Quantum computing as important as the atomic bomb: expert | Andrew Thornebrooke | TIFFANY MEIER | Baidu

By Andrew Thornebrooke and Tiffany Meier

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 doesn’t outpace competitors currently being developed in the United States, but according to one expert, it signals fierce competition in the future of data security.

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

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

“Google’s quantum computer Sycamore has 60 qubits Plus. IBM’s has more than 70 qubits.”

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

The existence of this third state will allow quantum processors to theoretically achieve much higher processing speeds than their traditional counterparts.

Governments and companies are therefore racing to develop quantum computing to be the first to catch up with data dominance, as these high processing speeds can 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 utility is now at odds with the world-changing implications of quantum technology. Furthermore, he said, the race to breakthrough quantum capabilities could hit a breakthrough at any time.

“There are many indications that, with one or two major shifts, on a conceptual level [ou] at the engineering level, the process will suddenly take time [um] much shorter than the experts wanted to predict,” said Herman.

“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 eliminate any type of encryption currently in place to extract any type of data, classified or not, that it wants to access.”

This potential capability is what makes the technology so highly regarded among the nations of the world and why the United States and China are racing to introduce it before each other.

“At this point, it’s nothing to worry about,” Herman said. “It’s an indication that the United States… [está] still far ahead in the race to develop a large-scale quantum computer.”

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

“As important as the Manhattan Project”

While Baidu’s recently announced quantum computer has only 10 qubits, the company claims to have developed a 36-qubit chip as well. Meanwhile, IBM said it hopes to develop a 4,000-qubit quantum computer by 2025.

For his part, Herman said the 10,000 or so qubits needed to begin attempts to crack the code probably won’t happen until the 2030s.

“People are beginning to understand what seemed like a distant threat [no] the horizon is actually much closer than we thought,” said Herman.

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

Herman said one problem is the unstable timeline for developing next-generation quantum technologies. Another, he said, is developing appropriate security protocols when this technology arrives. It’s hard to predict what quantum cyberwarfare will look like, he said.

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

“The fact is that [a China] you can use this [por meio de ameaças], as well as at the implementation level, in ways that are really difficult to understand and assess at this point. What would a cyberwar waged on a quantum level look like?”

So while Herman believes the United States shouldn’t be concerned about Baidu’s latest quantum venture, he believed the world should be concerned about the steps being taken toward quantum technology as a whole. Like atomic weapons in World War II, he said, the development of one or two such devices would forever change the nature of information security.

“This is potentially as important as the Manhattan Project to create the atomic bomb,” Herman said.

“[É] potentially as important as the race to create the hydrogen bomb because of the massive catastrophic effect [que ocorreria] if the Chinese had a code-breaking quantum computer before us or before we were ready to face it.”

Epoch Times publishes in 22 languages, broadcasts in 36 countries.

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