How the White House is Going After Quantum Computing
Biden finally shows some common sense.
Just a quick note on some important news.
There has been a major development in America’s realization of the importance of Quantum computing.
President Joe Biden signed directives on Wednesday, May 4th, 2022 that aim at preparing the U.S for a new era of quantum computing, as Chinese agencies and companies pour billions of dollars into the next-generation technology.
Microsoft and company understand how important quantum computing is going to be for the future of cybersecurity and how behind the United States is in this regard. Not so long ago I talked about an important startup in the space called Sandbox AQ.
The intersection of Quantum computing and cybersecurity is going to be a big deal. This is especially true if China takes a more aggressive expansionist approach to South-East Asia and Taiwan.
So why does this matter to the future of technology, cybersecurity, the U.S. Government and quantum computing’s already considerable hype factor? Joe Biden has ordered federal agencies to ramp up preparations for a day when quantum computers are capable of breaking the public-key cryptography currently used to secure digital systems around the world.
The document, National Security Memorandum 10 (NSM-10), calls for “a whole-of-government and whole‑of‑society strategy” for quantum information science (QIS), including “the security enhancements provided by quantum-resistant cryptography.”
The National Quantum Initiative Act provides for the continued leadership of the United States in QIS and its technology applications. It calls for a coordinated Federal program to accelerate quantum research and development for the economic and national security of the United States.
What I think this will do is accelerate funding for startups in stealth and pour VC funds into the nascent quantum computing space, especially those relevant at the intersection of QC and cybersecurity.
With people like Eric Schmidt and top Pentagon brass warning for years about national security threats and A.I. in this domain, it seems as if the U.S. Government is finally taking action, although a few years too late and also behind the curve in a significant way. China is easily the first-mover in terms of patents and funding. We just don’t know to what extent fully or to what degree.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed two directives relating to the quantum push - an Executive Order creating the National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee, as well as a memorandum. Both aim to outline the U.S. priorities' in quantum computing leadership and the hardening of its information systems against quantum-based attacks on its sovereignty.
Considering how behind the U.S. is in cybersecurity in general, it’s a bit of a joke but better late than never.
You can read the Whitehouse brief on this here.
The security memo, released alongside a plan to promote U.S. leadership in quantum computing, directs specific actions for agencies to take during what is being described as a laborious, multi-year process of migrating vulnerable computer systems to quantum-resistant cryptography. I don’t know how reassuring it is, but it will fuel Venture Capital to get more hands-on in the space that has exploded in hype since roughly mid-2021.
Support for quantum computing research has originated in the U.S. Government probably with the Advanced Scientific Computing Research program in 2017 and then rapidly spread across the Office of Science. I guess rapidly is perhaps not the right term. How just like in artificial intelligence, the U.S. has not taken a very pro-active approach to keep up in the future of technology to date in recent years is most concerning.
The U.S. Government needs a better commercialization strategy for its quantum computing sector. Given current market conditions, this is most likely going to come in the form of a winner-takes-all consolidation of Cloud leaders buying out these Quantum computing startups in the form of primarily Microsoft, Amazon AWS, IBM, Google and the like. Few Quantum computing startups will be able to resist the lucrative exits.
One Government to Rule Them All
The challenge of the quantum industry isn’t ambition; it’s scale. Physicists know how to design useful quantum devices. The challenge is building larger devices that scale along with innovative business models. U.S. Government doesn’t really understand the ecosystem very well, while China makes very detailed long-term plans for its goals regarding the future of A.I., quantum computing and the various military and National defense applications of the tech.
The United States strategy for QIS R&D and related activities is described in the National Strategic Overview for QIS and supplementary documents. I have to say it’s not super impressive. I don’t know what DARPA, the Pentagon or the Biden Administration is thinking.
The gap between China and the U.S.’s long term strategy is widening, if anything in the 2020s even while American pundits joke about how unsophisticated the Chinese economy really is. The gap between what the economists, technologists and National defense types are saying is truly puzzling and quantum computing as an industry reflects as well.
The Biden Administration’s commitment to fostering innovation in cutting-edge science and technology while continuing to take the necessary steps to safeguard the economy and infrastructure of the future, is at least now apparently on the front burner, even if they don’t quite get things right at least they aren’t so clueless as Trump was (likely on purpose).
"Research shows that at some point in the not-too-distant future, when quantum computers reach a sufficient size and level of sophistication, they will be capable of breaking much of the cryptography that currently secures our digital communications on the Internet," the government warned.
I believe in the next decade or two, Quantum machines will be able to break the encryption of even Bitcoin and most cryptocurrencies and distributed ledger technologies (blockchain). If this occurs it will represent a Quantum cybersecurity singularity. I’m more bullish on QCS occurring way before any AGI becomes possible.
In the brief the White House said:
QIS is a broad field of science and engineering. Quantum computers, one of the many promising applications of QIS, are not a replacement to traditional computers. Rather, they are a fundamentally different kind of computer, with the ability to analyze information in ways that traditional computers cannot. While QIS itself is not new, recent breakthroughs in QIS have shown the potential to drive innovations across the American economy, from energy to medicine, through advancements in computation, networking and sensing.
A Race in Science, Engineering and National Security
The U.S. Government is right, quantum computing isn’t just about the future of artificial intelligence, but all over science and engineering that will impact the space-race, among many other things with likely leverage to creating the next major global reserve currency, whether that’s the digital yuan or something else.
The now instated National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee will operate under the authority of the White House and is comprised of up to 26 president-appointed experts hailing from industry, academia, and federal laboratories.
Noting that quantum computing poses “significant risks to the economic and national security of the United States,” the White House cautioned that a quantum computer of sufficient size and sophistication “will be capable of breaking much of the public-key cryptography used on digital systems across the United States and around the world.”
To that effect, the Committee will be able to solicit information from governmental agencies, private entities, and academia regarding their quantum computing developments, while also serving as a trusted source of information for the president, his Office, and legislative efforts.
The memorandum, on the other hand, focuses on taking stock of currently deployed cryptographic algorithms in preparation for the country's federal and state-level IT infrastructure integration of quantum-resistant cryptography.
That it took the U.S. until mid 2022 to get this done is astounding. The Chinese have easily been doing the same thing since 2016. Yet U.S. propaganda always positions itself as the leader of all things tech, which is no longer sadly very objective or factual. So the rhetoric is finally turning a bit more transparent.
To kick start the process, the government said the National Security Agency (NSA) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will develop and publish new quantum-resistant cryptographic standards that can protect against these future attacks. Good luck on this, even Microsoft hasn’t been able to fully protect us thus far. China continues its rampant corporate espionage outwitting the U.S.
Anyways from a National Security perspective that’s the gist of it. The Budget is not incredible, but at least it’s increasing.
Why It Matters
The U.S. is basically setting a chain of events in motion which means Quantum Computing will be front in center in the A.I. arms race. The confluence of talented physicists, engineers and business leaders tackling the problem is reason for much confidence. More private investors are placing bets on the technology.
This means Quantum computing startups will have a vastly inflated value as the talent bottleneck is real for the right kind of PhDs. This will mean there will be a global explosion of QC related startups that will make the Web3 hype look amateurish. The crypto ecosystems since 2009 have still consistently failed to show real scalability in their systems.
The Whitehouse smugly notes that Biden, this President’s at least, has a conviction that cybersecurity and technological innovation are not in conflict but rather are complementary and essential to the success of one another. There may be no better illustration of this balancing act than in the field of quantum information science and technology. I find that hilarious. A 79 year old President finally has some advisors that he actually listens to.
The EO (Executive Order) places the advisory committee directly under the authority of the White House, ensuring that the President, Congress, Federal departments and agencies, and the general public receive the most current, accurate, and relevant information on quantum information science and technology to drive forward U.S. policymaking and advance our technological edge. I hope you are right!
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