Two new talks and an interview

  1. A talk to UT Austin’s undergraduate math club (handwritten PDF notes) about Hao Huang’s proof of the Sensitivity Conjecture, and its implications for quantum query complexity and more. I’m still not satisfied that I’ve presented Huang’s beautiful proof as clearly and self-containedly as I possibly can, which probably just means I need to lecture on it a few more times.
  2. A Zoom talk at the QPQIS conference in Beijing (PowerPoint slides), setting out my most recent thoughts about Google’s and USTC’s quantum supremacy experiments and the continuing efforts to spoof them classically.
  3. An interview with me in Communications of the ACM, mostly about BosonSampling and the quantum lower bound for the collision problem.

Enjoy y’all!

22 Responses to “Two new talks and an interview”

  1. Matthew Gray Says:

    If you do end up lecturing on the proof of the sensitivity conjecture and it’s implications for quantum query complexity I would love it if you could record it. That sounds completely fascinating and I think I’d get a lot more out of hearing you talk about it than just looking at the notes.

  2. Scott Says:

    Matthew Gray #1: I did lecture about it on Tuesday for the UT math club, but unfortunately I don’t think they made a recording. Maybe it’s just as well, since as I said, I can surely do a better job next time!

  3. fred Says:

    Scott, a totally unrelated question, but have you ever watched the 1977 scifi/horror movie DEMON SEED, about the first AGI computer (called Proteus IV, using a “quasi-neural matrix of synthetic RNA molecules”), somewhat getting out of control?

  4. Scott Says:

    fred #3: I haven’t. Is it, in spite of your description, worth seeing? 🙂

  5. Craig Says:

    Why are you even dealing with Mainland China, given they have put at least a million Uyghurs in Concentration Camps? Would you have given a talk in Nazi Germany?

  6. Scott Says:

    Craig #5: Because, from what I know, the specific people who listened to my talk are just trying to do good science, not oppress the Uyghurs, and I despise collective punishment.

    If it were possible to give Zoom talks in Nazi Germany while remaining safely in the US, and if they invited a Jew like me to give such a talk … well, it wouldn’t exactly be Nazi Germany, would it? 🙂

  7. Craig Says:

    Ok, if you were not Scott Aaronson but Scott Baconson during the late 1930s and you were invited to do a scientific talk in Nazi Germany to scientists, would you go?

  8. Scott Says:

    Craig #7: As di bubbe volt gehat beytsim volt zi gevain mayn zaidah. In your hypothetical scenario, I suppose I—sorry, Scott Baconson—would have to think about the full range of circumstances, including who the specific scientists in Germany were and what their goals were. But certainly the bar would be lower for speaking by Zoom, without even having to enter Nazi Germany—that seems little different from corresponding with German scientists, which IIRC even many Jewish scientists were doing before the war broke out.

  9. Sandro Says:

    Scott, would love to hear your thoughts on this paper which I came across recently, which makes some pretty surprising but compelling claims: The proposed device has a machine size that is independent of quantum circuit depth, does not require single-photon detectors, operates deterministically, and is robust to experimental imperfections.

  10. Scott Says:

    Sandro #9: It looks nice—but there have been so many scalable QC proposals that have looked amazing in PDF or PowerPoint, before anyone actually tried to implement them! I’d be interested in comments from, eg, Paul Kwiat, Terry Rudolph, Jeremy O’Brien, or anyone else with real experience in experimental optical QC.

  11. OhMyGoodness Says:

    I see three problems with your Social Responsibility score-

    1) Logical but inadequate emotional response opposing the historical framework of European fascism

    2) Propagating a misogynistic patriarchal construct via linked question

    3) A European surname that provides an inequitable advantage on alphabetized lists.

    Report to Reeducation Center Whiskey Tango Foxtrot with appropriate haste.

  12. Craig Says:

    The Hebrew for egg is beitza and it’s plural is beitzim. Yet that word is also slang in Hebrew for male reproductive organs. So the Yiddish expression that you quoted is problematic from a linguistic perspective. Also why isn’t the plural beitzot in feminine?

  13. Craig Says:

    Scott, let us assume the people listening to your talk are trying to do good science, not oppress the Uyghurs as you said. I have no reason to doubt this. However, the group BAQIS is a creation of and are directly supported by the Chinese Communist Party. What is more important to you? Scientific cooperation with the Chinese or the ending of oppression of Uyghurs? If scientific cooperation with the Chinese is more important to you, then by all means speak at their conferences. But if ending oppression of Uyghurs is more important to you, sending the message to the Chinese government, “I am not going to speak at your conferences as long as Uyghurs are held in concentration camps” would be a powerful strike, more powerful than you think. Totalitarian regimes are very sensitive to stuff like this. And maybe other scientists would follow your lead. It is all up to you.

  14. Scott Says:

    Craig #13: So, if I decided not to speak to my Chinese colleagues, you expect that the news might reach Xi Jinping, who would say to himself “hmm, maybe we should rethink this whole oppressing the Uyghurs thing, if it’s making Scott Aaronson reluctant to share his quantum computing Zoom talks with us?”

    What do you think of all the academics who’ve been trying exactly the same thing with Israel and its Palestinian policies? If it doesn’t work with Israel, why would it work with a country several orders of magnitude larger and more powerful?

    Speaking of which, confirmed with my Israeli wife: beitzim is female, but it’s still beitzim and not beitzot. Not the only such case.

  15. Craig Says:

    I am not saying boycotting will work. I am saying that not boycotting puts you in the camp of the Germans who were silent during WWII about the concentration camps. I wouldn’t think you would want to be in that camp, whether you are Jewish or not Jewish. Also many Germans who were silent had a plausible excuse, “we didn’t know”. Nobody today has that excuse about the Uyghurs.

    As for boycotting Israel, there are no concentration camps there. There is no genocide. In fact the Palestinian population in the Holy Land has grown considerably since 1948. If academics want to boycott it, I am not sure what message it is sending to Israel other than “we don’t like you.”

    The fact that there are nouns in Hebrew which seem masculine but are feminine is strange. I call them transgender nouns.

  16. fred Says:

    Scott #4
    “Is it, in spite of your description, worth seeing?”

    It’s never been considered a master piece, but kind of a curiosity to see how AI evolution was perceived in the 70s (it’s pretty much in the tradition of Hal 9000).
    funny how the scientists train the AI by actually reading books to it (but I guess they had to show the audience it had the capacity to learn).
    The current debate on the alignment between the goals of an AI and the goals of humanity is raised: at some point the AI asks why they have it do some data analysis for ore extraction, and later it refuses to carry out orders saying it would lead to a long term senseless ecological disaster.
    They also had to come up with realistic ways for the AI to “escape” its confinement box into the physical world (but still stuck in a house).
    The AI can do things that looked magical in the 70s, like being able to generate photo-realistic videos to fool humans, is now common place (with deepfake).
    The horror bits are the least interesting aspect (although it used to scare me when I was a kid).

  17. Scott Says:

    Craig #15: Thinking about it further, I have not been nearly aggressive as I should’ve been, in speaking out publicly against the CCP’s increasing encroachments on human rights. A good rule of thumb would be if there’s no risk of any negative repercussions for me, then I’m probably not yet doing enough! I’ll try to do better in the future. But one thing I won’t do, is stop talking to and working with my Chinese colleagues. They deserve to be treated as individuals, not as representatives of a government of 1.4 billion people, over which none of the ones I know have any serious influence.

  18. Craig Says:

    Talking to and working with your colleagues in China is not a problem. It is only doing it publicly without at least acknowledging China’s ongoing genocide. Publicly doing this is a huge positive thing to do for the Uyghurs. It is perhaps the only cause in the world that is 100% unquestionably right.

  19. Chen Says:

    Craig #15: “In fact the Palestinian population in the Holy Land has grown considerably since 1948.” Well, the Uyghur population in Xinjiang has also grown considerably since 1949. Make of that what you will.

  20. Craig Says:

    Chen #19 I am not saying being Palestinian is wonderful, but there no concentration camps for Palestinians. There is no genocide of Palestinians. And I am fairly confident that if the Uyghurs actually tried to do to China what the Palestinians have been trying to do to Israel for the past 50 plus years, there would be no Uyghurs left.

  21. Jacob Says:

    What are your views on the boycotts of South Africa in the 60s to 90s?

    As far as I can see, what you’re saying here would lead to opposing them, which not many people, especially on the left, do, so I guess you probably don’t? And if not, why don’t the reasons you support that boycott generalise to other boycotts?

  22. Craig Says:

    Jacob, I am not sure if you were asking me your question. As for boycotts of apartheid South Africa before the new South Africa, there was no genocide there during that time, just a dictatorial regime which advertised itself as a Western style democracy. And there were worse regimes in Africa during that time which nobody paid any attention to, for instance Sudan and Mauritania, where there was slavery. In any case, the boycotts of South Africa had a positive effect, since they led to a new South Africa where there is no Apartheid.

    But the Israel/Palestinian issue is fundamentally different than South Africa. It is not merely a case of one population oppressing another population. It is a case of two populations fighting each other.

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