I continue to be enthused by the efforts of D-Wave Systems from Burnaby, Canada:
The Quantum Computing Company That Could
These intrepid folks have overcome the most extreme and vitriolic attacks from other members of the physics community. Rather than welcome the new approach signified by quantum annealing and adiabatic computing, the Academic Physics community issued a constant stream of negative commentary, ridicule and invective.
In their minds, the idea was pure poison, an idea to be opposed because it undermined their faith that a quantum computer should look like a classical computer! It must use gates and support the belief in quantum parallelism. Any other ideas about what constitutes computation were Verboten!
To anybody, like me, who researched quantum computing in the early days (for me starting in 1986) who was familiar with other approaches, this extreme fixity of mind always seemed as foolish as it was ignorant. Unknown, to quantum computing zealots, von Neumann himself had rejected the model of computation embodied in the von Neumann architecture. He did not think gates, or circuits based on switches, were anything but an interim idea. Physical computing is engineering, it requires creativity.
Not so for the Zealots! They had imbibed Feynman and they knew that gate based computing was the way to do things properly. Such certainty must be Bliss!
It is Bliss until it becomes a Living Hell.
Now we are at the very early stages of One Giant Backlash.
Perhaps the most manful of the early detractors to step up is Seth Lloyd. A researcher of significant accomplishment in quantum computing theory, Lloyd was recently quoted in a BBC story on the D-Wave-NASA-Google tie up as saying:
“I was probably wrong, and [Lockheed and D-Wave] were probably right”
This is in reference to his opinion that the device would not work, in spite of his own early involvement in the theoretical development of adiabatic quantum computing.
It is to be hoped that other scientists have the decency and honesty of Seth Lloyd.
The last two decades in quantum computing and quantum information sciences research have been ones of stupendous Lost Opportunity.
Very early in the development of the subject, somewhere around 1990, there was an unwarranted “closing of the mind”. We saw a select few approaches, a few among many, anointed as conventional wisdom. These select few ideas then garnered all the attention and funding dollars. The result has been an unmitigated disaster of scientific puffery of the worst kind. It has been a dreadful period of unscientific misadventure.
Thankfully, one very committed group of researchers and their investors have now shattered that world for good. Creativity is now unbound and possible.
I had gotten heartily fed up with the claims made by a few defending their “superior” knowledge and insight to distort the scientific landscape of what is “known” and what is considered “fact” and what is held as “viable” for research purposes.
This has led to a greatly distorted and warped research agenda which is overly narrow and has proven to be spectacularly unsuccessful as compared with the committed program of exploration pursued by Geordie Rose and his team at D-Wave.
Hat’s off to D-Wave!
They may well end this suffocating Dark Age which has so restricted scientific progress over the last twenty years. There is so much more that can be done in taking physics to the next level of scientific inquiry.
If we are to take those giant leaps forward we must end the Zealotry and Academic Feather-Bedding which has so bedeviled research in quantum measurement, quantum information, quantum computing and quantum cryptography.
We need a return to principles of honest scientific discourse. A properly engaged dialogue that is not caught up in the endless perpetuation of whatever dogmatic viewpoint serves the self-interest of so-called leaders in the field.
There are real advances to made in quantum theory.
Hell, in the field of self-field electrodynamics we already have a candidate new theory of quantum fields! In the work of Barut and others, you have an actual live body of referred work going back twenty-five years, which lays out a cogent and very credible basis for a new version of QED that is non-perturbative.
Why has nobody heard of this? Why are funding dollars not committed to figuring out experimental signatures of that theory and its fuller development?
I think I know why… it is the same reason D-Wave attracted such opprobrium. Those reckless Canadians at D-Wave dared to back the Dark Horse and it came home.
They were punished mercilessly for breaking ranks and trying something original!
Elsewhere, you now have a bunch of overweight, overfed and inbred Nags to put down.
It is the same in many fields of Academic physics. Money goes to whomever can form the greatest and most vocal Mystery Cult. It is not science anymore to back crap when there are better avenues available, however unpopular they may have been.
Those are the actions of a self-perpetuating Priesthood, not a community of minds who are committed to find the truth. Once you allow such attitudes to take root, as they have done, then you are left with a stupid H-Index Fueled Fund Feast:
Who can garner the most Funding Heat for the least amount of Scientific Light.
The contemporary patterns of behavior are insane!
I am hopeful that the D-Wave affair, once the true scale of it becomes public, will at least shame a few of the worst perpetrators to clean up their own scientific act.
It has been a shambles for two decades and the time for real change is now upon us.
I have my own wee challenge to get on with. When that is done, I think we can put a whole stable full of Old Nags down and fire up the glue factory.
Science and Engineering will be better for it.
All hail those Reckless Canadians from Burnaby!
They may well have saved the very soul of physics.