Monday, June 17, 2013

Fraud or not ?

For each of these, are they frauds?

  1. The Turk was a chess playing ``computer'' (around 1770) that was later discovered to be cheating--- a human made the moves. As Ken Regan knows well, we now have the opposite problem- humans who cheat by having a computer make the moves. Note that the Turk still played an excellent game of chess and hid the human element. This IS an achievement--- just not the one people wanted. Fraud? Yes
  2. I once heard a rumor (NOTE- this may not be true, that's why its called a rumor) that Hybrid cars get good gas mileage NOT because of the battery but because in their effort to get good mileage they rethought other things like the aerodynamics and how the gas powers the car. If I buy a hybrid car that gets 45 miles and hour but then find out that it gets this NOT because of the battery, but because of really really good enginnering- was I cheated? My sense is NO since I wanted good gas mileage. I may wonder why I need to replace the battery, or even if I need to. Fraud: I'll say NO but its certainly debatable.
  3. Someone sells a single-purpose quantum computer to factor numbers and it works REALLY WELL but later it is discovered that it didn't use quantum at all(!)---it instead used a new classical algorithms (e.g., an extension of the Number field Sieve)--- would the buyers consider themselves cheated?
    1. If the buyers were people who just want to factor really large numbers then perhaps they wouldn't care.
    2. If the device was meant to fool granting agencies or venture capatilists to fund more quantum, then it is fraud. One may wonder why the device-maker didn't just apply for funding in crypto.
    3. If the buyer is an academic who then writes an article about how quantum computing is finally practical, when the truth is discovered he may have his credibility (unfairly?) tarnished.
  4. What if someone had a quantum computer that factored really well but was advertised as a really good classical algorithm that used hard number theory? Somehow that seems very funny to me as a scenario so I won't even ponder fraud or not.
  5. I have heard that the current quantum computers that do such miraculous things as factor 15 (darling says `factor 15? I could do that without breaking a sweat') or find R(3) (I always thought it was 6 and now I know!) may not be ``really quantum'' . This is problematic since nobody really wants to factor 15 or find R(3)--- that is, there is no analog to the people who want good gas mileage or the people who want to factor large numbers in my two examples above. These devices are JUST for demonstration purposes. If its not quantum, its not demonstrating anything. Fraud? Yes, but are they really fooling anyone?


  1. I understand the purpose of this post, but I feel like your judgments of fraud would be easier if you just said lying was fraud.

    This is particularly clear in items 3 and 5. If you say you have a quantum computer, and you *know* that you don't ...

    1. Good points- there are many ways to define fraud:

      1) The person KNOWS they are lying.

      2) The person is WRONG but doesn't know it.

      3) The person KNOWS they are lying but the device DOES
      produce the input-output you want, just not in the way you
      think. My real question is--- is this... a bad thing?

      (My hybrid gets 40 miles a gallon - do I care why?)

  2. In parallel computing a problem with some papers was that they would run a straight-forward algorithm on the single-processor and then run a highly-tweaked-out algorithm on the multi-processor that would have run better than the straight-forward algorithm did on single-processor. Fraud?

  3. @Anonymous - The weak baseline problem afflicts every area of experimental computer science, not just parallel computing. Usually it's naivete rather than bad faith. Even when it's bad faith (i.e. the person knew there were better baselines that were equally practical), I wouldn't call it scientific fraud. It's just uninteresting work.

  4. Hey! we can do even more miraculous things with a quantum computer right now, such as factoring 21!

  5. Get real! Everyone knows that team Smolin/Smith/Vargo has factored RSA-768 together with N-20,000 … an integer having 20,000 decimal places! (arXiv:1301.7007 gives full details) ;)