1.10 Outlook

When the physics of computation was first investigated, starting in the 1960s, one of the main motivations was a fear that quantum-mechanical effects might place fundamental bounds on the accuracy with which physical objects could render the properties of the abstract entities (such as logical variables and operations) that appear in the theory of computation. It turned out, however, that quantum mechanics itself imposes no significant limits, and even breaks through some of those problems that were imposed by classical physics. The quantum world has a richness and intricacy that allows new practical technologies, and new kinds of knowledge. In this course we will merely scratch the surface of the rapidly developing field of quantum computation. We will concentrate mostly on the fundamental issues and skip many experimental details. However, it should be mentioned that quantum computing is a serious possibility for future generations of computing devices. At present it is not clear how and when fully-fledged quantum computers will eventually be built, but this notwithstanding, the quantum theory of computation already plays a much more fundamental role in the scheme of things than its classical predecessor did. It is reasonable to argue that anyone who seeks a fundamental understanding of either physics, computation, or logic must incorporate into their world view the new insights brought by quantum theory.