Quantum computing as important as the atomic bomb: Expert

Chinese tech giant Baidu is developing its own quantum computer to compete with the United States in the race for next-generation information processing. The computer does not surpass rivals currently being developed in America but, according to an expert, signals fierce competition over the future of data security.

Arthur Herman, a senior fellow at the conservative think tank Hudson Institute, said Baidu’s recently announced quantum effort fell short of similar efforts by companies like Google and IBM.

“This quantum computer they’re touting only has 10 qubits, and that’s a pretty small number,” Herman said during an Aug. 29 interview on the “China in Focus” program on sister media NTD. from The Epoch Times.

“Google’s Sycamore quantum computer has 60 qubits Plus. IBM’s is over 70 qubits.

A quantum bit, or qubit, is a basic unit of quantum information used by quantum computers. While traditional processors use normal bits, which can be turned on or off to create binary code, qubits can be turned on, off, or both. and extinguish simultaneously in a phenomenon known as superposition.

The existence of this third state will allow quantum processors, in theory, to achieve much faster processing speeds than their traditional counterparts.

So governments and corporations are racing to develop quantum computing to be the first to dominate data, because such fast processing speeds could enable mass decryption of current security measures. However, the actual applications of the technology are still very limited.

Herman, who leads the Hudson Institute’s Quantum Alliance initiative, said this limited usefulness now belies the global implications of quantum technology. Moreover, he said, the race for breakthrough quantum capabilities could reach a breakthrough at any time.

“There are too many indications that with one or two major breakthroughs, conceptually [or] at the engineering level, that suddenly the process will take [a] a much shorter time than even the experts wanted to predict,” Herman said.

“It will be easy for such a device to decrypt all existing public encryption systems. In other words, such a device will be able to erase any type of encryption that currently exists in order to extract any type of data, classified or not, to which it wishes to have access.

This possible capability is what makes the technology so popular among nations around the world, and why the United States and China are competing to deploy it before the other.

“At the moment, we really have nothing to worry about,” Herman said. “It’s an indication that the United States… [is] still far ahead in the race to develop a large-scale quantum computer.

“Just because we have a lead doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to win,” Herman added. “It’s like the hare and the tortoise. We are like the hare, we sprinted ahead… but the Chinese are advancing towards us, slowly but surely.

A seven-cubit quantum device is seen at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY, Feb. 27, 2018. (Seth Wenig/AP Photo)

“As important as the Manhattan Project”

While Baidu’s recently announced quantum computer is only 10 qubits, the company says it has also developed a 36-qubit chip. IBM, meanwhile, said it hopes to develop a 4,000 cubit quantum computer by 2025.

For his part, Herman said the 10,000 or more qubits needed for codebreaking efforts to truly begin would likely not occur until the 2030s.

“People are starting to realize that what seemed like a distant threat [on] the horizon is actually a lot closer than we thought,” Herman said.

“What you’re talking about is the ultimate cyber warfare weapon that could result from the race we’re in with China toward a quantum computer.”

Herman said the unstable timeline for developing next-generation quantum technologies was a problem. Another, he said, was developing adequate security protocols for the arrival of this technology. It’s hard to predict what quantum cyberwarfare will look like, he said.

“The reason I created the Quantum Alliance Initiative in the first place is that we can’t afford to gamble,” Herman said.

” The fact is that [China] can use this [through threats], as well as at the deployment level, in a way that is really difficult to understand and evaluate at this stage. What would quantum-scale cyber warfare really look like? »

So while Herman thinks the US shouldn’t be worried about Baidu’s latest quantum attempt, he thinks the world should be worried about the moves towards quantum technology as a whole. Like the atomic weapons of World War II, he said, it would only take the development of one or two of these devices to change the nature of information security forever.

“It’s potentially as important as the Manhattan Project to creating the atomic bomb,” Herman said.

“[It’s] potentially as important as the race to create the hydrogen bomb because of the huge catastrophic effect [that would occur] if the Chinese had a decoding quantum computer before we had it or before we were really ready to deal with it.

Andrew Thornebrook

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Andrew Thornebrooke is a reporter for The Epoch Times and covers China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds an MA in Military History from Norwich University.
Tiffany Meier

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Tiffany Meier is a New York-based journalist and host of NTD’s China in Focus.

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