‘The Q Symposium: Peace and Security in a Quantum Age’ is the Centre for International Security Studies’ inaugural global conference and is the first of its kind to be held in Sydney. Q analyses global events by applying new thinking in the natural, social and human sciences to a reconfiguration of global power, emergent peace and security issues and the role of networked global media and information technology in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. Peace and security scholars and experts — as well as scientists and humanists, diplomats and soldiers, journalists and filmmakers, risk analysts and risk takers – will gather to explore volatile and complex global events with low probability but of high consequence, the ‘white swans’ of the Southern Hemisphere.

Q investigates non-traditional peace and security issues, ranging from financial crises and pandemics to terrorist attacks and cyberconflicts to natural and unnatural disasters. Q will have a particular focus on networked phenomena and media interventions that produce unexpected, unpredictable and often immeasurable global effects. Q is retrospective, seeking insights from a YouTube video of an oil spill, Instagram of a human rights violation, Twitter microblog of a terrorist bombing or Wikileak of a classified documents. Q will also be prospective, seeking to anticipate the impact of new information technologies and networked global media on peace and security in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.

The focal point and conceptual nucleus of Q is the global event. Virtualised by digital technologies, accelerated by multiple media, polarised by political interests, force-multiplied by armed interventions, global events jump from unknown to known, insignificant to significant, local to global, there to here, virtual to real and back again. Each effort to observe and take measure of the global event, including media intervention, surveillance operations, data collection as well as our own theorizations, produces its own quantum effects. Q will zoom in and out on quantum effects that go global.

The event horizon of this Q is quantum computing and communication going online. Australia, with universities in Sydney leading the way, has become ground zero for open research in this exciting new field. Quantum is no longer confined to the experimental, microphysical or metaphorical: it will be actual in our lifetime. As the forerunners of quantum innovation – that has been likened by some experts as potentially equivalent to the advent of fire – the University bears a special responsibility to take up the quantum challenge. Q is the first conference of its kind to consider the strategic and diplomatic, financial and developmental, political and ethical implications of quantum global events.

The 4 Q’s of the Symposium:

  • Quarantine the best critical thinkers and innovative practitioners
  • Question the assumptions of traditional peace and security studies
  • Engage in Quality transdisciplinary research
  • Identify and address Quantum global events.

Predictions can be very difficult, especially about the future.

– Niels Bohr


‘Q2: The Space-Time of War and Diplomacy’, the second annual Q Symposium of the Centre for International Security Studies, will be held 26-28 March 2015.


Q2 begins with the Q Lecture, ‘Exit to the Planetarium’ presented by Professor McKenzie Wark, which will be held at the Quadrangle of the University of Sydney at 6 pm on Thursday, 26 March. The following morning participants will board a ferry at the Circular Quay for a two-day symposium at the historic Q Station, the former quarantine site of Sydney Harbour.


Peace and security scholars as well as physicists and philosophers, diplomats and soldiers, journalists and filmmakers, historians and futurists, among others, will gather to re-interpret the space-time of war and diplomacy in the context of WW1, the interwar and the emergence of quantum theory.


Q2 takes a step back to the future to mark the dual centennial of WW1 and the coeval emergence of quantum theory, from which we will seek lessons to advance current understandings of peace and security. WW1 will be examined as a thought experiment, to interpret how classical conceptions of space (Empire, Mitteleuropa, Lebensraum) and time (mobilization schedules, slow negotiation, quick war) converged into something wholly new, a relativized space-time of actors unexpectedly entangled in a war of unpredicted expansion and indeterminate duration. Q2 will not only explore counter-factual scenarios but also disturb histories of the present that project from past wars justifications for future ones.


Centennials offer a convenient opportunity to reflect on memorable events like WW1. But the effort to memorialize can ossify the past, forestall change in the present, and curtail new visions for the future. One hundred years is a sufficient interlude to consider how political, cultural and scientific revolutions triggered by WW1 changed everything but – to paraphrase Albert Einstein – our way of thinking about peace and security.


Q quarantines the best critical thinkers and innovative practitioners, questions the assumptions of traditional security studies, engages in quality transdisciplinary research, and addresses quantum global events. Thought experiments will be supplemented by philosophical and historical inquiry, field experience and empirical research, and cinematic imaginaries and dreamtime.