Thesis ID: CBB163200152

Histories, Tech, and a New Central Planning (2023)


My research seeks to uncover how imagined futures and technological promises--in this case, the promise of quantum computers--became so tangible in the present. How could such a significant industry be built and maintained around mere potential existence? My project locates the answer to this question in the broader politico-economic category of ‘tech’—by which users typically mean information technology—through the history of QC. A category articulated by actors in this history, ‘tech’ emerges in its current form in the mid-1980s and relies on the conflation of economic and national security in the flesh of high-tech products like semiconductors. Since the field has yet to deliver on any of its promises, it cannot activate an after-the-fact teleology of “discovery”. For this reason, combined with its high visibility and institutional maturity, QC provides a particularly rich view into how actors construct institutions, histories, narratives and ideologies in real time, as well as how these narratives shift according to the needs of an audience, field, or other factors. Not only products of changing institutions, these narratives also reciprocally produce institutions—they mediate between material reality and ideology. For example, I look at the role of Moore’s Law in the reconstruction of the semiconductor industry and in the production of institutions for QC. My project uses new archival research and extensive oral interviews with more than 90 researchers and other important figures from academia, government and industry in the US, Japan, Europe, China, Singapore, and Israel to analyze the development of QC and the infrastructure that made it possible over the past 50 years. This project would constitute the first history of QC and would contribute a unique and incisive perspective on the rise of ‘tech’ in statecraft and power.

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Authors & Contributors
Aronova, Elena
Bardini, Thierry
Brooks, Frederick P., Jr.
Carlsson, Anders
Carr, Nicholas G.
Coello, Carlos A.
IEEE Annals of the History of Computing
The Bridge: Journal of the National Academy of Engineering
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Public Understanding of Science
MIT Press
Akademika Publishing
Stanford University Press
W. W. Norton & Co.
Computers and computing
Computer industry
Information technology
Computer science
Bagrit, Leon, Sir
Coales, John
Engelbart, Douglas
Hoelzer, Helmut
Von Neumann, John
Zuse, Konrad
Time Periods
20th century, late
20th century
21st century
Great Britain
United States
International Business Machines Corporation

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