Scott Aaronson and Steve Pinker decry language policing

Why Evolution Is True

On December 12 I reported on what has to get the award for Dumbest Pecksniffery of 2019. A group of 16 computer scientists wrote a letter to Nature saying that their colleagues (and everyone) should stop using the phrase “quantum supremacy”, a term that refers to the ability of a quantum-computing device being to do what conventional computers simply cannot. The language police, always sniffing about for something to condemn, decided that the word “supremacy” was unpalatable: the title of their Nature letter was “Supremacy is for racists—use ‘quantum advantage’.” (I see the title has now been changed to simply “Instead of ‘supremacy’ use ‘quantum advantage.” That already shows they knew they overstepped.)

At any rate, here’s a bit of the Pecksniff’s plaint:

In our view, ‘supremacy’ has overtones of violence, neocolonialism and racism through its association with ‘white supremacy’. Inherently violent language has crept into other branches of science…

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