On the (Im)possibility of Scalable Quantum Computing


The potential for scalable quantum computing depends on the viability of fault tolerance and quantum error correction, by which the entropy of environmental noise is removed during a quantum computation to maintain the physical reversibility of the computer’s logical qubits. However, the theory underlying quantum error correction applies a linguistic double standard to the words “noise” and “measurement” by treating environmental interactions during a quantum computation as inherently reversible, and environmental interactions at the end of a quantum computation as irreversible measurements. Specifically, quantum error correction theory models noise as interactions that are uncorrelated or that result in correlations that decay in space and/or time, thus embedding no permanent information to the environment. I challenge this assumption both on logical grounds and by discussing a hypothetical quantum computer based on “position qubits.” The technological difficulties of producing a useful scalable position-qubit quantum computer parallel the overwhelming difficulties in performing a double-slit interference experiment on an object comprising a million to a billion fermions.



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Andrew Knight
New York University

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Simulating physics with computers.R. P. Feynman - 1982 - International Journal of Theoretical Physics 21 (6):467-488.
Algorithms for quantum computation: Discrete logarithms and factoring.P. Shor - 1994 - Proceedings of the 35th Annual IEEE Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science:124-134.

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