In what sense is quantum computing a science?

Michael Nielsen

Even by the mid-1990s, mentioning quantum computing to a physicist usually resulted in the question: “What’s a quantum computer?” Answers would often then be greeted with: “Isn’t that engineering? What’s it got to do with physics?”.

To come back to the question with which I started: in what sense is quantum computing a basic science? And in what sense is it about discovering important new fundamental truths about the universe?

My main critique of the current draft is that it struggles to adequately convey what it would mean for quantum computing to be a design science.

Perhaps what’s need to make the essay work is a longer discussion – or, at least, a more compelling discussion! – of what it would mean for quantum computing to be a design science.

The other main critique of this version 0 is that it focuses so much on design science that it doesn’t quite do the job of answering the underlying question: in what sense will quantum computing be a science, and address fundamental questions? The design science aspects may be the most unfamiliar, but they’re only part of a broader picture, which needs to be painted more convincingly.

Quantum computing has also stimulated lines of enquiry leading to new work about black holes and quantum gravity.

Still, as implied in the main text, over the long run I expect quantum computing will primarily be a design science, in much the same way as conventional computing has become a design science.

Categories Education Science

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