Can Error Mitigation Improve Trainability of Noisy Variational Quantum Algorithms?

by   Samson Wang, et al.

Variational Quantum Algorithms (VQAs) are widely viewed as the best hope for near-term quantum advantage. However, recent studies have shown that noise can severely limit the trainability of VQAs, e.g., by exponentially flattening the cost landscape and suppressing the magnitudes of cost gradients. Error Mitigation (EM) shows promise in reducing the impact of noise on near-term devices. Thus, it is natural to ask whether EM can improve the trainability of VQAs. In this work, we first show that, for a broad class of EM strategies, exponential cost concentration cannot be resolved without committing exponential resources elsewhere. This class of strategies includes as special cases Zero Noise Extrapolation, Virtual Distillation, Probabilistic Error Cancellation, and Clifford Data Regression. Second, we perform analytical and numerical analysis of these EM protocols, and we find that some of them (e.g., Virtual Distillation) can make it harder to resolve cost function values compared to running no EM at all. As a positive result, we do find numerical evidence that Clifford Data Regression (CDR) can aid the training process in certain settings where cost concentration is not too severe. Our results show that care should be taken in applying EM protocols as they can either worsen or not improve trainability. On the other hand, our positive results for CDR highlight the possibility of engineering error mitigation methods to improve trainability.



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