Active Fault‐Tolerant Quantum Error Correction: The Curse of the Open System

Philosophy of Science 76 (4):506-535 (2009)
Relying on the universality of quantum mechanics and on recent results known as the “threshold theorems,” quantum information scientists deem the question of the feasibility of large‐scale, fault‐tolerant, and computationally superior quantum computers as purely technological. Reconstructing this question in statistical mechanical terms, this article suggests otherwise by questioning the physical significance of the threshold theorems. The skepticism it advances is neither too strong (hence is consistent with the universality of quantum mechanics) nor too weak (hence is independent of technological contingencies). *Received June 2009; revised August 2009. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of History and Philosophy of Science, College of Arts and Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405; e‐mail:
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DOI 10.1086/648600
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