To balance a pencil on its tip: On the passive approach to quantum error correction

Abstract
Quantum computers are hypothetical quantum information processing (QIP) devices that allow one to store, manipulate, and extract information while harnessing quantum physics to solve various computational problems and do so putatively more efficiently than any known classical counterpart. Despite many ‘proofs of concept’ (Aharonov and Ben–Or 1996; Knill and Laflamme 1996; Knill et al. 1996; Knill et al. 1998) the key obstacle in realizing these powerful machines remains their scalability and susceptibility to noise: almost three decades after their conceptions, experimentalists still struggle to maintain useful quantum coherence in QIP devices with more than a pair of qubits (e.g., Blatt and Wineland 2008). This slow progress has prompted debates on the feasibility of quantum computers, yet the quantum information community has dismissed the skepticism as “ideology” (Aaronson 2004), claiming that the obstacles are merely technological (Kaye et al. 2007, 240). In a recent paper (Hagar 2009) I’ve argued that such a skepticism with respect to the feasibility of quantum computers need not be deemed ideological at all, and that the aforementioned ‘proofs of concept’ are physically suspect. Using analogies from the foundations of classical statistical mechanics (SM), I’ve also argued that instead of active error correction, the appropriate framework for debating the feasibility of large–scale, fault–tolerant and computationally superior quantum computers should be the project of error avoidance: rather than trying to constantly ‘cool down’ the QIP device and prevent its thermalization, one should try to locate those regions in the device’s state space which are thermodynamically ‘abnormal’, i.e., those regions in the device’s state space which resist thermalization regardless of external noise. This paper is intended as a further contribution to the debate on the feasibility of large–scale, fault–tolerant and computationally superior quantum computers. Relying again on analogies from the foundations of classical SM, it suggests a skeptical conjecture and frames it in the ‘passive’, error avoidance, context..
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