Yoinked from the comments of my post laugh therapy, John Preskill weighs in with a wise remark:
…But actually it is nice, for those of us who may have come to take the theory of quantum fault tolerance for granted, to be reminded of how truly remarkable and marvelous it is. This paper does not lay a glove on the theory. Even so, let’s be careful not to be too smug. We sure have a long way to go toward turning the theory into practice.
Indeed! My first reaction is always to act like I’m a book critic, and to crank up my hyperbole meter to overdrive. But I certainly agree with John that we should not be too smug. To destroy a line from a baseball movie, “Until we build it, they won’t come.” Indeed to me the best critique of quantum error correction is simply “you haven’t done it yet” to which I can only nod my head in agreement and then run over to the experimentalists and cheer them along.
But John’s comment got me thinking (again) about the relationship quantum computing theory has with the physics community. Certainly I don’t think there has been much of a change in the hiring practices of U.S. physics departments when it comes to quantum computing theorists. In two words: “not good.” And I wonder if perhaps one of the reasons for this is that the central message of the threshold(s) theorem(s) has not penetrated into physics. Indeed, in my mind, the threshold theorem for quantum computation is essentially a statement about a new phase of many-body quantum systems. But to many physicists, I’ll bet that the result, if they’ve heard anything about it at all, sounds more like a strange engineering/computer science result, and the inclussion of the word “theorem” sets off their antimathematical radar detection system.
In some ways what I’m saying is that it feels like we’ve lost the public relations battle in publicizing the significance of the threshold theorem to physics departments. Perhaps part of this is because the language used to describe the theorem is more often devoid of terms physicist would like to see. Indeed when I talk about the threshold theorem I always always immediately transport myself into computer science speak. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a beautiful way to cast the result in terms of the physics of many-body quantum systems. Should we be making fault-tolerance more accessible to physicists? Maybe this is a PR battle we should be trying harder to overcome!
Okay this is strange. Just as I was about to post this, an email popped into my inbox about the APS March meeting:
TGQI is also organizing a tutorial on Quantum Error Correction and Fault-Tolerant Quantum Computation, which will be given on Sunday, March 4, with Daniel Gottesman of the Perimeter Institute as the instructor. To attend a tutorial, you must pre-register for the Meeting.
Sounds like a good way to convert some physics skeptics!