Theses Doctoral

Histories, Tech, and a New Central Planning

Glickman, Susannah Elizabeth

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 quantum computing and information (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.


This item is currently under embargo. It will be available starting 2028-08-15.

More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Jones, Matthew L.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 16, 2023