This past week I was in Redmond for the Microsoft Faculty Summit, which this year included a special session on quantum computing. (Bill Gates was also there, I assume as our warmup act.) I should explain that Microsoft Research now has not one but two quantum computing research groups: there’s Station Q in Santa Barbara, directed by Michael Freedman, which pursues topological quantum computing, but there’s also QuArC in Redmond, directed by Krysta Svore, which studies things like quantum circuit synthesis.
Anyway, I’ve got two videos for your viewing pleasure:
- An interview about quantum computing with me, Krysta Svore, and Matthias Troyer, moderated by Chris Cashman, and filmed in a studio where they put makeup on your face. Just covers the basics.
- A session about quantum computing, with three speakers: me about “what quantum mechanics is good for” (quantum algorithms, money, crypto, and certified random numbers), then Charlie Marcus about physical implementations of quantum computing, and finally Matthias Troyer about his group’s experiments on the D-Wave machines. (You can also download my slides here.)
This visit really drove home for me that MSR is the closest thing that exists today to the old Bell Labs: a corporate lab that does a huge amount of openly-published, high-quality fundamental research in math and CS, possibly more than all the big Silicon-Valley-based companies combined. This research might or might not be good for Microsoft’s bottom line (Microsoft, of course, says that it is, and I’d like to believe them), but it’s definitely good for the world. With the news of Microsoft’s reorganization in the background, I found myself hoping that MS will remain viable for a long time to come, if only because its decline would leave a pretty gaping hole in computer science research.
Unfortunately, last week I also bought a new laptop, and had the experience of PowerPoint 2013 first refusing to install (it mistakenly thought it was already installed), then crashing twice and losing my data, and just generally making everything (even saving a file) harder than it used to be for no apparent reason. Yes, that’s correct: the preparations for my talk at the Microsoft Faculty Summit were repeatedly placed in jeopardy by the “new and improved” Microsoft Office. So not just for its own sake, but for the sake of computer science as a whole, I implore Microsoft to build a better Office. It shouldn’t be hard: it would suffice to re-release the 2003 or 2007 versions as “Office 2014”! If Mr. Gates took a 2-minute break from curing malaria to call his former subordinates and tell them to do that, I’d really consider him a great humanitarian.