Hot Topic Session 5th HLF

Quantum Computing

Addressing practical applications of quantum computing and what could impede its development


The Hot Topic was coordinated and moderated by Philip Ball, a science writer and author and a former editor for physical sciences at Nature. He published a book in 2018 that is an examination of current views on the interpretation of quantum mechanics.


Rapid development in quantum computing over the past few years has brought it from an exotic theoretical possibility to a technology with tangible prototypes. Its ultimate potential is hard to assess, but some researchers expect it to be revolutionary in terms of what it will do for the complexity of problems computing can address. On September 28, 2017, a collective of theorists and experimentalists shared the stage at the Hot Topic of the 5th HLF. A panel of experts guided the session through the theoretical and algorithmic obstacles of quantum computing and into the present status and realistic future prospects.
There are fundamental and practical roadblocks still to overcome: stabilizing qubits (quantum bits) enough to compute with them dependably and in large enough numbers, designing quantum algorithms that can execute valuable tasks and deal with errors, and finally the theoretical complications that go to the heart of quantum theory itself. Despite these challenges, immense progress has been and will continue to be made by research at academic centers and companies such as IBM and Google.  


  • Scott Aaronson is a David J. Bruton Centennial Professor of Computer Science at the University of Texas at Austin, USA. His research interests include quantum computing and theoretical computer science more broadly. He writes the influential blog “Shtetl-Optimized”.
  • Jay Gambetta is Manager of the Theory of Quantum Computing and Information Section at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, New York, USA.
  • Seth Lloyd is a self-styled “quantum mechanic” and a Nam Pyo Suh Professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
  • John Martinis is a Professor of Physics at University of California at Santa Barbara and a Research Scientist at the Google Quantum AI Laboratory, where he is head of the quantum hardware team whose goal is to build a useful quantum computer.
  • Christopher Monroe is a Distinguished University Professor and Zorn Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland, USA, and co-Founder and Chief Scientist at IonQ, Inc. He is a leading researcher in the use of individual atoms for realizing quantum computers and quantum simulators. He has also pioneered modular architectures for scaling up atomic quantum computers using photonic networks.

Hot Topic: Quantum Computing



  • Scott Aaronson
  • Jay Gambetta
  • Seth Lloyd
  • John Martinis
  • Christopher Monroe

Panel discussion