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Reflections on the Role of Entanglement in the Explanation of Quantum Computational Speedup

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  • Computation/Information
  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Communication
  • Computer Science
  • Design
  • Physics


Of the many and varied applications of quantum information theory, perhaps the most fascinating is the sub-field of quantum computation. In this sub-field, computational algorithms are designed which utilise the resources available in quantum systems in order to compute solutions to computational problems with, in some cases, exponentially fewer resources than any known classical algorithm. While the fact of quantum computational speedup is almost beyond doubt, the source of quantum speedup is still a matter of debate. In this paper I argue that entanglement is a necessary component for any explanation of quantum speedup and I address some purported counter-examples that some claim show that the contrary is true. In particular, I address Biham et al.'s mixed-state version of the Deutsch-Jozsa algorithm, and Knill \& Laflamme's deterministic quantum computation with one qubit (DQC1) model of quantum computation. I argue that these examples do not demonstrate that entanglement is unnecessary for the explanation of quantum speedup, but that they rather illuminate and clarify the role that entanglement does play.

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