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Andrew Yao: Interest Lies in Scientific Requirement

November 13,2008

Prof. Yao sat alone in the VIP Hall, waiting for his turn of talk. The ray penetrated through the curtain of the Great Hall of the People, and the scholar turned out to be rather composed and young.


Like giving a lecture, Prof. Yao talked with a slow speech rate, and he would say “We should ask for experts’ advice” after thinking. Actually, this scientist often forgets that he himself is the top expert in this field. Regarding the recent heat topic of economic crisis, Prof. Yao did not lecture to audience like many others, but mentioned that it has less impact on theoretical scholars. In his own research field, no great impact has taken place, but maybe we will face it soon. After all, it is difficult for people to foresee what will happen in the future. What we can foresee is we will soon learn about the orientation of development in the following decades. You may think such statement conservative, but it is really the embodiment of prudence, modesty and wholeheartedness of the scientist.


Prof. Yao studies theoretical computer science for years, and this field consists of complex algorithms and baffling mathematical models. During a long time, no Chinese scholars studied in this field until Prof. Yao received Turing Award in 2000 for his con­tributions to the theory of computation, including communication com­plexity, pseudorandom number generation, and quantum communica­tion. He is the first Chinese scientist who received the prestigious Turing Award, and appears in the field of theoretical computer science, which is the main orientation in US and had only western researchers before.


Turing Award is the highest honor in computer science, widely regarded as the Nobel Prize of computing. Four years after Prof. Yao got the award, he came back to China and became a professor in Advanced Study Centre of Tsinghua University, which fills the gap in computer discipline in China.


Speaking of his main research on quantum computing, Prof. Yao had more words. In his eyes’, quantum computer has a bright future although it takes more time to fully develop. Quantum computing will become very useful in the future.


Prof. Yao hasn’t claimed that quantum computer will replace traditional computer. He mentioned that quantum computer is not necessarily better than traditional computer in every detailed problem. Only sometimes it makes computing much quicker. Meanwhile, quantum coding based on quantum communication technology cannot be claimed “absolute secure”.


The concept of quantum coding is totally different from that of traditional coding, which leads a new time for Internet security, although quantum computer with large computing amount has been invented and quantum coding has reliability. Within present technical level, quantum coding is close to reality to larger extent, but it has not applied into commerce and quantum computers haven’t been invented yet.


Prof. Yao never gives assertions absurdly but expresses himself with mild and developing attitude. He has clear attitude towards choosing research field and researchers’ spirit: research orientation and projects’ benefit are not key points and project application and developing potential are not within considering range. The time of scientists is precious. One who devotes himself to scientific work should concentrate on his own career. This is the academic spirit that a scientist should possess in Prof. Yao’s eyes. As for research value, he thinks that if you have interest, nothing would be boring. Interest lies in scientific requirement.