \tau_R +N_R$, where $\tau_R = \Pi_R \rho \Pi_R$ is given by projecting $\rho$ onto its $R$ principal components with projector $\Pi_R$, and $N_R$ is a normalization factor given by $N_R = \frac{1- \text{Tr}(\tau_R)}{R}\Pi_R$. For the trace distance, this state is also optimal but not uniquely optimal, and we provide the full set of states that are optimal. We briefly discuss how our results have application for performing principal component analysis (PCA) via variational optimization on quantum computers.

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