“Quantum Supremacy” is Racist

 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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Antisocialdarwinist
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15 December 2019 12:20
 

Background

A Google computer recently achieved “quantum supremacy,” performing a calculation that’d be impossible on a regular machine. Some scientists are up in arms – not at the breakthrough, but because “supremacy” sounds vaguely racist.

Put short, a quantum computer developed by Google managed to perform a calculation in 200 seconds that would have taken the world’s most powerful supercomputer 10,000 years. The research paper on the calculation is published in Nature, the world’s leading multidisciplinary science journal, with the title “Quantum supremacy using a programmable superconducting processor.”

Some scientists were ecstatic, with one comparing the moment to the Wright Brothers’ first flight in 1903. Others were outraged. A group of 13 scientists signed a letter published in Nature, decrying the term “quantum supremacy” as racist.

I thought this was fake news, given the source (Russia Times). But no! Here’s the letter in Nature Magazine:

We take issue with the use of ‘supremacy’ when referring to quantum computers that can out-calculate even the fastest supercomputers (F. Arute et al. Nature 574, 505–510; 2019). We consider it irresponsible to override the historical context of this descriptor, which risks sustaining divisions in race, gender and class. We call for the community to use ‘quantum advantage’ instead.

The community claims that quantum supremacy is a technical term with a specified meaning. However, any technical justification for this descriptor could get swamped as it enters the public arena after the intense media coverage of the past few months.

In our view, ‘supremacy’ has overtones of violence, neocolonialism and racism through its association with ‘white supremacy’. Inherently violent language has crept into other branches of science as well — in human and robotic spaceflight, for example, terms such as ‘conquest’, ‘colonization’ and ‘settlement’ evoke the terra nullius arguments of settler colonialism and must be contextualized against ongoing issues of neocolonialism.

Instead, quantum computing should be an open arena and an inspiration for a new generation of scientists.

Quantum Supremacy? Quantum Advantage? How about “Quantum Privilege!”

 
 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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15 December 2019 12:43
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 15 December 2019 12:20 PM

Quantum Supremacy? Quantum Advantage? How about “Quantum Privilege!”

Quantum insanity.

 
 
Celal
 
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Celal
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15 December 2019 12:43
 

Are adjectives ok?

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Antisocialdarwinist
 
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Antisocialdarwinist
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15 December 2019 14:18
 
Celal - 15 December 2019 12:43 PM

Are adjectives ok?

Ha ha, good point. We should probably change the name of the nation’s highest court, too.

 
 
Nhoj Morley
 
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Nhoj Morley
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16 December 2019 11:55
 

The Quantum Reich.

It is ironic that they are concerned about how folks other than themselves will perceive the word. They (the community) reveal their perceptions of other folks (the public arena) in their concerns. Children are protected by keeping dangers out of reach. The minds of the public are not child-like versions of the minds of the community.

 
 
GAD
 
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GAD
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16 December 2019 14:18
 

They can’t help themselves, they are quantum heroes. Maybe it should say Quantum fluidity.

 
 
EN
 
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EN
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16 December 2019 19:33
 

I propose “Quark Ascendancy”.  Just do an end run around the objections.

 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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17 December 2019 14:53
 

How about if we just refer to the older computers as “otherly-abled”