Monthly Archives: February 2012

Rescued From the Blogroll Memory Hole

During the week my professional life leaves me no time to create original content.  Yet, there is a lot of excellent material out there pertinent to the nascent quantum information industry. So to fill the inter-week void I think it is very worthwhile to try to rescue recent blogroll posts from obscurity.

Very relevant to the surprise that Scott Aaronson came around on D-Wave is Robert Tucci’s great technical review of D-Wave’s recent Nature paper.  If you are not afraid of some math and are tired of the void verbiage that passes for popular science journalism than this is for you.

Scott Aaronson Visits D-Wave – No Casualties Reported

Those following the quantum computing story and D-Wave are well aware of the controversial scuffle between Scott and the company.  So it’s quite newsworthy that according to Scott’s own accord the hatchet has been buried. No more comparing the D‑Wave One to a roast beef sandwich (hopefully BLT is out of the picture too).

Scott is still taking on D-Wave’s pointy-haired bosses though.  He wants them to open the purse-strings to determine more clearly how “quantum” the Rainier chip really is.

Unfortunately, I think he overlooks that pointy-haired bosses are only interested in the bottom line.  At this point there is nothing stopping D-Wave from selling their system as a quantum computer. Not a universal one but who’s counting.  Any closer inquiry into the nature of their qbits only carries the danger to add qualifiers to this claim.  So why should they bother?

In terms of marketing, the label “Quantum Computer” is just a nice nifty term signifying to potential customers that this is a shiny, cool new device.  Something different.  It is supposed to serve as a door opener for sales.  Afterwards it just comes down to the price/performance ratio.

At this point D-Wave One sales won’t benefit from further clarifying how much entanglement is occurring in their system – I see this only change once there is actual competition in this space.

Update:  I finally don’t have to develop a cognitive dissonance about adding Scott’s and D‑Wave’s blog to my blogroll. So to celebrate this historic peace accord this is my next step in the development of this most important website.  BTW if you still need an argument why it is worthwhile to pay attention to Scott, treat yourself to his TedX talk (h/t to Perry Hooker).

Where Buzzwords Go to Die

It is a pretty sure sign that a buzzword is near the end of its life cycle when the academic world uses it for promotional purposes. Ever more science research comes with its own version of marketing hype.  What makes this such a sad affair, is that this is usually done pretty badly.

So why is spouting that quantum computing makes for perfect cloud computing really, really bad marketing?

“Cloud computing” is the latest buzzword iteration of “computing as a service”, and as far as buzzwords  go it served its purpose well.  It is still in wide circulation but the time is nigh that it will be put out to pasture, and replaced with something that sounds more shiny – while signifying the very same thing.

Quantum computing on the other hand is not a buzzword. It is a revolution in the making. To hitch it to the transitory cloud computing term is bad marketing in its own right, but the way that it is done in this case, is ever more damaging.  There is already one class of quantum information devices commercially available: Quantum Key Distribution systems. They are almost tailor-made to secure current Cloud infrastructures and alleviate the security concerns that  are holding this business model back (especially in Europe).

But you’d never know from reading the sorry news stories about the (otherwise quite remarkable) experiment to demonstrate blind quantum computing.  To the contrary, an uniformed reader will come away with the impression that you won’t have acceptable privacy in the cloud unless full-scale quantum computing becomes a reality.

Compare and contrast to this exquisite quantum computing marketing stunt. While the latter brings attention and confidence to the field at zero cost, this bought and paid for marketing couldn’t be further of the mark. It is almost like it’s designed to hold the entire industry back.  Simply pitiful.

Quantum Computing Micro Poll

Although the data basis is extremely small I think the results from this poll may still be instructive because I only advertised it within the LinkedIn Quantum Information Science Group.  I feel reasonably confident that the two dozen individuals of the roughly 1000 members of this group who bothered to vote are pretty well-informed on the subject matter.  The results indicate that the race is still wide open when asked what technology will first allow for more than a 100 quantum gates:

Click on the image to go to the live poll

Another little fun fact (although not statistically significant) is to compare the average age of the voter demographics:  The classic way of quantum realization (trapped ions) also has the highest average voter age at 37.5 years, while the youngest average age is recorded for the photonic approach at 29 years.

Unfortunately LinkedIn polls only allow for five choices. So I had to pick what I think are the front-runners.  Would love to learn what QC realizations the three votes for “something else” are referring to.

Quantum Computing Bounty

If you can hunt down this dog cat and kill Quantum Computing for good than there will be a mighty big reward waiting for you.  Scott Aaronson put up a bounty of $100,000.  All you have to do is prove that universal Quantum Computing is impossible in the real world.

Cartoon drawing by Becky Thorn

On the surface there are a couple of surprises here:  Scott doesn’t really hate quantum computing – he’s actually basing his academic career on it. And herein lies the rub for the even bigger surprise: This academic really knows how to create one heck of a marketing stunt.  His blog was already flooded after slashdot reported on this and more media is now jumping on the bandwagon.  This is an awful lot of free publicity for a marketing budget of exactly zero dimes (and this cost includes the net present value of the bounty money).

Hat’s off!