Oxford physicist denounces both the field of quantum computing and the professionals who work in it / The world of digital information

Oxford physicist Dr Nikita Gourianov recently published a rather incendiary overview, condemning fellow scientists in the field of quantum computing for overestimating both its scope and its practical use.

Here’s the thing with scientists: they love their jobs. Honestly, if you spend your PhD studies actively researching and writing to champion a singular field, then said field will be imprinted on your psyche. I believe this is something that happens very often among scientists in their respective fields. Although I won’t go into specifics because I think all educational pursuits are worthwhile, some areas just aren’t as relevant to the practical world as their scientists make them out to be. On the other hand, some lines of work seem relatively useless at first, but then become extremely popular. For example, computers were built to plot weather patterns and see where we are now.

Nikita Gurianov’s article is particularly controversial because it has sparked much heated debate about the nature of quantum computing and whether it has a viable future ahead of it. For people who don’t know, quantum computing refers to a technology that relies on quantum mechanics for processing needs. Honestly, I’m far too uneducated to delve into what quantum mechanics is, so let’s put it in even simpler terms: whereas quantum processors can do anything a normal computer can do, and vice versa, the former can potentially accomplish tasks at relatively miraculous rates.

With “quantum” being such a big buzzword these days, having become a near-permanent staple of science fiction, it’s probably best to at least be wary of the term used, research paper or not. The point Dr Gurianov is trying to make is that around the 2010s, when the quantum mechanics hype was at its peak, scientists realized there was money to be made from investors. As a result, these people then attempted to sell their ideas and project projections as much larger than the actual estimates. It would attract investors, scientists would make money, and no one would know for a few more years.

Dr Gourianov points out that companies focused on quantum mechanics derive most of their revenue from consulting on future projects, as opposed to revenue from practical applications. However, many practical breakthroughs have been made in the field by companies as famous as Google or IBM, some of them even being part of government-sponsored projects, as opposed to private or independent developments.

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Sherry J. Basler