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Seth Lloyd

Professor, Mechanical Engineering and Physics, MIT

Seth Lloyd is a professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He refers to himself as a “quantum mechanic”.

Lloyd received a BA from Harvard College. He earned a certificate of advanced study in mathematics and a master of philosophy degree from Cambridge University, while on a Marshall Scholarship. Lloyd was awarded a doctorate by Rockefeller University after submitting a thesis on “Black Holes, Demons, and the Loss of Coherence: How Complex Systems Get Information, and What They Do With It”. Lloyd was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the High Energy Physics Department at the California Institute of Technology, where he worked with Murray Gell-Mann on applications of information to quantum-mechanical systems. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he worked at the Center for Nonlinear Systems on quantum computation. Lloyd eventually joined the faculty of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, and has been an adjunct faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute for over 20 years.

Lloyd’s research area is the interplay of information with complex systems, especially quantum systems. He has performed seminal work in the fields of quantum computation and quantum communication, including proposing the first technologically feasible design for a quantum computer, demonstrating the viability of quantum analog computation, proving quantum analogs of Shannon’s noisy channel theorem, and designing novel methods for quantum error correction and noise reduction. In his book, Programming the Universe, Lloyd contends that the universe itself is one big quantum computer producing what we see around us, and ourselves, as it runs a cosmic program. According to Lloyd, once we understand the laws of physics completely, we will be able to use small-scale quantum computing to understand the universe completely as well.

Lloyd states that we could have the whole universe simulated in a computer in 600 years provided that computational power increases according to Moore’s Law. However, Lloyd shows that there are limits to rapid exponential growth in a finite universe, and that it is very unlikely that Moore’s Law will be maintained indefinitely.

Lloyd is principal investigator at the MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics, and directs the Center for Extreme Quantum Information Theory (xQIT) at MIT. He has won the International Quantum Communication Award and been elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society.


Topic Series


Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes on the Cosmos

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