Thursday, August 28, 2014

Quantum computer joke

I like intellectual geek jokes, like this one:
There are only 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don't.
Here is an high-brow joke:
“Werner Heisenberg, Kurt Gödel, and Noam Chomsky walk into a bar. Heisenberg turns to the other two and says, ‘Clearly this is a joke, but how can we figure out if it's funny or not?’ Gödel replies, ‘We can't know that because we're inside the joke.’ Chomsky says, ‘Of course it's funny. You're just telling it wrong.’ ”
Just the idea of Heisenberg, Gödel, and Noam Chomsky having to talk to each other is funny already. I am not sure if this is a reference to Chomsky being a expert on language and human nature, or his goofy politics, or his combative demeanor, or what.

Scott Aaronson just told a good one:
Let me start with a story that John Preskill told me years ago.  In the far future, humans have solved not only the problem of building scalable quantum computers, but also the problem of human-level AI.  They’ve built a Turing-Test-passing quantum computer.  The first thing they do, to make sure this is actually a quantum computer, is ask it to use Shor’s algorithm to factor a 10,000-digit number.  So the quantum computer factors the number.  Then they ask it, “while you were factoring that number, what did it feel like?  did you feel yourself branching into lots of parallel copies, which then recohered?  or did you remain a single consciousness — a ‘unitary’ consciousness, as it were?  can you tell us from introspection which interpretation of quantum mechanics is the true one?”  The quantum computer ponders this for a while and then finally says, “you know, I might’ve known before, but now I just … can’t remember.”
I don't get it, but I am probably not smart enuf. This story has all the appearances of being both profound and funny. Maybe someone will explain it to me.

Update: Here is a joke Chomsky story:
Professor of linguistics and political campaigner Noam Chomsky has been confirmed as the new judge on TV talent show The X Factor. ‘Cheryl Cole was still recovering from malaria and we needed someone who could fill the intellectual void,’ said programme creator Simon Cowell, ‘Professor Chomsky is perfect and the audience just loves him.’

In his first outing as judge, Chomsky quickly made his mark. ‘Your act is part of a propaganda state promoting a culture-ideology of comforting illusion’, he told one hopeful young girl, before adding, ‘I’m saying yes.’

Chomsky then set about a teenage boy-band, describing them as ‘yet another example of pre-packaged ideological oppression whose lyrics systematically fail to demonstrate even a basic understanding of what happened to East Timor in 1975,’ he paused for effect, ‘But, I’m giving you a second chance … You’re through to the next round.’

Not satisfied with attacking the acts, Professor Chomsky then turned his critique on The X Factor audience. ‘You are all complicit in a hegemonic construct designed primarily to keep you from questioning what is really going on in the world,’ he told them, ‘You must learn to think critically and reject the pernicious cult of celebrity.’ It was at this point that the audience went wild, whooping, cheering and chanting his name. ‘We love you Chomsky!’ they screamed as the 81 year-old professor sat at the table with his head in his hands.


  1. The joke is that Scott Aaronson is trying to be funny by repeating a joke from John Preskill who isn't very funny either. The joke blind leading the joke blind.

  2. The smug implication is supposed to be that the computer which actually did the calculation was actually now a different branch of probability (bullshit reality), but sadly, the only part of the joke that is funny is how the person who made it up does not know what probability actually is... it's just a second hand calculation, it has nothing to do with actuality unless you believe performing a mere numerical calculation grants divine powers of hypostatization. Every time you roll the dice, you are rolling the same dice in the same universe, maybe a different game at a different time, but other wise... meh, nothing profound except demonstration that actual things move through actual space. The only thing that is amusing about the 'joke' is how deluded mathematicians are to think even crunching numbers is possible without an underlying physical actuality to inform their existence. No physical reality = no matter/energy = thus no people or computers or calculators or represented '=' symbols to contain abstract information about half baked parallel universes (neurons, all electronic logical gates, slide-rulers, and abacuses are all comprised of matter and require a physical actuality to sustain them and their operation).
    Considering how many overpaid number crunchers are purported atheists, I am surprised with how often they try to swerve into the supernatural and lend physical actuality to second hand abstractions through the use of mere hand waving and off camera miracles. Perhaps if they were actually even a tad educated in philosophical and epistemological theory, they might shy away from sophomoric reification errors...or just plain 'Wishing don't make it so'.
    What the study of philosophy can teach math and physics people is what a poorly constructed idea looks like, and how to avoid their pitfalls. (reification and hypostatization are rudimentary philosophical reasoning errors, epistemology in particular can also be very useful) If you have no idea of the history of ideas before you came along, you really are uniformed when you go about constructing your own ideas, and are more likely than not to end up re-inventing someone else's mistake.

  3. an awful lot of funnies in one post. seriously.
    you must've called some sort of custom guffaw( ) module.

  4. I believe the Chomsky's line in the bar is a reference to his linguistic theories. Simply put, Chomsky stresses the distinction between competence and performance. Every native speaker knows what is a complete sentence and how to form them, even though what you hear in real conversations are more often than not fragmented pieces of a sentence. So, Chomsky "knows" that on some abstract level the joke is funny, but the others are performing poorly when telling it.