Quantum computing offers a huge $6 billion opportunity for Australia in the coming decades, but policies need to be developed now to ensure its ethical use in the future.
While much of the civilian world is focused on determining the impact of AI on our lives, at the government level and, in particular, at the defense level, there is an entirely different fixation: computer science quantum. Quantum computing is not new – a two-qubit quantum computer demonstrated the technology’s feasibility in 1998 – however, the stakes are astronomical when it comes to ongoing research in this area, and Australia is on the cusp to be at the forefront.
Australia’s lead in quantum could open door to information exchange with America
One of the big opportunities for Australia in this area will be its close relationship with the United States. Due to the value of quantum computing research and technology in the field of military and civilian intellectual property, countries tend to be more cautious about sharing information compared to conventional technology.
The downside is that this means the United States is unable to draw from the same global talent pool it is accustomed to. Talent shortage is not a major problem in traditional IT fields because global talent tends to pool and share information openly. However, this is the case with quantum computing, and it means that Australia – as a close ally with an already developed quantum industry – has a real opportunity to build on America. investment and interest.
A good example of this potential emerged recently, when an Australian physicist and his team built a navigation system that was extremely precise and difficult to detect when satellite GPS networks are jammed or not working. It was rugged and portable enough to be used outside of a laboratory. As reported by New York TimesThis technology could guide military equipment, from submarines to spacecraft, for months with minimal risk of misdirection and offers a significant improvement over what is available today.
Quantum computing research, of course, goes well beyond defense. Technology has implications in everything from medical research to financial markets and resources. However, its military applications make it clear why America will closely monitor the countries it works with on research and development, and the fact that Australia is already linked bodes well for the domestic research community.
Australia’s monumental quantum opportunity
Australia already has a 3.6% share of the global venture capital market for quantum technology. National contributions to this space are already significant: among others, Australians created the first integrated circuit computers which operate at the atomic scale. This is a computer that can artificially create photosynthesis and the high temperatures needed to make drugs and solar cells much more efficiently.
Elsewhere, Australian researchers have effectively tackled the challenge posed by quantum computing’s need to achieve impossible results. cold conditions to operate efficiently.
The success and capabilities of Australian researchers in this area led the Australian government to release its first national quantum strategy earlier this year. This strategy aims to place Australia firmly at the forefront of the global quantum industry by 2030, by “encouraging research, applications and commercialization”.
SEE: Find out if quantum computing is right for your business.
The government is fully aware of what not investing now could mean for this new opportunity.
“As other countries move forward, Australia risks missing out on potential economic benefits,” according to a report from the University of Sydney Notes. “We could also lose talented workers to countries that invest more in quantum research.
“Projects like the ambitious attempt to build the world’s first complete quantum computer aim to provide local opportunities and funding alongside their core objectives. Furthermore, Australia has a responsibility to ensure that quantum technologies are developed and used ethically, and that their risks managed. »
According to the National Quantum Strategy, the goal is for quantum computing to add $6.1 billion to Australia’s GDP by 2045. This will create 8,700 jobs by 2030, before gradually increasing to 19,400 by 2045. These jobs will require the highest levels of technical skills and will yield some of the greatest economic benefits as Australia continues its transition to a highly skilled and knowledge-based economy. .
Deep ethical questions remain unanswered
Despite the potential to boost Australia’s economy and intellectual property, quantum computing is seen as the next big debate over the ethics of technology – whose potential threat dwarfs what even AI represents today .
“Even the most powerful computers we use today would take thousands of years to break or weaken the encryptions that keep our personal data safe online,” said Manolo Per, a quantum expert at the Data61 business unit. of the CSIRO. “But, experts are worried that a quantum computer could take as little as 8 hours to crack the code.”
It would be one thing if people had access to quantum computers to participate in the “arms race”, but few people will have that. The poorest will be largely at the mercy of the “haves”, particularly with regard to state actors.
And given that the debate around ethics in AI has proven weak, otherwise a resounding failurered flags around the lack of ethical consensus regarding quantum computing should be firmly lifted now. All of this can happen even though we are still many years away from quantum computing reaching the kind of power where it poses a substantial threat, as in the scenario above.
Australia wants to recruit, retain and train as many quantum computing experts as possible, as it will become essential to the country’s health, safety and security. The early stages of the National Quantum Strategy are an encouraging sign, but as is often the case in Australian politics, the long-term success of this strategy will largely depend on how bipartisan the subject is.