Think Big: Anton Zeilinger’s Advice to Quantum Researchers

Picture by Jacqueline Godany

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems that a lot of researchers in future technologies, especially quantum computing, always feel like they are apologizing for the potential of their tech.

It might be based on AI winter when the seemingly limitless powers of artificial intelligence was just around the corner.

Then it was around the other corner.

Then around the next corner.

And so on.

I hear similar attempts to temper the enthusiasm of quantum computing research.

But, it might be time to stop making excuses.  In this interview quantum pioneer Anton Zeilinger advises researchers to start thinking big.

As he puts it:

“Even in the most basic sciences you cannot work without bold attempts taking risks. You have to be open, you have to be challenging – this is the interesting stuff. I wouldn’t like to look at science as just one more step here or one more step there.”

Dr. Zeilinger should know something about thinking big — he’s been behind some of the most mind-boggling quantum teleportation experiments. Currently, he’s working on optical quantum computing using photons only.

He expects serious quantum computing to take hold in about 15 to 20 years.

What’s Dr. Z’s big idea?

How about a quantum computer in your mobile phone.

I said this partly tongue-in-cheek in the hope to encourage young people to have courageous minds. You have to set goals that are wildly ambitious. The point is that completely new technologies will emerge that we never predicted. Look at the laser. When it was invented [50 years ago] nobody predicted the two most common applications we see today – the CD player and the supermarket scanner. Nobody predicted this – that’s the way it always works.

Read more about Dr. Zeilinger here.


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