Original. Student reported. Your daily dose of Right-minded news and commentary from across the nation
Academics chide article on quantum computing for using term ‘supremacy’: it’s ‘for racists’

The ultimate in “woke” just may have waited until the very end of the year to reveal itself.

A cadre of academics is not happy about the journal Nature using the term “supremacy” in an article about quantum computing.

Titled “Quantum supremacy using a programmable superconducting processor,” the October piece deals with, well, just what it says: the superiority of computers using quantum processors versus so-called “classical” ones.

But 16 scholars say “supremacy” is for … racists. They want the phrase “quantum advantage” to be used in its place.

We consider it irresponsible to override the historical context of this descriptor, which risks sustaining divisions in race, gender and class. We call for the community to use ‘quantum advantage’ instead. …

In our view, ‘supremacy’ has overtones of violence, neocolonialism and racism through its association with ‘white supremacy’. Inherently violent language has crept into other branches of science as well — in human and robotic spaceflight, for example, terms such as ‘conquest’, ‘colonization’ and ‘settlement’ evoke the terra nullius arguments of settler colonialism and must be contextualized against ongoing issues of neocolonialism.

Surprisingly, all 16 who signed the complaint are associated with the hard sciences. They’re obviously brilliant individuals;  nevertheless, there are a few indications about the origins of their linguistic policing.

For instance, Leonie Mueck, one of the principal authors, has a background in quantum chemistry … but her bio notes she serves on a diversity and inclusion committee and is “passionate about diversity in STEM.”

Divya Persaud is working on her PhD in “Mars imaging” at University College London, and also writes poetry. Her work “do not perform this” deals with “trauma and identity” and “examines various aspects of […] historical trauma …”

Syed Mustafa Ali of Open University has written articles such as “Transhumanism and/as Whiteness,” “Decolonizing Information Narratives: Entangled Apocalyptics, Algorithmic Racism and the Myths of History,” and “A Brief Introduction to Decolonial Computing.” Oh, don’t forget “Towards a Critical Race Theory of Information.”

The University of Granada’s Juani Bermejo-Vega is Europe’s only transgender quantum computer scientist.

Lastly, Cecilia Cormick of Argentina’s National University of Córdoba is a member of the Argentinian Physical Society’s “gender commission.”

Does anyone recall eleven years ago when a local Texas official called the astronomy term “black hole” racist?

Will “Star Trek” soon have to go back and edit terms like “trans-warp drive” for the same reasons as this quantum computing gripe? After all, the trans-warp experiment ended up being a failure. The negative symbolism!!

Read the full complaint.

h/t: Rod Dreher

MORE: Academic uses cross-dressing to spur LGBT interest in science

MORE: Princeton course: Is science ‘gendered, racialized, ableist’?

IMAGE: Thinglass / Shutterstock.com

Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 15 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.

Add to the Discussion