Thursday, December 12, 2019

Overtones of violence, neocolonialism and racism

Nature is one of the two top science journals in the world, and it just published this wacky letter:

We take issue with the use of ‘supremacy’ when referring to quantum computers that can out-calculate even the fastest supercomputers (F. Arute et al. Nature 574, 505–510; 2019). We consider it irresponsible to override the historical context of this descriptor, which risks sustaining divisions in race, gender and class. We call for the community to use ‘quantum advantage’ instead.

The community claims that quantum supremacy is a technical term with a specified meaning. However, any technical justification for this descriptor could get swamped as it enters the public arena after the intense media coverage of the past few months.

In our view, ‘supremacy’ has overtones of violence, neocolonialism and racism through its association with ‘white supremacy’. Inherently violent language has crept into other branches of science as well — in human and robotic spaceflight, for example, terms such as ‘conquest’, ‘colonization’ and ‘settlement’ evoke the terra nullius arguments of settler colonialism and must be contextualized against ongoing issues of neocolonialism.

Instead, quantum computing should be an open arena and an inspiration for a new generation of scientists.
I don't think this solves anything. Someone could still complain that white men are advantaged over other groups.

If quantum supremacy turns out to be a big fraud, and quantum supremacy is associated with neocolonialism, that maybe that will help credit neo-colonialism?

These sorts of ridiculous complaints have become commonplace now, and I have concluded that most of them are not sincere. They are not really offended by the phrase. They are just trying to exercise some political power.

Lubos Motl also criticizes the Nature letter, and others:
Well, I find it amazing that Nature that used to be a respectable journal is publishing similar lunacy from such despicable and intellectually empty activists these days. ...

Wow. Dr Preskill, aren't you ashamed of being this kind of a hardcore coward? How does it feel to be a pußy of sixteen (OK, 1000 in binary) zeroes? People who are far from being supreme?

I encourage readers from Caltech to spit at Prof Preskill, a spineless collaborationist with pure evil. Maybe he needs to start to drown in saliva to understand that pure evil shouldn't be supported in this way. ...

Let's hope that the NPCs will never open the U.S. Constitution because they would find 3 copies of the word "supremacy" there (two of them are in "national supremacy") and they would start to burn the book immediately.
He is overreacting a bit, but it is outrageous that a leading science journal publishes a social justice warrior demand that we stop using a perfectly good neutral word.


  1. If you are against quantum supremacy, then you should join Antiqua.

  2. Quantum supremacy is just a poorly worded cry for more money from deep government pockets. Much more money.