## Visas for Chinese students: US shoots itself in the foot again

Coming out of blog-hiatus for some important stuff, today, tomorrow, and the rest of the week.

Something distressing happened to me yesterday for the first time, but I fear not the last. We (UT Austin) admitted a PhD student from China who I know to be excellent, and who wanted to work with me. That student, alas, has had to decline our offer of admission, because he’s been denied a US visa under Section 212(A)(3)(a)(i), which “prohibits the issuance of a visa to anyone who seeks to enter the United States to violate or evade any law prohibiting the export from the United States of goods, technology, or sensitive information.” Quantum computing, you see, is now a “prohibited technology.”

This visa denial is actually one that the American embassy in Beijing only just now got around to issuing, from when the student applied for a US visa a year and a half ago, to come visit me for a semester as an undergrad. For context, the last time I had an undergrad from China visit me for a semester, back in 2016, the undergrad’s name was Lijie Chen. Lijie just finished his PhD at MIT under Ryan Williams and is now one of the superstars of theoretical computer science. Anyway, in Fall 2021 I got an inquiry from a Chinese student who bowled me over the same way Lijie had, so I invited him to spend a semester with my group in Austin. This time, alas, the student never heard back when he applied for a visa, and was therefore unable to come. He ended up doing an excellent research project with me anyway, working remotely from China, checking in by Zoom, and even participating in our research group meetings (which were on Zoom anyway because of the pandemic).

Anyway, for reasons too complicated to explain, this previous denial means that the student would almost certainly be denied for a new visa to come to the US to do a PhD in quantum computing. (Unless some immigration lawyer reading this can suggest a way out!) The student is not sure what he’s going to do next, but it might involve staying in China, or applying in Europe, or applying in the US again after a year but without mentioning the word “quantum.”

It should go without saying, to anyone reading this, that the student wants to do basic research in quantum complexity theory that’s extraordinarily unlikely to have any direct military or economic importance … just like my own research! And it should also go without saying that, if the US really wanted to strike a blow against authoritarianism in Beijing, then it could hardly do better than to hand out visas to every Chinese STEM student and researcher who wanted to come here. Yes, some would return to China with their new skills, but a great many would choose to stay in the US … if we let them.

And I’ve pointed all this out to a Republican Congressman, and to people in the military and intelligence agencies, when they asked me “what else the US can do to win the quantum computing race against China?” And I’ll continue to say it to anyone who asks. The Congressman, incidentally, even said that he privately agreed with me, but that the issue was politically difficult. I wonder: is there anyone in power in the US, in either party, who doesn’t privately agree that opening the gates to China’s STEM talent would be a win/win proposition for the US … including for the US’s national security? If so, who are these people? Is this just a naked-emperor situation, where everyone in Congress fears to raise the issue because they fear backlash from someone else, but the someone else is actually thinking the same way?

And to any American who says, “yeah, but China totally deserves it, because of that spy balloon, and their threats against Taiwan, and all the spying they do with TikTok”—I mean, like, imagine if someone tried to get back at the US government for the Iraq War or for CIA psyops or whatever else by punishing you, by curtailing your academic dreams. It would make exactly as much sense.

### 39 Responses to “Visas for Chinese students: US shoots itself in the foot again”

1. Shmi Says:

> Is this just a naked-emperor situation, where everyone in Congress fears to raise the issue because they fear backlash from someone else, but the someone else is actually thinking the same way?

That someone else is the far right in Congress and their constituency, obviously. The issue is worse now because the far left is now also anti-tech and anti-science, in a classic horseshoe twist. And anyone moderate on either side knows to shut up or face consequences.

2. Lane M Says:

To this day I’m baffled that STEM PhD’s don’t get a green card stapled to their diplomas. We have the most spectacular higher education system in the world. If only we could exploit it as ruthlessly as we do the environment or poor people.

3. Daniel Seita Says:

Thanks for sharing this, Scott.

Instead of “shoots itself in the foot again” I’m inclined to agree with Steven Chu with this wording instead:

“So much of our intellectual technological power is from immigrants,” said Steven Chu, one of the signers, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist at Stanford University and a former U.S. secretary of energy. “We’re shooting ourselves not in the foot but in something close to the head.”

4. Junyu Liu Says:

Hi Scott,

Thanks for pointing out this. I would completely agree with you and also share my own experiences.

I was originally applying for F1 visa towards US in 2016, and I got administrative processing. Around that time it has a better situation between US and China, and it is already unlikely that a theory student (who is doing string theory around that time) got administrative processing for an extra one month. There is something special in the US embassy system, that if you got administrative processing once, everytime you leave US you will get it again. So around that time I have decided to not leave US for my whole PhD, which is 5 years, until I got the green card. This green card takes 6 years, and I finally got it around the end of 2022. During this time I cannot go back home to stay with my families and friends. And it is really a huge suffering during the Covid-19. I was lucky and many of my peer students are still struggling with infinite administrative processing at the current stage.

I think something needs to be changed for this system.

5. Mostafa Touny Says:

I am really sorry to hear such bad news for your talented student. I guess any university, including UT Austin, has an authority to send and explain that your research is safe from political or military concerns. Did UT Austin exert any trial in that direction?

6. Paper Tiger Says:

The Chinese student’s case is unfortunate. But I don’t buy Scott’s claim that a loose visa policy toward Chinese students in general benefits national security, even though it benefits us academics for sure. If some professor who works on 5G or nuclear technology claims it, I will take it more seriously. But I feel that theorists generally don’t know what’s at stake here. I personally know someone who graduated from a top US school, tried to steal trade secrets worth one billion, and got caught before returning to China. This is a rare case, but one case is capable to cause enough damage.

Also, while denying a theory student’s visa is stupid, I suspect the US gov is not solely to blame for treating quantum computing as prohibited technology. Some of us probably wrote about post-quantum crypto, etc., in our proposals and even tied it to national security. We make it a big deal to get funding opportunities. There are also lobbyists out there saying quantum computers are around the corner. Given all the hype, it is not surprising that the US gov is treating quantum technology like the next Manhattan project and trying everything to prevent China from getting it.

7. manorba Says:

Daniel Seita #3 Says:
“We’re shooting ourselves not in the foot but in something close to the head.”

this.
but i fear this is a battle we’re gonna lose, at least for now.

8. Sanjeev Arora Says:

Paper tiger’s comment about academics having hyped the imminence of the quantum revolution is very relevant here.

9. OhMyGoodness Says:

Apparently these State Department visa decisions are made in close conformance with this work from Australia-

https://www.aspi.org.au/report/china-defence-universities-tracker

It is often not that you are a Chinese national but rather a Chinese national with a degree from a proscribed university that results in denial.

I agree with Paper Tiger that quantum computing hype from the academic community has contributed to this, only one of the ways they reap the whirlwind, but of course Dr Aaronson has been an anti-hype spokesman.

Lane M #2
Your characterization is interesting but ruthless exploitation in comparison to what country? China for instance?

10. fred Says:

It’s part of the bigger issue that the US immigration system needs to be reformed, and the actual potential of the people who want to come needs to be considered (like they do in Canada and Australia, etc).

This sort of administrative non-sense is nothing new: back in 2000, everyone who had applied and won the green card lottery that year (mostly young people from underrepresented Western European countries) and was in the US already (the majority as students) eventually received in the mail a deportation letter instead of the expected green card interview invitation… until the state department actually sued the Immigration and Naturalization Services to force them to reverse this mess at the very last minute before it became irreversible.

11. fred Says:

I was going to point out too that Quantum Computing may be victim of its own hype here, and would expect that the same restrictions would soon (already?) be applied for AI research, even more so because it’s so much more practical and utterly disruptive, as we’re already seeing American Big Tech being shaken from this (*).

(*) as an aside, not too surprising to see all the talk about carefully evolving and vetting AI tech been thrown out the window as soon as it’s impacting the revenues of big tech.

12. Scott Says:

Paper Tiger #6, Sanjeev Arora #8, OhMyGoodness #9, fred #11: Indeed, preventing the premature shift of QC from basic-research-land into national-security-land is a major reason for speaking up against irresponsible QC hype on this blog, and I didn’t even fully realize it before today! 🙂

13. manorba Says:

Yeah the hype is not helping for sure, but i feel cold-war vibes again. And it’s not only an US thing, here in fortress europe it’s the same. There’s a growing feeling of weariness and suspicion regarding everything chinese-related, and while i share the discontent about its autoritarian regime and the fact that they are silently colonizing big parts of africa, south asia and even south america, among other things, but scientific reasearch is fundamental for the advancement of humanity as a whole and must be free and shared. Even if it caused risks for “national security”, which isn’t the case.
As with the original cold-war, also this will pass, but things are gonna get (way) worse before they get better.

14. fred Says:

manorba

“And it’s not only an US thing, here in fortress europe it’s the same.”

Well, it’s also an Asia thing – Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, …
And in particular all that’s currently happening between China and all the other countries in the South China Sea, which they are militarizing with artificial islands and fleets of very aggressive boats, like between them and the Philippines

https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/philippines-files-protest-china-over-use-laser-aggressive-activities-by-vessels-2023-02-14/

The truth is that China doesn’t have a lot of true strategic friends besides Russia, North Korea and Iran (see a pattern there?).

15. Taymon A. Beal Says:

I think academics in every STEM field engage in puffery about the economic (and often military) relevance of their work when applying for government funding. I think in that context it’s an expected part of the process, and I assume that the grant evaluators just ignore it as boilerplate. This does seem to sometimes cause problems when immigration authorities and intelligence agencies decide to go fishing, as in, e.g., the case of Franklin Tao.

(This isn’t to comment on hype about quantum computing aimed at popular and business audiences, as opposed to government grant evaluators; in that arena, some quantum-computing scholars seem to have taken things a bit further.)

16. fred Says:

The war in Ukraine has been a big wake up call for the West.
We were lulled for decades into thinking that we could eventually neuter any dictatorship through economic cooperation and globalization.
But that totally backfired: after establishing a parallel sphere of influence, those authoritarian regimes are now back to pushing their hard line ideology first, as a tool to brainwash and subjugate their own population in order to stay in power at all cost. So, they’re evil, and we’re the devil in their ideology too.

Democracy is hard… but how did we end up fooling ourselves that authoritarian powers would ever help us achieve it (let alone keep things in balance)?!

17. Sniffnoy Says:

Is this just a naked-emperor situation, where everyone in Congress fears to raise the issue because they fear backlash from someone else, but the someone else is actually thinking the same way?

I mean I don’t think it’s other members of Congress they’re worried about, it’s the public… :-/

Meanwhile I’m just thinking — people keep talking about how this is the second cold war, right? So why not try to sell it by saying we want to take in as many defectors as possible? I don’t know how much good it’d do, but I imagine it’d help at least somewhat, right?

18. PBJ Says:

Yes, if Iraq or Afghanistan denied us a visa to study there, I can personally feel disappointed, but I won’t be surprised. They have a right to manage their risks and decide on what’s the best use of their tax dollars. The question of what is in the interest of the field of study and whether the student is deserving are secondary. As pointed out, the QC community has no qualms about taking US govt money in the name of cryptography, national security, secure communication etc. Simultaneously, China has time and again proved that it is a bad international actor and a threat to US national security. After their disastrous response to Covid (possibly causing the death of a million people) and chronic international intellectual theft, absolutely no one trusts them anymore. I am sorry, but actions have consequences – you can’t simultaneously take US tax dollars in the name of high-performance computing + national security, and then use it to train Chinese citizens in the name of science. Would you be surprised if the Kiev Academy of Sciences denied student visas to Russian kids who wanted to study viruses for bio-weapons? Would you argue that they should because viral research is ‘fundamental to the advancement of humanity’?

19. fred Says:

Sniffoy

“So why not try to sell it by saying we want to take in as many defectors as possible”

but the perception of this in the Chinese community would be pretty bad imo, that’s a very arrogant view to think that any Chinese wants to “defect”.

China is the oldest continuous civilization, yet they were taken advantage by the West for hundreds of years when they were weak. They’ve always known what they’re capable of and they’ve been quietly struggling and playing a really long game.
And with the success China has achieved in the last two decades there’s now a true sense of pride (rightly so), at home and abroad.
And whether we like it or not, their current rise back to the top is perceived at home as a success of the CCP (overall the good outweighs the bad), and the current treatment of China becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that’s boosting nationalism. So way fewer young Chinese are now still interested to go study abroad (their universities are doing just fine, thank you… esp without all the woke stuff that’s going on here).

And the truth is that no Chinese population (besides Taiwan) has ever been living under a democracy so the concept is very abstract to them, and because of the mistreatment from the West, they just don’t buy it.
Even the vast majority of the Hong Kong people I know (people over 40, who in the past all used to be very critical and skeptical of the CCP) are now totally on the side of China and the CCP (they know better than to say it publicly if they live in the West).
Basically the CCP has succeeded in making the Party and China one and the same.

Btw, as much as Taiwan and HK may look significant to the West, in terms of population they are just 2% of the entire Chinese population.

20. Scott P. Says:

saying we want to take in as many defectors as possible?

The word “defector” implies a shift in loyalty, and that shift is expected to be backed up by actions — I.e. providing intelligence on our erstwhile rivals. I don’t think the students in question are necessarily willing to take such an irrevocable step.

21. fred Says:

As you can see, it actually goes both ways.
The US is making it more difficult for Chinese to come study here.
But fewer Chinese are actually interested in coming too, not just because it’s harder, but because of the perceived image of the US within China (a mix of reality and self-fulfilling propaganda).

22. SR Says:

On the subject of paranoia regarding foreign spies, there is an amusing anecdote by Andrew Vazsonyi (taken from https://www.emis.de/classics/Erdos/textpdf/vazsonyi/genius.pdf).

“During World War II, in August 1941, an article appeared in a New York City tabloid: “The three most intelligent spies ever arrested by the FBI.” Those days there was hysteria about the Japanese invasion, and the seashore was off limits. Erdos, Kakutani and Arthur Stone were taking time off from the Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton, and were walking on the seashore in New Jersey. Naturally they ignored all warning signs. Neighbors got concerned about the suspicious characters and called the FBI. One character was “a Hungarian of strange appearance.” The second was “a registered foreign agent of the Imperial Japanese Government.” (Kakutani was a professor of math in Tokyo, a government agency.) They asked Erdos why he did not obey the signs. “You see,” he said, “I could not read any of the signs because I was sinking about masematical seorems.” They were hauled into town, the FBI called the Institute, and were enlightened about the life style of mathematicians. They were released with apologies, but it was too late for the release in the New York newspaper.”

As proof of its historicity, here’s a clipping from a (different) newspaper regarding the event https://www.newspapers.com/clip/19703941/the-baltimore-sun/

It’s also interesting to examine what occurred to them afterwards. According to https://mathshistory.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Kakutani/,

“In December 1941 with Kakutani still studying at Princeton, war broke out between the United States and Japan with the entry of the U.S.A. into the Second World War. Of course this put Kakutani in a difficult position for he was now a guest in a country at war with his own. S Eigen says in [2]:

‘With the outbreak of war he was given the option of staying at the Institute or returning to Japan. He chose to return because he was concerned about his mother. So he was put on a Swedish ship which sailed across the Atlantic, down around the Cape, and up to Madagascar, or thereabouts, where he and other Japanese were traded for Americans aboard a ship from Japan.

The trip across the Atlantic was long and hard. There was the constant fear of being torpedoed by the Germans. What, you may wonder, did Kakutani do. He proved theorems. Every day, he sat on deck and worked on his mathematics. Every night, he took his latest theorem, put it in a bottle and threw it overboard. Each one contained the instruction that if found it should be sent to the Institute in Princeton. To this day, not a single letter has been received.’ ”

As to Erdos, https://mathshistory.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Erdos/ says

“During the early 1950s senator Joseph R McCarthy whipped up strong feelings against communism in the United States. Erdős began to come under suspicion from authorities who saw imaginary problems everywhere. When asked by US immigration, as he returned after a conference in Amsterdam in 1954, what he thought of Marx, Erdős made the ill judged reply:-

‘I’m not competent to judge, but no doubt he was a great man.’

This was followed by a line of questioning about whether he would ever return to Hungary. Erdős said:-

‘I’m not planning to visit Hungary now because I don’t know whether they would let me back out. I’m planning to go only to England and Holland.’

So, was it only the fear of not being let out of Hungary that stopped him going there. Erdős replied innocently:-

‘Of course, my mother is there and I have many friends there.’

Erdős was not allowed back to the United States but no reason was given. The files indicate that the official reasons were not the answers Erdős gave to the above questions, but the fact that he had corresponded with a Chinese mathematician who had subsequently returned from the United States to China and also Erdős’s 1941 FBI record. ”

(The 1941 record being of the incident mentioned above involving Kakutani and Stone).

23. James Gallagher Says:

Yup, the ridiculous hype behind Quantum Computing is to blame here.

You need to start arguing that (scalable) Quantum Computing is so unlikely that this is essentially just another branch of Pure Mathematics.

I mean, you might even be correct.

24. Scott Says:

PBJ #18: I don’t think anyone here is disputing the right of the US, or any other country, to restrict research or scientific exchange that could jeopardize its national security, lead to the production of bioweapons, etc. The point is just that the research that this particular student would do is clearly, obviously in none of those categories. And anyone who knew the field and who looked at the matter for 30 seconds would come to the same conclusion. So I’m led to the conclusion that preventing students from coming to the US for this sort of research is “security theater”: it creates the appearance of “doing something,” but in actuality does nothing whatever to strengthen American national security or possibly weakens it, to whatever extent it harms American scientific and economic competitiveness.

25. Scott Says:

Incidentally, everyone: wonderful news! As a direct result of this blog post, I was contacted by someone high up in the American science policy establishment, who promised to make inquiries about this student’s visa, and who pointed me to a 2021 White House document that considered this exact issue and concluded that the US should continue to welcome scientific talent from around the world, including in quantum information.

Of course I don’t know whether anything will come of this, but it’s already lifted my and the student’s spirits. The American federal government is not a monolith, but a vast, sprawling world-unto-itself that contains many people trying to do the right thing, in addition to people trying to do the wrong thing. Maybe the “realists,” who say I should just suck it up and what did I expect, just aren’t realistic enough! 😀

26. Sniffnoy Says:

Scott P. #20:

The word “defector” implies a shift in loyalty, and that shift is expected to be backed up by actions — I.e. providing intelligence on our erstwhile rivals. I don’t think the students in question are necessarily willing to take such an irrevocable step.

As far as I’m aware, that’s not the way the word was used during the actual Cold War; my understanding is that anyone emigrating from the Eastern Bloc to the Western Bloc, or vice versa, was referred to as a “defector”. (Like, many notable defectors were athletes and entertainers, who I’m guessing probably wouldn’t have had much useful intelligence?) I’m suggesting reviving that term for this limited purpose (of encouraging the US to let such people in).

27. Zhuoyang Ye Says:

Hi dear scott,
I’m one of the example of the Chinese undergraduate student who want to tackle with the difficult and unexplored problems in quantum complexity.(I also apply to be your PHD student this year in UT Austin) You and Lijie Chen are my idols after I read your paper about the theoretical foundation of quantum supremacy experiment, and I believe that many of my peers in China are inspired by your pioneering work and want to join you.
But I have to say that political issues have larger and larger impact on our decisions. Before 2018, most of the top and ambitious students I know choose to come to the top University in US to pursue a Phd degree. The US governmeny, from our perspective, was considered friendly and welcome to Chinese student. However, after Covid-19, we heard about many students’ visa applications to US are checked for several month, or even refused, despite the fact that they have already get the PHD offer. Given that, I have to apply for many Europe university in case this happens to me.
The primary cause of the political tension between Chinese and US, is the conflict of interest between CCP that governs China and the US government. In the past 30 years, CCP has to rely on US to develop economy and industry, but they are considering to get rid of the economic control now.
However, I believe that the purpose of science is to benefit all mankind, but not some specific nation or political ideology.Even in the case of quantum computing. The unexpected shor’s algorithm will not damage the safty of communication based on RSA, but only deepen our understanding of the safty of crypto system and help to build a stronger one based on lattice and protect everybody on earth. Perhaps the alien can use a quantum computer and will invade earth in the future!
No matter what happens in the next few years, I will keep pursuing my dream. Looking forward to seeing you in US!

28. Mitchell Porter Says:

Speaking of China… does anyone have news about Chinese language models? Large language models in English have been causing all kinds of sensations – first ChatGPT, now Bing Chat. Meanwhile Chinese language models exist, but I only see technical papers about them. Is it because they haven’t yet had large-scale public beta testing of the kind that OpenAI and Microsoft have offered?

29. Scott Says:

Zhuoyang Ye #27: Thanks for sharing. I wish you the best with your research career, I feel bad about the situation between our countries, and I look forward to meeting you whenever we find ourselves in the same place!

30. Paper Tiger Says:

Wow, glad to hear the great news, Scott. I am one of those “realists” who see the US-China cold war as inevitable. But I am glad to be wrong in this particular case.

31. fred Says:

To show how everything is interconnected these days:
Today China has announced that they’re imposing sanctions on Lockheed Martin for selling weapons to Taiwan.
The same Lockheed Martin that has created the “USC-Lockheed Martin Quantum Computing Center” at University of Southern California, using the controversial D-Wave QC.
The same D-Wave that was hoping to get a massive investment boost from Alibaba in 2018, which got canceled after Canada arrested Huawei’s CFO.
Etc, etc.

32. fred Says:

33. Tyson Says:

In the big picture, I don’t think the extreme adversarial attitude between nations is helpful.

I will take your word for it that theory of quantum computing is unlikely to matter anyways. But how we transition into the era of AI will almost definitely impact the fate of humanity in significant ways. The existence of an AI arms race during this transition is likely one of the key obstacles to not screwing up the fate of humanity.

This extreme adversarial perspective is also leveraged by Big Tech in their efforts to get regulators off of their backs. The overriding goal in our AI regulatory system is to not stifle progress. So, self regulation, remove the red tape, etc.

The choices that are presented to us seem to be (1) Let China take over the world. (2) Risk ruining the world, considering China would probably ruin it anyways even if we don’t.

There is at least the hope of a third option, which is to help each other with the shared goal of not ruining the world. In pursuing that goal, academic and scientific collaboration is likely one of the most important things to maintain.

34. Scott Says:

Tyson #33 and others: Just to clarify, I don’t say that the theory of quantum computing “doesn’t matter”! What I say is, it generally doesn’t matter on a short enough timescale for anyone to say which country might be advantaged or disadvantaged by any particular research advance.

On the other hand, I do think countries that want to have a robust scientific base would do very well to have theoretical quantum information science as part of their portfolio, and also to welcome foreign talent, and more generally tolerate free exchange with the rest of the world.

35. Qwerty Says:

Tangent :

I know two people whose U.S student visas from India were rejected recently. They were given no explanation at all. Maybe it is random, whether you are given a reason or not.

36. Mark Says:

Some 162 Chinese scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory:
Scientists at America’s top nuclear lab were recruited by China to design missiles and drones, report says
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/scientists-americas-top-nuclear-lab-recruited-china-design-missiles-dr-rcna48834

When you trust Chinese scientists at your labs:
The U.S. made a breakthrough battery discovery — then gave the technology to China

Engineer admits stealing Apple Car trade secrets before trying to flee to work for rivals in China:

Dutch chip firm ASML says former China employee stole data
https://edition.cnn.com/2023/02/15/tech/asml-china-employee-data-breach-intl-hnk/index.html

Chinese Scientist Sentenced to Prison in Theft of Engineered Rice
https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/chinese-scientist-sentenced-prison-theft-engineered-rice

Harvard University Professor and Two Chinese Nationals Charged in Three Separate China Related Cases
https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/pr/harvard-university-professor-and-two-chinese-nationals-charged-three-separate-china

Student accused of stealing research from Duke professor under Chinese government order
https://www.wral.com/student-accused-of-stealing-research-from-duke-professor-under-chinese-government-order/17722099/

Former Chicago College Student Convicted of Spying for Chinese Government
https://news.wttw.com/2022/09/27/former-student-convicted-spying-chinese-government

China may be behind theft of bio samples by Harvard-sponsored Chinese student, feds say

Worker at Canada’s largest electricity producer charged with spying for China, police say

Former GE Power Engineer Sentenced for Conspiracy to Commit Economic Espionage
https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/former-ge-power-engineer-sentenced-conspiracy-commit-economic-espionage

Texas professor pleads guilty for hiding connections with China

Chinese professor in US convicted of stealing tech secrets, economic espionage

and many more… just google it.

37. Charles Andrews Says:

Not a quantum PhD situation, but consider this: a distraught young woman has saved money so she can become a registered nurse. She is up on all the prerequisite academics. But the waiting list to get into RN schools is years long.

Here in California, she sees the U.S. bringing in nurses from the Philippines. Their country has prepared the nurses to their standard, which is close to U.S. requirements. In a couple of months, the immigrants are RNs working in hospitals.

What do I tell this young woman?

The U.S. has vast pools of available talent among our 330 million people. We don’t develop these talents. We let our schools become dysfunctional scenes of anarchy. Both parents (if both are present) need to work, and they don’t have time to nurture their children.

Are we to ignore all this and fret over the difficulty of bringing in Chinese replacements for the geniuses languishing in our decaying cities?

38. Moria Says:

Hey Scott,

Regarding some of the Chinese students going back home with the knowledge they gained from studying abroad, although I’m taking the following with a grain of salt (report from the Ministry of Education of China…) still, “From 1978-2019, among the 6.56 million Chinese students, 4.9 million of them have completed their study, and 86 percent returned to China after graduating”. https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1210043.shtml.

*Disclaiming in advance that I have zero knowledge in quantum complexity theory or in Physics in general, as a laywoman, I would like to better understand the possible motivation of the US government in denying the Visa, other than that of a security theater. Could the students researching with you have access to other researches ongoing in UT Austin, perhaps some with higher level of relevance/risk to national security? Or maybe the knowledge and experience they gain researching with your team could allow them progress in such “riskier” areas in the future?

39. Charles H. Bennett Says:

Couldn’t Chat-GPT be used to mitigate naked-emperor situations in deliberative bodies such as legislatures or tenure committees, whose members legitimately fear expressing opinions that may turn out to be unpopular? Existing techniques already allow members of such bodies to make anonymous motions, hold anonymous votes and be bound by their result; but In the anonymized chats preceding the vote, members’ differing writing styles may leak information about their identity, making them again reluctant to say what they think. Running each member”s comments through a vanillizing version of Chat-GPT before posting might usefully reduce this leakage.

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YOU MUST CLICK THE LINK IN YOUR VERIFICATION EMAIL BEFORE YOUR COMMENT CAN APPEAR. WHY IS THIS BOLD, UNDERLINED, ALL-CAPS, AND IN RED? BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE STILL FORGETTING TO DO IT.
3. This comment section is not a free speech zone. It's my, Scott Aaronson's, virtual living room. Commenters are expected not to say anything they wouldn't say in my actual living room. This means: No trolling. No ad-hominems against me or others. No presumptuous requests (e.g. to respond to a long paper or article). No conspiracy theories. No patronizing me. Comments violating these policies may be left in moderation with no explanation or apology.
4. Whenever I'm in doubt, I'll forward comments to Shtetl-Optimized Committee of Guardians, and respect SOCG's judgments on whether those comments should appear.
5. I sometimes accidentally miss perfectly reasonable comments in the moderation queue, or they get caught in the spam filter. If you feel this may have been the case with your comment, shoot me an email.