Wired Magazine Has Joined the “Quantum Computing Could Destroy Us All” Camp. I’m Still On a More Positive Tip.
I don’t know how I missed it. The blitz of holidays and business travel? Maybe I was too focused on my kids’ Christmas. Whatever the cause, I missed Wired magazine’s December opinion piece on how “Quantum Computing Is The Next Big Security Risk.” And boy, do I have a lot of comments.
First off, we all know by now how I feel about quantum computers and security. (I’m telling you, we’re going to end up benefiting from the use of quantum computers in cyber security more than we’ll be hurt by it.) To support the usual “quantum computers are great, but so scary!” assertion, the article cites Shor’s algorithm:
It’s more than just theoretical: An algorithm formulated by mathematician Peter Shor demonstrates that quantum computers are able to factor large numbers more efficiently than classical computers. Large-number factoring is the foundation of today’s encryption standards.
But I Can Have This Marshmallow Right Now
I know why this argument is tempting, but you know what? Cracking encryption schemes is about time and resources, nothing more. With enough time and enough resources, I can break any scheme we have thus far devised. So quantum computers are scary because . . . ? They have the potential to solve certain problems faster?
Maybe the issue isn’t with quantum computers, but with the way we secure our valuable, private, and/or classified data? If a faster computer threatens everything we’ve built, I don’t think we should blame the computer. I think that’s a sign we need better security. Which, again, I believe we have time to develop, maybe even with the help of those terrifying quantum computers.
The piece continues:
The consequences of mastering quantum computing, while not as visual or visceral as a mushroom cloud, are no less significant than those faced by the scientists who lit up the New Mexico sky with the detonation at the Trinity test site 72 years ago. In the same way that atomic weaponry symbolized power throughout the Cold War, quantum capability is likely to define hegemony in today’s increasingly digital, interconnected global economy.
You know what? I agree. Not because quantum computing is some looming threat to national security. But because it is the future, and the country that takes the lead in quantum information systems will have technological and economic advantages over other the rest of the world for the next half century. I’ve already shared my concerns that the United States is falling behind in this race.
A New Manhattan Project or Dr. Manhattan, Whichever Comes First
The rest of the piece is mostly fear mongering (the author actually cites the cost and lead time of preparing for Y2K as a reference point) and a call to action:
Whether lawmakers want to think of it as a new Manhattan Project or a race to the moon, the US cannot abdicate leadership in scientific discovery or international security.
We do need a Manhattan Project for quantum computing. The United States government should be investing more time and resources into ensuring we are a leader, and not a follower in this race. Not so we can “withstand a quantum attack.” But because the world-changing applications of quantum computing will drive the economy of the 21st century.