Quantum Computing

Michio Kaku’s book “Quantum Supremacy” is neither supreme nor quantum


Guest Post from James Sanders

Quantum computing enjoyed a relatively quiet start to the year as generative artificial intelligence overshadowed quantum in the technological medium. Basically, this is a good thing—being out of the spotlight gives researchers and startups valuable time to focus, rather than time fighting misunderstandings. Michio Kaku’s new book “Quantum Supremacy,” and the media tour to promote it, recycles many long-disputed talking points within the quantum community and introduces new claims that are just as, if not more, bogus.

It’s almost impossible to overstate the lack of qualities found in “Quantum Supremacy”. Readers with no prior knowledge of quantum computing will find themselves poorly informed on the topic by the end of the book. Scott Aaronson observes, in his book Quantum Supremacy reviewthe book “(perpetuates) two of the most fundamental forehead-hitting mistakes about what a quantum computer can do,” claiming that quantum computers change what can be computed, as well as claiming that quantum computers “analyze all possible paths at the same time.”

There are other points of scientific debate, and Aaronson — as a scientist — is better equipped to address them. However, the main problem of Kaku’s book is not scientific, but rather rhetorical: Kaku relies on outlandish claims about the effects of quantum computing Can own. These claims alternate between direct quotations and refactorings of oft-repeated concepts that are commonly held to be false. Given the title of the book, vis-à-vis the implications of “quantum supremacy” it is foolish to hope to find something of value.

Of course, this didn’t happen in a vacuum: Google’s 2019 claim to achieve “quantum supremacy” with its Sycamore processor—which Kaku uses to open books, despite multiple sources comprehensively disproving the claim—remains one example of science. the most visible bad. communication. Google clearly didn’t learn from this experience, claiming in 2022 it had created a wormhole using a quantum computer, leading to another flashpoint of misunderstanding: Nature papers are relatively restrained, Google’s blog post expands on the findingsAnd the media concocted the post to be something it wasn’t.

It’s critical for the quantum industry to avoid sensationalizing claims, and—given the prospect of raising rounds of funding, winning customer revenue, or boosting share prices—it’s incredibly difficult to do so. Cranking the hype engine cranks up public misunderstandings, and opportunistic attempts to increase those misunderstandings are bound to happen.

That said, there is little to be found surprising quantum computing in “Quantum Supremacy”. If you use ChatGPT to explain the basics of quantum computing, at least the answer is as accurate, and more likely about quantum computing. However small, the details provided alternate between over-generalizations and misinformation—Kaku attempts to explain the history of computing from the Antikythera mechanism onward, the scientists who dropped names through the ages along the way, as well as the philosophers and poets. As a result, the book reads like a manuscript for a television program that is more reminiscent of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos than an explanation of quantum computing.

Even with a generous interpretation of what is possible with a quantum computer, Kaku indulges in ludicrous claims, such as “Quantum computers could also give us the ability to live forever digitally,” in the chapter on immortality, or using quantum computers to find aliens through processing. signal. Kaku also suggests using quantum computers for applications generally unsuitable for quantum computers, such as sentiment analysis in natural language processing (NLP) to prevent pandemics—NLP can be efficiently computed on today’s classical systems, even though the premise of using NLP for pandemic prevention is weakest. .

High predictions are practically unavoidable in popular science books, and Kaku is not the first attempt, nor will he be the last, to misrepresent what a quantum computer is for.

Kaku’s relative popularity, however, made up for this unfortunate circumstance—misleading audiences who were confident in either passing curiosity or an earnest interest in learning about an increasingly visible field of study. While any resource on quantum computing where someone is involved in quantum computing tends to be better in general, courtesy of Microsoft The Path to Quantum on Scale series is an excellent primer for businesses exploring the potential uses of quantum computing. For personal gain, Bob Sutor—who experienced the distinction of being quoted on the first page of “Quantum Supremacy”—wrote “Dance with Qubitsin 2019. Sutor’s book presupposes the reader’s simple mathematical background; while still approachable, fair alternatives can be found at “Quantum Bullshit: How to Ruin Your Life with Advice from Quantum Physicsby Chris Ferrie.


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