Quantum Bayesian Networks

April 8, 2009

How NOT to build an American Quantum Computer Industry

Filed under: Uncategorized — rrtucci @ 7:05 am

John Marburger John Holdren, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, has called for a “workshop” that may well determine the direction of quantum computing R&D in the US for the next decade. His agency has published a very slick sales brochure, signed by Holdren’s predecessor, John Marburger, that describes various unanswered issues in Quantum Information Science, and promises a bold new American initiative to answer them.

At first glance, this might seem like promising news. However, there are some disheartening red flags. The buck must stop at Holdren, since his agency is financing this workshop.


The general public has been notified about the conference on April 7, only 16 days before the April 23-25 event. With so many confirmed speakers (about 2 dozen), it’s clear that the planners of this conference have known about it long before April 7. It appears that Holdren is no great believer in the democratic process, and that he is using this technique of late announcement to dissuade the general public from attending, except for a token few of the great unwashed.


From (1), it appears that the workshop is mainly for insiders, for the old boys network of tenured “experts”, to advise on government policy. If so, then why so many technical talks? Are experts coming together in this workshop to advise on government policy,  or to learn additional esoteric details about quantum information theory? I mean, should the experts in this workshop be focusing on the microscopic details of the trees, when their main goal is to see through the forest? Personally, I think the only expert that should be speaking at this workshop is Mr. Open Discussion. An adjunct, secondary poster session would have been okay too, but why the hilariously long, dog and pony show?


The list of speakers includes no business interests. No entrepreneurs, no investors, no CEOs , no real business people, no software developers (of either closed or open software). How does Holdren expect to foster a new industry if he excludes business interests from day one? Is he planning to invent a new kind of computer that doesn’t use software? Sure, there are a few invited speakers from IBM and Microsoft, but they are all quasi-academics, many are partially funded by the government, none is trying to sell a product or court investment. One or two of the speakers have even written a small amount of quantum computer software, but none of their software is public that I know of.

The outcome of Holdren’s workshop appears to be a foregone conclusion, so why have a workshop at all? Holdren will continue to fund the same old tenured academics and their silly institutes. These old fashioned institutes will continue to produce an endless stream of post-docs. Most of these post-docs will have to leave the field because Holdren’s “initiative” has failed to foster the industry that could employ them.

To learn more about how to build a computer that uses no software, see this.

This workshop has been announced also at

Quantum Moxie,

Shtetl Optimized,

Quantum Pontiff

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  1. You seem to be assuming that how an American QC industry develops depends on how the government acts, what they put money into or don’t. Why would you assume this? If a technology has value to an end customer, it can be financed, matured and become self-sustaining with little or no government support, and in fact any technology that can’t do this is probably not worth developing. Government probably does have a role to play in education and financing basic research and there is a good argument for having policy supporting the purchase of new products for a variety of reasons.

    Why don’t you do a post on how you should build an industry?

    Comment by Geordie — April 8, 2009 @ 2:09 pm

  2. Marburger is gone einstein

    Comment by Qguy — April 9, 2009 @ 5:37 am

  3. Thanks, Qguy. Fixed it. I am a very slowly convergent series.

    Comment by rrtucci — April 9, 2009 @ 9:49 am

  4. Ant pleads to shoe that is about to crush it

    From: Robert R. Tucci
    Date: April 9, 2009 8:21:35 AM EDT
    To: info@ostp.gov (Office of Science and Technology Policy)
    Subject: Please see my blog post, with advice for OSTP

    Dear Sirs,
    Please see my blog post, with advice for OSTP
    Dr. Robert R. Tucci

    Comment by rrtucci — April 9, 2009 @ 12:44 pm

  5. Apart from complaining, I feel I should give some specific, concrete suggestions. I gave some in my message to KaoriBlue in the Shtetl Optimized blog:

    Kaori Blue,
    I too believe that private industry has a mind of its own and should only be weakly coupled to government funding and policy.

    However, there is a coupling between academia and industry that is unavoidable, namely, that academia trains the scientists and engineers that propel industry. If there were no connection between academia and industry, then there would be, in my opinion, almost no justification for government to fund academic QIS research. I believe that government should try to enhance the ties between academia and industry. I don’t see how this can happen if industry is excluded or very under-represented from a workshop like this.

    For example, why isn’t a business representative from Intel or Microsoft (a business type , not a pure mathematician like M. Freedman) speaking at this conference? Why wasn’t Geordie Rose invited to speak? Whatever you think about the prospects of D-Wave, it has garnered 40million dollars of investment, which is a pretty awesome achievement. It would also be nice to hear from investors and entrepreneurs who believe in QIS. They don’t have to reveal their trade secrets, just their opinions and advice. Why wasn’t John Sidles invited to speak (of course, his talk would have to have a very stringent time limit :) ) Why wasn’t this advertised in Slashdot, to get the immensely powerful programming community involved? Why isn’t there some program, like a coop, to place QIS postdocs in industry? Why aren’t there tax incentives for companies working on QIS?

    You say:
    ” my impression is that this event is primarily geared towards building a strong theoretical community for QIS in the United States.”

    That’s my impression too. This workshop has been turned into just another theory conference. But, IMHO, this workshop should have and could have been something entirely different.

    Comment by rrtucci — April 11, 2009 @ 10:36 am

  6. > I am a very slowly convergent series.

    At least you’re convergent! :)

    Comment by quantummoxie — April 22, 2009 @ 12:45 am

  7. Since I wrote this blogpost, the QIS workshop has been discussed further at the Shtetl Optimized blog

    (1)One way Obama has supported scientists

    (2)The QIS workshop

    Highlight from (1):
    Prof. John Sidles pointed out the following webpage for a public workshop (held on April 22, 2009) and report, on the subject of Simulation-Based Engineering & Science (SBE&S), sponsored by the NSF, conducted by WTEC. IMHO, the SBE&S workshop, with its early announcement, clear goals and industry inclusion, is an excellent model for what the QIS workshop should have been.

    Comment by rrtucci — May 14, 2009 @ 6:42 am

  8. Homicide in Vienna, reported by The QComp Onion.

    Comment by rrtucci — May 14, 2009 @ 1:20 pm

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