In chess, when you play like an idiot, you always lose, so you learn. In backgammon, you can play 10 games, not play well, and win. So you think you are great but you have made a great number of mistakes. Tragically, life is closer to backgammon, because you can play a perfect game and lose!
Which made me wonder which game is the closest game to “real life?” (Okay I’ll dispense with the obvious answer which is the board game “Life.” Bzzt! Disqualified for using little pegs that are always getting lost for people. I mean those damn blue and pink pegs get in more car accidents in a typical game of “Life” than most people get into in their real life.)
Christos on quantum computation:
Another paper I like my students to read is where Feynman proposed quantum computers. I’m interested in the mathematics of quantum computing. It’s a beautiful question in mathematics, it’s a beautiful question in physics, it’s a beautiful question in computer science.
You think quantum computing is about powerful computers, but quantum computing may prove to be about testing quantum physics, to find out why we cannot build these powerful computers. Who knows? Maybe there is something fishy with the theory. One of the reasons quantum computing is so interesting is that it looks at some extremely counterintuitive predictions of quantum theory.
If building quantum computers fails on a practical engineering basis, that will be a disappointment, meaning the idea dies of a thousand cuts, it’s too difficult, we can’t afford it, we stop trying. But what would be fascinating is if there is a theoretical difficulty! There are physicists who see quantum computing as the ultimate test of quantum theory.
This brings us back to where we started this conversation, the Algorithmic Lens. In some sense, Physics looks at itself and its most prestigious theory through the Algorithmic Lens. That’s a great triumph of the algorithmic programming way of thinking.
And we wonder why Berkeley has produced so many top quantum computing theorists: maybe part of it is that even someone who doesn’t spend his life in quantum computing understands why it is so interesting (that, and, oh, say, Umesh Vazirani )