Thank you for the detailed response!

I think I wandered too far afield with the comment about Moore's law (I kinda just wanted to see how people would respond, and it seemed like a more accessible question). I don't think faster, cheaper computers are an end unto themselves, and I don't think working on AI would be my comparative advantage . My single biggest motivation is the development of quantum simulation with a view towards quantum chemistry and many-body simulation, which in turn are relevant for the development of medicine and energy. I am a transhumanist and I want to work on technology that has a good shot of leading to an increase in life expectancies and human carrying capacity by the time it starts to really matter for me (40-50 years out, shamelessly selfish I know, I am working on becoming more altruistic. I also just enjoy thinking about physics.

I don't want to turn this into a "predict my chances for grad school thread," but I think I have a reasonable shot of making an impact in condensed matter research (Harvard undergraduate, I should be able to update this view after this upcoming semester when I get directly involved in experimental research on the Quantum Anomalous Hall Effect). My backup plan if academia doesnt work out is to join one of the quantum computing startups that will likely be founded over the next 7 years. I have done internships in finance and software dev, neither of which I really loved, but for a physics major/grad student those doors tend to remain at least partially open with some independent study.

I was actually not that interested in quantum computing until I came across the really beautiful idea of topological quantum computing. Also I have seen that talk by John Martinis, although it was a while ago, I am going to watch it again now that I have more of the relevant knowledge, thanks!

Part of what makes smart people valuable is that they can learn new stuff. The specialized part of an undergrad education can be done in under 2 years, 4 hours a day (even assuming no shortcuts or speedups), which is not that much time if you're making plans for over 5 years out. So although it certainly seems like you have some strong comparative advantage in one field, you can still change tracks pretty easily.

Quantum computing startups are a bit tricky, because of the huge seed investment for low temperature and nanofabrication equipment. Maybe if peopl... (read more)

Open Thread, Dec. 28 - Jan. 3, 2016

by [anonymous] 1 min read27th Dec 2015145 comments

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