About Q5

‘QRP3’ – The Quantum Race: Parallels, Possibilities and Perils

Q Station, 22 – 24 February 2019

Sydney, Australia


With the support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the University of Sydney, the Centre for International Security Studies presents the fifth annual Q Symposium, The Quantum Race: Parallels, Possibilities and Perils (QRP3), to be held 21-24 February 2019.


The event begins on Thursday 21 February with the Q Forum in the Quadrangle at the University of Sydney, featuring an open debate among leading experts in quantum innovation, science policy and security studies. The following morning invited participants will board a ferry at Circular Quay for a two-day symposium at the historic Q Station, the former quarantine site of Sydney Harbour.


Physicists and philosophers, diplomats and soldiers, novelists and filmmakers, historians and futurists, peace and security scholars, among others, will gather to explore the technological, strategic and societal implications of a quantum race.


The quantum ‘what’ begs questions of beginnings, scale and disciplinary boundaries. The early thought-experiments of quantum mechanics introduced the radical principles of uncertainty, entanglement and the wave function to explain how the microphysical world works. Laboratory validations and practical applications soon followed, producing many of the technological markers of modernity, like thermonuclear weapons, transistors, lasers, LEDs and mobile phones. Breakthroughs in quantum science now cross into the macrophysical, including applications in computing, communications and artificial intelligence as well as photosynthesis, bird migration, and most controversially, human consciousness. The ambiguous results, hyped by the media, have taken on the form of a global event: a quantum race with metaphysical implications that extend into politics, philosophy and beyond.


Linking quantum to phenomena beyond the sub-atomic and to disciplines outside of physics often provokes skepticism. However, serious philosophical and political questions first generated by quantum theory have been revived and amplified by new discoveries and technological applications in the accelerating fields of quantum computing, communications, control and artificial intelligence. Rather than wait for the possible to become actual – circa 1939, Einstein’s and Szilárd’s idea of an atomic bomb and Turing’s of an electro-mechanical bombe – QRP3 stages a critical inquiry into the parallels, possibilities and perils of a quantum race.


The goal is to quarantine critical thinkers and innovative practitioners; to question the classical assumptions of the social, natural and physical sciences; and to quantize modes of thinking about peace and security. Potentially negative as well as positive consequences will be investigated, as will the very idea of a ‘race’ with clear-cut winners and losers. Historical parallels with be explored, in the context of scientific and technological revolutions in which international collaborations for peaceful purposes degenerated into national contests for geopolitical superiority. Presentations will include thought experiments and creative speculations; laboratory findings and practical experiences; historical and philosophical inquiry; worst and best-case scenarios; dreams and prophecies. The strategy is to turn transdisciplinary research into widely accessible transmedia productions, including a collection of essays, an e-book and a documentary film, all linked together through the Project Q website.