Why we should be talking about the ethics of quantum computation

Gyges was a shepherd in the service of the king of Lydia; there was a great storm, and an earthquake made an opening in the earth at the place where he was feeding his flock. Amazed at the sight, he descended into the opening, where, among other marvels, he beheld a hollow brazen horse, having doors, at which he stooping and looking in saw a dead body of stature, as appeared to him, more than human, and having nothing on but a gold ring; this he took from the finger of the dead and reascended.

Now the shepherds met together, according to custom, that they might send their monthly report about the flocks to the king; into their assembly he came having the ring on his finger, and as he was sitting among them he chanced to turn the collect of the ring inside his hand, when instantly he became invisible to the rest of the company and they began to speak of him as if he were no longer present. He was astonished at this, and again touching the ring he turned the collet outwards and reappeared; he made several trials of the ring, and always with the same result-when he turned the collet inwards he became invisible, when outwards he reappeared.

Whereupon he contrived to be chosen one of the messengers who were sent to the court; where as soon as he arrived he seduced the queen, and with her help conspired against the king and slew him, and took the kingdom.

– The Ring of Gyges, Plato [1]

What would you do in the place of Gyges upon finding a ring that would turn you invisible? Would you use it for a greater good? Or for your own personal benefit? What can we expect from humans to do with power over others?

These are some of the questions about human nature arising from Plato’s thought experiment in the Republic, and they remains as valid today as they were 2,400 years ago. The ring of Gyges has been used as a paradigmatic example when discussing ethics and it can be the perfect starting point towards a discussion about the ethics of quantum computation.

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Our latest paper: “Factorization and criticality in finite interacting spin systems under a nonuniform magnetic field”

Our latest paper just got published by Physical Review Letter! Let me briefly explain what our manuscript is about:

Factorization and criticality in finite interacting spin systems under a nonuniform magnetic field

 

Exact ground states of strongly interacting spin systems are normally highly entangled and  complex. Yet at particular finite values of the applied magnetic field such systems may exhibit a completely separable exact ground state, i.e. a simple product state where each spin points along a specific direction. Such remarkable phenomenon is known as ground state factorization.

Here we show the existence of an exceptionally degenerate set of completely separable ground states in XXZ systems immersed in a nonuniform field, arising at a remarkable quantum critical point where all magnetization plateaus merge. These points can emerge in arrays of any size, spin and dimension for a wide range of nonuniform field configurations, and exhibit other special critical properties like long range pair entanglement in their immediate vicinity.

The XXZ model is an archetypal quantum spin system which has helped to understand interacting many-body systems and their quantum phase transitions, and which has recently received renewed attention due the possibility of its finite size simulation with state-of-the-art technologies and its potential for implementing quantum information processing tasks. Among other possibilities, present results open the way to design exactly separable ground states in such system through a finite controlled field, which can be used as initial states for quantum protocols.

You can find the paper here:

https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.119.220605

And on the arXiv:

https://arxiv.org/abs/1708.00565

 

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I think it’s time we have “The Talk”

If you don’t know Zach Weinersmith’s Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, you should go check it out now here!


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Steven Weinberg on density matrix formalism

Just a friendly reminder as to why the density matrix formalism is so important and why it should be thought along side the state vector formalism.

Nothing that is done in one system can instantaneously affect the density matrix of another isolated system, although it can affect the state vector.

Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg, [1]

[1] “Quantum mechanics without state vectors”, Steven Weinberg, Phys. Rev. A 90, 042102 (2014).

 

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The More You Know: Quantum Simulator

A Quantum Simulator is a controllable quantum mechanical system than can be used to study more complex quantum system that cannot be directly studied nor simulated by any classical computer.

One of the most important consequences of the existence of entanglement in quantum mechanics is related to the quantity of information necessary to describe the state of a quantum system. In a classical system, the number of parameters needed to characterize its state is equal to the sum of the degrees of freedom of each of its components. However, for a quantum system, the number of parameters needed to describe its state grows exponentially with the number of constituents. And this makes the task of simulating a quantum system a very difficult one even for systems with few constituents, the computational resources needed for the simulation quickly become unreachable using computational techniques based on classical computers.

In 1982 Nobel laureate Richard Feynman conjectured that these limitations could be overcome using computers based on quantum systems. Based on this conjecture, physicists started exploiting the potential of quantum mechanics to develop new quantum computers (universal quantum simulators) capable of simulating quantum systems.

Nowadays there are several quantum systems than can be used as hardware for quantum simulators: trapped ions, cold atoms in optical lattices, liquid and solid-state NMR, photons, quantum dots, superconducting circuits, and NV centres. [1]

Go to the Dictionary of Quantum Information and Quantum Computation.

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Tools for Drawing Quantum Circuits

Last night I was writing an article for the series “The more You Know” to add to my Dictionary of Quantum Information and Quantum Computation and I ran across the need to draw a Quantum Circuit.

Although my first thought was to use a generic drawing software the results were not at all satisfying. Thus I proceeded to take the next logical step: an online search for a Quantum Circuit drawing tool. In this article I review two particularly interesting tools I found.

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The More You Know: Quantum Circuit

Quantum Circuits are used to visualize a prescription of quantum gates acting on a quantum state. They describe the changes of the quantum data as it undergoes successive discrete operations.

The data in a Quantum Circuit is usually encoded in a n-qubit state (other Quantum Circuit models can use m-level quantum systems instead of these 2-level systems) which is set to a known vale, i.e. |000...\rangle. Thus, for every qubit in the circuit a horizontal rail, a wire, is drawn to represent its evolution, time flows from left to right.

Wires

Wires in a Quantum Circuit initialized to the n-qubit quantum state |000...\rangle.

Additionally, a Quantum Circuit is built from elementary quantum gates (unitary operations) acting on a fixed number of qubits. Since Quantum Circuits are read from left to right, leftmost gates act first.

Gates

Single-qubit and Two-qubit quantum gates in a Quantum Circuit.

Then, a description of the Quantum System consists of

  1. Input: A controlled input n-qubit state.
  2. Evolution: Prescribed sequence of Unitary Single-qubit and Two-qubit logic quantum gates which give the evolution of the initial quantum state.
  3. Output: Readout (measurement) of the state of the n qubits.

Go to the Dictionary of Quantum Information and Quantum Computation.

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The More You Know: Bell States/EPR Pairs

Bell States (named after John S. Bell) or EPR pairs (after Einsetin, Podolski and Rosen Paradox) are the maximally entangled quantum states of a two qubit system (i.e. a quantum mechanical system composed of two interacting two-level subsystems).

In the computational basis \{|00\rangle,|01\rangle,|10\rangle,|11\rangle\} the four maximally entangled Bell states are expressed as

|\Phi^\pm\rangle=\frac{|00\rangle\pm|11\rangle}{\sqrt{2}},

|\Psi^\pm\rangle=\frac{|00\rangle\pm|11\rangle}{\sqrt{2}}.

To understand the correlations present in these states consider the Bell state |\Phi^+\rangle=\frac{|00\rangle+|11\rangle}{\sqrt{2}}. If a measurement is performed on the first qubit the result may be 0 or 1, after which the two qubit state collapses to |00\rangle or |11\rangle respectively. Then, a measurement on the second qubit must result in 0 or 1, yielding the same result as the measurement on the first one. That is, the outcomes of the measurements are correlated.

John Bell proved that the correlations present in EPR pairs cannot be accounted for by any classical theory. See this article for more.

Go to the Dictionary of Quantum Information and Quantum Computation.

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The More You Know: Bloch Sphere

The Bloch Sphere is a useful geometrical representation of the state of a Qubit or any other two level quantum system. As discussed in this article an arbitrary pure state |\psi\rangle of a Qubit can be expressed in the computational basis as

|\psi\rangle=\alpha|0\rangle + \beta|1\rangle,

where \alpha and \beta are complex number such that |\alpha|^2+|\beta|^2=1. Since an overall phase has no observable effects, \alpha or \beta can be chosen  as real numbers and |\psi\rangle can written as

|\psi\rangle=\cos\frac{\theta}{2}|0\rangle+\exp^{i\phi}\sin\frac{\theta}{2}|1\rangle,

where \theta and \phi \in \mathbb{R}. The parameters 0\leq\theta\leq\pi and 0\leq\phi\leq2\pi define a point on the 3D sphere called the Bloch Sphere (Fig. 1).

Bloch_Sphere

Fig. 1: Bloch Sphere representation of the State of a Qubit.

The points in the surface of the sphere represent pure states of the qubit, with |0\rangle as the North pole and |1\rangle as the South pole, and the equator states of the form |\psi\rangle=|0\rangle+\exp^{i\phi}|1\rangle. Additionally any mixed state of a qubit can be represented as a point inside the sphere, with maximally mixed states at the center of the Bloch Sphere.

This representation is useful in Quantum Computation to visualize the effect of single qubit gates.

Go to the Dictionary of Quantum Information and Quantum Computation.

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The More You Know: Qubit

A Qubit, or quantum bit is the fundamental unit of quantum information, it is a mathematical concept satisfying particular properties. The Qubit is the quantum counterpart of the classical bit.

A classical bit can be in one of two different states: 0 or 1, whereas a Qubit can be in the quantum states |1\rangle|0\rangle but also in any superposition of these two. That is, the state |\psi\rangle  of a Qubit will be of the form

|\psi\rangle=\alpha|0\rangle + \beta|1\rangle,

where \alpha and \beta are complex number satisfying

|\alpha|^2+|\beta|^2=1.

The states |1\rangle and |0\rangle form the so-called computational basis \{|1\rangle,|0\rangle\}. Then, as a mathematical concept, a Qubit is a vector normalized to length 1 in a 2D complex vector field.

Just as it’s classical analogue, a Qubit can have many physical realizations: The polarization of a photon, the spin of an electron or a nucleus, the localization of a charge, among other two-state quantum systems.

Go to the Dictionary of Quantum Information and Quantum Computation.

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