Doctor of Philosophy
Wayne C. Myrvold
The aim of this dissertation is to clarify the debate over the explanation of quantum speedup and to submit, for the reader’s consideration, a tentative resolution to it. In particular, I argue that the physical explanation for quantum speedup is precisely the fact that the phenomenon of quantum entanglement enables a quantum computer to fully exploit the representational capacity of Hilbert space. This is impossible for classical systems, joint states of which must always be representable as product states. I begin the dissertation by considering, in Chapter 2, the most popular of the candidate physical explanations for quantum speedup: the many worlds explanation of quantum computation. I argue that, although it is inspired by the neo-Everettian interpretation of quantum mechanics, unlike the latter it does not have the conceptual resources required to overcome objections such as the so-called ‘preferred basis objection’. I further argue that the many worlds explanation, at best, can serve as a good description of the physical process which takes place in so-called network-based computation, but that it is incompatible with other models of computation such as cluster state quantum computing. I next consider, in Chapter 3, a common component of most other candidate explanations of quantum speedup: quantum entanglement. I investigate whether entanglement can be said to be a necessary component of any explanation for quantum speedup, and I consider two major purported counter-examples to this claim. I argue that both of these do not, in fact, show that entanglement is unnecessary for speedup, and that, on the contrary, we should conclude that it is. In Chapters 4 and 5 I then ask whether entanglement can be said to be sufficient as well. In Chapter 4 I argue that despite a result that seems to indicate the contrary, entanglement, considered as a resource, can be seen as sufficient to enable quantum speedup. Finally, in Chapter 5 I argue that entanglement is sufficient to explain quantum speedup as well.
Cuffaro, Michael, "On the Physical Explanation for Quantum Computational Speedup" (2013). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 1142.