Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2019)

Authors
Michael Cuffaro
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München
Amit Hagar
Indiana University, Bloomington
Abstract
Combining physics, mathematics and computer science, quantum computing and its sister discipline of quantum information have developed in the past few decades from visionary ideas to two of the most fascinating areas of quantum theory. General interest and excitement in quantum computing was initially triggered by Peter Shor (1994) who showed how a quantum algorithm could exponentially “speed-up” classical computation and factor large numbers into primes far more efficiently than any (known) classical algorithm. Shor’s algorithm was soon followed by several other algorithms that aimed to solve combinatorial and algebraic problems, and in the years since theoretical study of quantum systems serving as computational devices has achieved tremendous progress. Common belief has it that the implementation of Shor’s algorithm on a large scale quantum computer would have devastating consequences for current cryptography protocols which rely on the premise that all known classical worst-case algorithms for factoring take time exponential in the length of their input (see, e.g., Preskill 2005). Consequently, experimentalists around the world are engaged in attempts to tackle the technological difficulties that prevent the realisation of a large scale quantum computer. But regardless whether these technological problems can be overcome (Unruh 1995; Ekert and Jozsa 1996; Haroche and Raimond 1996), it is noteworthy that no proof exists yet for the general superiority of quantum computers over their classical counterparts. The philosophical interest in quantum computing is manifold. From a social-historical perspective, quantum computing is a domain where experimentalists find themselves ahead of their fellow theorists. Indeed, quantum mysteries such as entanglement and nonlocality were historically considered a philosophical quibble, until physicists discovered that these mysteries might be harnessed to devise new efficient algorithms. But while the technology for harnessing the power of 50–100 qubits (the basic unit of information in the quantum computer) is now within reach (Preskill 2018), only a handful of quantum algorithms exist, and the question of whether these can truly outperform any conceivable classical alternative is still open. From a more philosophical perspective, advances in quantum computing may yield foundational benefits. For example, it may turn out that the technological capabilities that allow us to isolate quantum systems by shielding them from the effects of decoherence for a period of time long enough to manipulate them will also allow us to make progress in some fundamental problems in the foundations of quantum theory itself. Indeed, the development and the implementation of efficient quantum algorithms may help us understand better the border between classical and quantum physics (Cuffaro 2017, 2018a; cf. Pitowsky 1994, 100), and perhaps even illuminate fundamental concepts such as measurement and causality. Finally, the idea that abstract mathematical concepts such as computability and complexity may not only be translated into physics, but also re-written by physics bears directly on the autonomous character of computer science and the status of its theoretical entities—the so-called “computational kinds”. As such it is also relevant to the long-standing philosophical debate on the relationship between mathematics and the physical world.
Keywords quantum computation  algorithms  computational complexity  Church-Turing thesis
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 65,581
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the N Tscheidungsproblem.Alan Turing - 1936 - Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society 42 (1):230-265.
Special Sciences.Jerry A. Fodor - 1974 - Synthese 28 (2):97-115.

View all 51 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

On the Significance of the Gottesman–Knill Theorem.Michael E. Cuffaro - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (1):91-121.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Quantum Computation in Brain Microtubules.Stuart R. Hameroff - 2002 - Physical Review E 65 (6):1869--1896.
Quantum Mechanics and Computation.Bart D’Hooghe & Jaroslaw Pykacz - 2004 - Foundations of Science 9 (4):387-404.
Quantum Hypercomputation—Hype or Computation?Amit Hagar & Alex Korolev - 2007 - Philosophy of Science 74 (3):347-363.
Quantum Algorithms: Philosophical Lessons.Amit Hagar - 2007 - Minds and Machines 17 (2):233-247.
A Quantum Computer Only Needs One Universe.A. M. Steane - 2003 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 34 (3):469-478.
Quantum Hypercomputation.Tien D. Kieu - 2002 - Minds and Machines 12 (4):541-561.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2009-01-28

Total views
111 ( #99,803 of 2,461,462 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
5 ( #143,859 of 2,461,462 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes