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Information Processing in Convex Operational Theories: Toward a characterization of quantum mechanics

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The rise of quantum information science has been paralleled by the development of a vigorous research program aimed at obtaining an informational characterization or reconstruction of the quantum formalism, in a broad framework for stochastic theories that encompasses quantum and classical theory, but also a wide variety of other theories that can serve as foils to them. Such a reconstruction, at its most ambitious, is envisioned as playing a role in quantum physics similar to Einstein\'s reconstruction of the dynamics and kinetics of macroscopic bodies, and later of their gravitational interactions, on the basis of simple principles with clear operational meanings and experimental consequences. But short of such an ambitious goal, it could still lead to a principled understanding of the features of quantum mechanics that account for its greater-than-classical information-processing power, an understanding which could help guide the search for new quantum algorithms and protocols. I will summarize a convex operational framework for possible physical theories, and present results from a project to characterize quantum mechanics in terms of principles tightly linked to the possibility or impossibility of various information processing protocols. Previous results identified properties, like the existence of information-disturbance tradeoffs and restrictions on cloning and broadcasting, common to all nonclassical theories. In this talk I will focus on recent results involving protocols that are less generic. These are: the existence of exponentially secure bit commitment in non-classical theories without entanglement, the consequences for theories of the existence of a conclusive teleportation scheme, and sufficient conditions for the existence of a deterministic teleportation scheme. I\'ll also discuss sufficient conditions for \'remote steering\' of ensembles using entanglement, rendering insecure bit commitment protocols of the form shown to be secure in the unentangled case. Connections to the category-theoretic approach of Coecke and Abramsky, Selinger, Baez, and collaborators may be touched on if time permits. Joint work with various groups of collaborators including Jonathan Barrett, Matthew Leifer, Alexander Wilce, Oscar Dahlsten, and Ben Toner.