Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Edge of Computation Prize

Edge.org is a "third culture" site that
takes a good deal of its inspiration and its view of the intellectual landscape from C. P. Snow's division of intellectual culture into two camps, the literary and the scientific. Snow's 1959 book The Two Cultures presents a reading of intellectual history which argues, in part, that twentieth-century literary intellectuals attempted to commandeer the title of intellectual from the scientists, delegitimatizing scientists as men and women of letters and attempting to exclude them from the intellectual mainstream. Snow laid the principal blame on the literati, but also chided scientists for failing to defend their rightful cultural prerogatives. Snow eventually came round to the view (presented in his 1963 essay "The Two Cultures: A Second Look") that a "third culture" would emerge, fusing the old dual cultures and placing the literary and the scientific on co-equal terms, communicating and cross-fertilizing each other.
They have a prize called The Edge of Computation, whose mandate they describe as:
Metaphors of information processing and computation are at the center of today's intellectual action. A new and unified language of science is beginning to emerge. Concepts of information and computation have infiltrated a wide range of sciences, from mathematics, physics and cosmology, to cognitive psychology, to evolutionary biology, to genetic engineering. [...]

The Prize recognizes individual achievement in scientific work that embodies extensions of the computational idea — the design space created by Turing. It is a 21st Century prize in recognition of cutting edge work — theoretical, experimental, or both — performed, published, or newly applied within the past ten years.
The prize is worth $100,000, and there are a number of nominations (some multiple nominations as well). The list is interesting, and worth perusing (although the double nomination for Stephen Wolfram might not please Cosma Shalizi :)).

What I noticed though that among the nominations most relevant to theoretical computer science are three quantum computing experts, Charles Bennett, David Deutsch and Peter Shor. David Haussler, Gregory Chaitin and Martin Davis round out the list. Although we all know that prizes are superficial lotteries, it did pique my curiosity to see that a large majority of theoretical computer scientists deemed worthy of recognition this way are people involved with quantum computing.

Should I be reading anything into this ? Is any computing unrelated to quantum computing now a pointless exercise in combinatorics ? Is BQP the true model of effective computation, making all other (classical) models irrelevant and outdated ? Am I just a paranoid android ?

Update (11/14/05): David Deutsch wins !
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