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Quantum Computing Defense Race Our Decade's Moonshot

quantum computing

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By    |   Monday, 25 November 2019 09:41 AM

A July 2015 China State Council report outlined a three-phase effort that will culminate in 2049 — the 100 year anniversary of the founding of Communist China — when they intend for China to dominate the world’s economy with advanced technology and industrial systems. Telecommunications is the key element of the strategy, with plans to go from 37 percent of the global market to 82 percent by 2025.

In 2016, China’s 13th Five Year Plan identified quantum computing as a key strategic initiative, and authorized a quantum “megaproject” to that end.

China’s estimated tens of billions in quantum commitments far outpace Washington’s more modest outlays. By comparison the entire U.S. budget for quantum research in 2016 was just $200 million, or about one-fifth the cost of a single Chinese project in the field.

While the Trump administration signed the National Quantum Initiative Act in December of 2019, providing $1.2 billion in quantum research funding over five years, Beijing’s efforts to promote quantum technologies remain unmatched.

In 2016, China launched Micius, the world’s first quantum communications-enabled satellite to conduct a presently "unhackable" two-way encrypted video-call.

For some, that launch eerily echoed the launch of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik satellite in 1957, a breakthrough that caught the United States off guard and spurred a decades-long contest to regain and maintain global technological and military supremacy.

Writing in The Hill.com, former Senior U.S. State Department Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program Adviser Morgan Wright compares China’s current development of a new $10 billion, 4 million square foot quantum computing park in the Anhui Province with Bletchley Park, home to Winston Churchill’s massive World War II "Ultra" program to intercept and decode information coming from previously unbreakable German "Enigma" machines.

Wright predicts that new generation quantum encryption will be a major cyber surveillance and security game-changer because there is no way to "eavesdrop" and listen in. No way to siphon off the message traffic by tapping the line. He warns, "We will be completely blind. And with quantum encryption, our adversaries will absolutely know we’re trying to listen in."

But the big follow-on question still remains; while quantum encryption is considered by some to be unbreakable now . . . in the new quantum era, is anything truly unbreakable?

The jury of history remains undecided on this matter.

In January 2019, IBM unveiled its latest quantum computer.

At just 20 qubits, the IBM Q System One was impressive but far from revolutionary.

Other American tech heavyweights like Google and Intel are funding similar research, and while the results are promising, "quantum supremacy" still lies beyond the horizon.

Cybersecurity experts Richard Clarke and Robert Knake confirm that at least one new encryption method being explored actually uses a form of quantum computing to secure messages, using quantum to deal with quantum.

They foresee in their book, "The Fifth Domain," that such quantum supremacy, should it occur, could ultimately have a single victor, one who frighteningly conquers and controls all artificial intelligence networks.

Clarke and Knake hypothesize that if an attack algorithm were written in new quantum code, taking advantage of an operational quantum computer’s computational capacity, it might be possible to develop a tool that would collect everything that is known about a network, simulate it, and find the best way to attack it.

Former University of California president C.L. Max Nikias predicts that "whoever gets this technology first will be able to cripple traditional defenses and power grids and manipulate the global economy."

Inevitably, whether two years away or 10, banks and other commercial and private-sector organizations are going to have to shift from encryption systems they use now to quantum-resistant systems.

From NSA headquarters at Fort Meade — to the national laboratories that created the atomic bomb — American scientists and engineers are, in fact, struggling to maintain a lead.

An enormous amount of collaborative government, academic and corporate work is going on to marry quantum computing and machine learning. NASA, Stanford and Google have come together to create QuAIL, the Quantum and AI Laboratory in Palo Alto.

Each year, researchers from governments and computing giants including Intel, Microsoft and Cisco meet with top academics in the worlds of cybersecurity and mathematics at a "Workshop on Quantum-Safe Cryptography" to discuss potential solutions to the common threat.

Teams at places such as MIT and the University of Toronto are already busy writing machine learning applications in the new computer languages developed for quantum.

Experts urge that we must now begin planning for a transition to post-quantum cryptography that even those enormously complex codes can’t hack.

Vinod Vaikuntanathan of Duality Technologies predicts that mastering such cutting-edge technology will not only garner prestige, it could very well help determine the global balance of power on a new cyberspace battleground.

"In short," he observes, "quantum computing is this century’s moonshot — and now (as then), its outcome is about far more than national pride. It’s nothing less than a matter of national security."

Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of several books, including “The Weaponization of AI and the Internet: How Global Networks of Infotech Overlords are Expanding Their Control Over Our Lives” (2019), "Reinventing Ourselves: How Technology is Rapidly and Radically Transforming Humanity" (2019), "Thinking Whole: Rejecting Half-Witted Left & Right Brain Limitations" (2018), "Reflections on Oceans and Puddles: One Hundred Reasons to be Enthusiastic, Grateful and Hopeful” (2017), "Cosmic Musings: Contemplating Life Beyond Self" (2016), "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (2015) and “Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax” (2011). He is currently working on a new book with Buzz Aldrin, "Beyond Footprints and Flagpoles." To read more of his reports Click Here Now.

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In 2016, China launched Micius, the world’s first quantum communications-enabled satellite to conduct a presently "unhackable" two-way encrypted video-call. For some, that launch eerily echoed the launch of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik satellite in 1957
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2019-41-25
Monday, 25 November 2019 09:41 AM
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