Author: Project Q

Artificial Intelligence

Facial Recognition in Democracy


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Smart contact lens based facial recognition, one possible future. Glasses based technology is already in use. Image Credit: Mission Impossible 4, Paramount Pictures.

Alexander Vipond

Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith has called for the United States government to appoint a bipartisan expert commission on how to regulate facial recognition technology. In a blog post on the company’s website, Smith responded to allegations that Microsoft had provided the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with facial recognition technology earlier in January this year. The recent of role of ICE in the deportation and separation of immigrant families in the US has drawn large scale protests and widespread backlash across the country.

The possibility that this technology could have been used for such purposes saw Microsoft in the firing line, frantically seeking to explain the nature of their contract. Smith clarified that the contract is limited to “supporting legacy email, calendar, messaging and document management workloads” and reiterated that Microsoft does not support the policy.

This became the catalyst for Smith to call for the regulation of facial recognition technology. He posed two scenarios for the future use of the technology one positive, one negative.

Imagine finding a young missing child by recognizing her as she is being walked down the street. Imagine helping the police to identify a terrorist bent on destruction as he walks into the arena where you’re attending a sporting event. Imagine a smartphone camera and app that tells a person who is blind the name of the individual who has just walked into a room to join a meeting.

Imagine a government tracking everywhere you walked over the past month without your permission or knowledge. Imagine a database of everyone who attended a political rally that constitutes the very essence of free speech. Imagine the stores of a shopping mall using facial recognition to share information with each other about each shelf that you browse and product you buy, without asking you first.

The problem is those futures have already arrived.

In June, Jarrod Ramos murdered five journalists at the Capital Gazette in Anne Arundel County, Maryland over reporting of his criminal past. As he attempted to exit the scene by blending in with people fleeing, he refused to provide identification to local officers and fingerprinting failed. He was identified with facial recognition technology from a collection of state databases.

In non-democratic countries, governments are already rolling out persistent large scale surveillance of citizens using big data and facial recognition. And while the stores at the shopping mall aren’t sharing with each other yet, they have been deploying dual use facial recognition technology to prevent shoplifting and monitor customers’ in-store browsing habits to increase sales.

So, the future is already here. What do we do about it?

Behind the facial match is the data. Who has access to it? How and why is it used? In what situations can different levels of government employ the technology and what restrictions are there on private sector use? How long is biometric data kept for and can it be kept safe?

These are basic questions currently left unanswered by US law and that of many countries around the world. Smith himself raises a series of ethical issues about the legal standards of facial recognition algorithms. The spectrum ranges from persistent passive collection of everyone’s data, to data which is only used in a ticking time bomb situation. This variance reveals both the scale of the technology and the governance space democracies must define.

As Smith notes, this does not absolve technology companies of responsibility. Microsoft has appointed an AI ethics board to help navigate new technologies and vet potential customers. This intrinsic method of fostering good governance is equally important to regulation (although it cannot replace it) in helping create a culture of ethical technology development. This is because companies can resist regulatory frameworks and view them as a series of loopholes to exploit and costs to be avoided. Both are necessary to create an environment in which the potential benefits of facial recognition technology can be reached without its abuse damaging democratic freedom.

However, the distinct problem of dual use applications of AI poses questions that should be answered before the final sign off. The Intelligence Advanced Projects Research Agency (IARPA) in the US has a set of questions it asks of proposed technologies. Questions such as if the technology is leaked, stolen, or copied, would we regret having developed it? Can the technology be made less prone to theft, replication and mass production? What is your estimate for how long it would take a major nation competitor to weaponize this technology after they learn about it? In light of the geo-strategic implications of AI products, major technology companies should consider these questions and add to them.

This addition should be a set of civil questions focused on how a proposed AI technology operates within a democracy. Questions on how the risk of discrimination could be mitigated. How will this technology anonymise and delete data it collects? Can this technology scale to affect democracy, in what ways? Questions like these could help tech companies balance their responsibility to civil society and the international community. This requires wider societal discussions on what rights citizens need in the digital age. This discussion must occur now, for as we have seen the future is already here. It is from this base of regulation and corporate governance that democracies can refine ideas on how to positively contribute to the global debate on AI ethics.

 

 

Artificial Intelligence

Collective Intelligence: DeepMind’s AI plays Quake 3


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Alexander Vipond

British AI firm DeepMind has a penchant for playing games. From Atari to Go, DeepMind researchers have been training AI agents to compete against themselves and beat human competitors.

The latest challenge was a specially modified version of a gaming classic Quake III A multiplayer, first-person shooter video game from the turn of the millennium, Quake III sees teams of aliens and humans vie for supremacy. Deep Mind have taken this premise to the next level: now it is AI agents versus humans.

Through reinforcement learning, AI agents were tasked with learning to capture the enemy flag from their opponents’ base over a series of procedurally generated environments in which no two games were the same. The aim was to see if AI agents could learn strategies and cooperate together in complex three-dimensional environments with imperfect information, that is, without knowing where the other team’s players are. To do this, Deep Mind created a new type of agent dubbed FTW (For the Win) that could successfully rise above traditional methods of AI competition and exceed human standards.

By training a whole population of FTW agents in two timescales (fast and slow), thereby increasing agents’ consistency, and using a two-tiered rewards scheme to incentivise action regardless of a win or loss, FTW agents were able to learn a higher standard of gameplay. Training a population in parallel not only proved to be more efficient but revealed a diversity of approaches, as agents optimised their own unique internal reward signals.

 

Credit: DeepMind

After an average of 450,000 training games, the FTW agents were placed in a tournament with forty human players who they could play with as teammates or adversaries. In order to ensure a fair fight, researchers engineered balance into the game to counter the AI agents’ reaction time advantage over the human eye’s natural frame rate processing limit (lower than the game’s 60 frames per second).

On average, FTW agents achieved a higher win-rate than human players with strong skill scores. The agents learnt how to follow teammates, defend their base and “camp” at the enemies’ base, picking off players as they spawned. They achieved the greatest collaboration in teams of four, although struggled to maintain this as the number of players expanded.

 

Credit: DeepMind

As usual, it’s not the game itself that represents progress here but the evolving capacity for AI agents to develop cooperative behaviour. DeepMind has demonstrated the capability of AI agents to work in small teams, alongside humans and other AI agents, towards a shared goal. The more AI agents can work together to manage uncertain environments and imperfect knowledge the better they will perform when faced with the chaos of the real world.

 

Artificial Intelligence

Google and the Ethics of AI Development


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Dr Robert Ford Source John P Johnson HBOIn Westworld, Dr Robert Ford ponders the artificial intelligence products he has created. Credit Johnson/HBO

Alexander Vipond

In recent months, Google has faced an internal revolt from its staff. Resignations, internal petitions and protests have been part of a heated debate over a US $9 million contract with the Pentagon to interpret drone footage and improve targeting systems. The contract, part of the Pentagon’s artificial intelligence initiative Project Maven was expected to grow into a $250 million venture.

However within days of the New York Times breaking the story that senior staff and executives were anticipating the fallout and trying to remove the words AI from the discussion, Google Cloud CEO Diane Green announced that the company would not be renewing the contract in 2019.

As Fei-Fei Li, Chief scientist at Google Cloud wrote in one of those emails, “Weaponized AI is probably one of the most sensitized topics of AI — if not THE most. This is red meat to the media to find all ways to damage Google”.

The saga raises important questions about AI development. For Google, the company whose motto has evolved from “Don’t be Evil” to “Do the Right Thing”, the contract represented a cultural crisis about the direction of the company.  It also represented a business crisis: face losing extremely talented staff or highly lucrative defense contracts. One of Alphabet Inc’s most important AI subsidiary companies, DeepMind has refused to work on military and intelligence weapons. Against this backdrop, Google is updating its ethics and guidelines to provide a new framework for its AI product development. The outcome remains to be seen but Google has said it will make the document publicly available.

Amazon, IBM and Microsoft have also competed for Pentagon contracts in this field with far less scrutiny. Project Maven will move forward with or without Google. In response to questions at a Google wide meeting, co-founder Sergey Brin stated he feels it will be better for peace if global militaries work with international organisations such as Google, rather than with nationalistic defence contractors.

Herein lies the complexity. The concept of powerful AI is a controversial topic, not only in the US but worldwide, with major industry figures divided on the issue of what could arise from it. Weaponised AI has been at the forefront of the debate. Given the state of US politics right now, it is understandable why Google employees might feel apprehensive about how their algorithms are used.

If we zoom out to the global context, the world is clearly in the midst of a long-term arms race in AI.  Military powers across the world are pursuing a multitude of intelligence and weapons applications for AI.  Vladimir Putin has said whoever masters AI will be ruler of the world; whilst in China, AI is a core component of their national strategy to become the world’s dominant science and technology power.  In both market and military terms, the United States stays out of the competition at its own peril.

Whether you are an employee sitting at your desk in one of the worlds’ biggest tech companies, a president or a dictator, the rules of the game are fluid. Most scientists and programmers share their AI research and code across international boundaries to develop technologies that will assist humanity and for commercial gain through shared knowledge platforms. But without commonly agreed ethical rules and guidelines, the exploitation of AI knowledge by individual countries acting in their own self-interest is likely to lead to a race to the bottom and a tragedy of the commons. Efforts like the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots face the allure of the cheap asymmetric power that AI technologies can offer; and the range of AI’s dual-use applications means it is unlikely that a global ban would be effective.

As the race spreads and gathers pace, so too must the tenor and tempo of the AI debate.  Controversies within multi-national companies can be usefully redirected into an open discussion on how best to bridge private and public, national and international interests.  At the top of the agenda should be clear operating guidelines to mitigate accidents, prevent atrocities and safeguard basic human rights. International politics in an era of heteropolarity is difficult but as the inner turmoil at Google reveals, creative leadership, public accountability and a modicum of global governance are vital if human and artificial intelligence are to coevolve ethically and peacefully.

 

 

 

 

 

Quantum International Relations

The United States in the Quantum Race?


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Credit IBM (50 Qubit Quantum Computer)
 Credit: IBM

Alexander Vipond

Chrysostomos Loizos Nikias, President of the University of Southern California has called it. There’s a new space race and it’s for quantum technology. The trouble, he says in a recent Washington Post opinion piece; America’s losing.

To whom? To China. As the Chinese government invests upwards of (US) $10 billion in a new National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences, The US has been lagging behind with total government funding for quantum science at $300 million in 2016.

Countries around the world including Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands have also invested heavily in academia and business to make breakthroughs in quantum computing, cryptography, sensors, information science and more. The investments the US made across academia and government in 1990’s such as the National Nanotechnology Initiative turned the country into a world leader in quantum science. Yet that comparative advantage, a foundation to build upon, is being lost.

During Congressional testimony last year on American leadership in quantum technology a cross section of the country’s brightest scientific minds came together to announce that the science was reaching an inflection point. As Dr. Jim Kurose of the National Science Foundation testified, the US must “continue to invest in long-term, fundamental, and game-changing research –and education – if we are to maintain US leadership in an emerging quantum world”. Academia and business came together to highlight the need for funding to train a new generation of computer scientists, engineers and physicists to advance into a new phase of the quantum revolution.

This same question applies to Australia. With substantial investment in the Quantum race and world class talent such as Australian of the year Michelle Simmons, are we doing enough to raise a new generation of talent and build a new quantum sector? The long lead times in training experts and providing the tools necessary requires forward strategic planning and investment to bridge the science to commerce gap and forge the critical partnerships that create a functioning quantum industry.

As Nikias points out the space race analogy is dwarfed by the new era of strategic competition where the quest for technological superiority reigns supreme. Technologies of the Cold War period are being surpassed by a broader set of innovations. Designated the 4th industrial revolution by the World Economic Forum, artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing, synthetic biology and quantum technology are among the new forces that will reshape our world and change global power relations. This a race that the US cannot afford to lose.

This is because this isn’t a race to the moon, it is a race to understand the sub atomic origins of life itself. Quantum technologies focus on the control and manipulation of sub-atomic particles that defy conventional physics. In communications, materials science and medicine, quantum technologies are displaying enormous potential at delivering qualitative leaps in our understanding how information, energy and matter work.

This also has national security implications. The ability for quantum computation to defeat the cryptographic safeguards designed to withstand attack from regular computers is serious. As the internet of things and countries critical infrastructure become dependent on strong cybersecurity, understanding quantum information science will become a vital asset. The same holds true for commerce where securing info data against hacking and espionage has become a new normal.

At the end of his proclamation, Nikias calls for a US national quantum strategy. This is a crucial step to funding a push in quantum technologies and of organising a cohesive framework for business, institutions and policymakers to unite under. It will take time for the notoriously complex science behind quantum to be translated into optimal policy settings and harnessed effectively by business. By creating goals and linkages between communities that process can begin to form the bedrock of a new industry. This foundation matters because it gives entrepreneurs, investors and aspiring students the knowledge that there is a long-term quantum future they can be part of. A national strategy will require foresight and commitment from a Trump Whitehouse big on words and short on policy. However, it is essential that the administration take the race seriously as the lasting impacts of the quantum race will be felt for decades.

Nikias’ call mirrors efforts of tech leaders in other fields with the first Whitehouse Summit on Artificial Intelligence occurring last week. Tech leaders from the Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft echoed calls for greater investment in basic research and training as they too seek to capitalise on the early lead they have established as they face competition from China and Europe. It is important to note that funding for one  technology or the other will not be enough for the US to maintain global power relative to its competitors. It will be states that can take advantage of the inter-disciplinary synergies between these fundamental technologies that will succeed.

 

 

Quantum International Relations

A Bright Quantum Future: France and Australia join forces


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Alexander Vipond

Australia and France will come together to develop the worlds first commercial silicon quantum integrated circuit.

Both countries signed a memorandum of understanding on quantum computing as part of President Emmanuel Macron’s whirlwind visit to Australia.

The memorandum will be the basis for a joint venture between Silicon Quantum Computing in Sydney (SQC) and Frances Commissariat a l’Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (CEA) in Paris. SQC is a public company backed by investment from the Australian government, Telstra, Commonwealth Bank and UNSW. CEA is the publicly funded research and development arm of the French government and will bring considerable resources and talent to the effort.

They will join SQC’s efforts to build silicon-based quantum complementary oxide semi-conductors (CMOS), which are the core technology in several key components of computers. Led by Australian of the Year Michelle Simmons, the SQC team unveiled a blueprint for such a CMOS chip late last year.

Christophe Gegout, the CEA Investissement chairman said “SQC’s scientific capability in Australia and the CEA’s research and development capability in France provide an excellent basis for a collaboration to develop and commercialise a quantum silicon integrated circuit based on Silicon-CMOS”.

Prime minister Turnbull stated that CEA had recently demonstrated a 300mm industrial-scale R&D facility, silicon CMOS technology that can be leveraged to create qubits and had fabricated isotopically 28Si substrates to further benefit from the intrinsic coherence properties of silicon.

Both organisations are keen to win the global race to build a silicon quantum CMOS and the first quantum computer. As they look to the future, they will examine how to develop Industrial scale quantum manufacturing capabilities. This is crucial to building a sustainable quantum industry sector in Australia.

The joint venture is part of a larger framework to nurture greater Franco-Australian ties and achieve strategic balance in the Indo-Pacific region. The two governments also signed agreements to deepen cooperation on cybersecurity, prevent terrorism financing and co-develop hyperspectral remote sensing satellites.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project Q

Quantum Theory and the International


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Meshon Center Conference on Quantum Theory and the International. Left: Jairus Grove and Badredine Arfi, among others, listening to Peter Kazenstein intervention. Right: Alexander Wendt with James Der Derian during his introductory remarks.

Scientists have long thought that the bizarre and fantastic world of non-locality, indeterminacy, and wave/particle duality that physicists discovered in the early 20th century was confined, for all practical purposes, to the sub-atomic level. At the macroscopic, human level it’s been assumed that our familiar classical, Newtonian physics still rules, a belief duly reflected in the fundamental and almost entirely unquestioned categories of social scientific thought today: classical logic, classical probability theory, classical decision and game theory, and so on, rather than their axiomatically completely different quantum counterparts.

In the past decade however there have been growing hints, from multiple sources, that this foundational classical assumption is mistaken. A field of “quantum biology” for example has emerged after biologists unexpectedly found that birds, plants and other organisms use non-trivial quantum processes to survive (and if birds can do it, why not people?). Closer to home, “quantum decision theorists” in psychology have shown that quantizing the axioms of expected-utility theory can resolve the long-standing anomalies of (classical) rational choice known as “Kahneman-Tversky effects.” While these and other hints are open to interpretation and still very preliminary, if evidence continues to mount of interesting quantum effects at the human level, then the social sciences today could be in a situation similar to physics in 1900 – based on a simple but profound mistake, with a revolution just around the corner.

This workshop won’t try to answer any such grand question; it assumes only that there is enough suggestive stuff happening in this area that it is worthwhile to begin thinking – in a very exploratory and open-minded way – about what a quantum social science might look like in practice. As students mostly of international politics, that subject will provide our substantive focus and primary illustrations. However, the ideas on the table are really for anyone interested in the foundations of social science.

For more information please click on the following link: Mershon Center for International Security Studies | Quantum Theory and the International

Project Q, Q4

QC3I: 4th Annual Q Symposium


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The fourth annual Project Q symposium (Q4), held 15-17 February, brought together international scholars to assess the societal and strategic impact of quantum innovation.   Any cross-disciplinary gathering faces a broad range of challenges, from finding a common vernacular to negotiating differing standards of ‘expertise’.  Capturing both the thematic complexity as well as the intellectual generosity of the event, Professor Steve Fuller, Auguste Comte Chair in Social Epistemology at the University of Warwick, considers in this new Q posting one of the most controversial topics raised at Q4, the matter of quantum consciousness and scientific discovery.

QUANTUM ACROSS THE DISCIPLINES: OBSERVATIONS ON THE 2018 PROJECT Q SYMPOSIUM

Steve Fuller, University of Warwick

I had the privilege this year – courtesy of James Der Derian and Colin Wight — to participate in this year’s Q symposium, QC3I, in Sydney. This event brought together natural and social scientists interested in the implications of the emerging innovations related to quantum mechanics that are transdisciplinary import.

My observations are informed as someone who has recently written a searching but positive review of Alexander Wendt’s Quantum Mind and Social Science, which articulates an ambitious research programme that uses various aspects of quantum mechanics to model the socio-political world. Although the book was published only a couple of years ago, it has already proved very controversial among both natural and social scientists, which was evident from the start of the Q symposium, which featured a public ‘Q Forum’ event at the University of Sydney. The session began with a short film on Project Q, which included a soundbite from Wendt saying, ‘We are walking wave functions’ — to much audible laughter from the audience.

During the Q symposium itself, there was clear pushback to the very idea of Wendt’s programme, but it was nothing like the sorts of cross-disciplinary skirmishes that took place during the height of the Science Wars in the 1990s, when some of the ‘science warriors’ were calling for the sacking of humanists and social scientists for committing crimes against the intellect. An intervention by Der Derian reminded me of this when he sought reassurance that even if Wendt’s project is misguided, he wouldn’t be imprisoned by the scientific thought police. Such threats had been routine back then.

But generally speaking, the scientists at the Q symposium were sufficiently liberal to insist only on exerting a veto power over how social scientists interpreted or drew on their work when they got the science ‘wrong’ in some obvious sense. However, I do think that the cross-disciplinary communication remains less than ideal. And here it is interesting to observe how the scientists understand the history of science. I was especially struck by how clear it was to many of them that certain theories – such as quantum biology and quantum consciousness – have been already refuted, when I would say they are works in progress that admittedly face formidable evidential challenges. However, comparable challenges have been met in the past, which should lead one to be cautious not to take ‘empirically improbable’ as a proxy for ‘logically impossible’.

A more general point is that progress in science does not necessarily require a close tracking of the available evidence. Scientists forget that Galileo looks like a trailblazer only in retrospect – Newton basically redeemed him. In his own day, Galileo’s telescope was treated as a gimmick because he couldn’t explain its optics, his alleged experimental findings were too good to be true, etc. However, Galileo was a master of rhetoric who could conjure up in words what he lacked in technique and results. So while Galileo’s Inquisitors saw through him, the trial attracted sufficient notoriety to inspire others to follow up on his radical ideas. It was this history that led Paul Feyerabend to dismiss the idea that scientific inquiry must be led by some evidence-driven ‘method’.

One way to think about all this is that theorizing in science is really about establishing a credit line that may require some empirical down payment, which could be quite small, but then you use the credit line to recruit others who enable you to repay the original debt by producing the results you need. In this respect, Galileo is comparable to an entrepreneur in Schumpeter’s classic portrayal as the heroic speculator. (I’ve always thought about crowdsourcing as a downstream, democratised, digitised version of speculation.) Maybe this is the best way to evaluate Wendt’s project: namely, the proof will be in who is attracted to redeem it. Seen through the political economy lens, the preoccupation with ‘sticking to the evidence’ is a bit like the rentiers who make it difficult for land (read: concepts) to be productive by charging high rents and tolls for potential users. They may claim to be protecting the land (hence the ‘gatekeeping’ metaphor for peer review) but in the first instance they are exerting monopoly privilege, which has its own not so positive associations.

In the case of quantum mechanics, it is striking the difference in attitude between the founding theorists of the field (who did entertain ‘New Age’ metaphysical views about quantum reality) and latter-day researchers, many of whom are concerned with practical applications, which don’t depend on any of the more extravagant metaphysical views.

But this leaves open the question of how humanists and social scientists should appropriate quantum mechanics. Here a distinction can be made between the mathematical formalism of quantum mechanics, which has been the source of great intrigue and speculation, and the quantum level of reality for which the formalism was originally designed. One charitable way to read the scientists who are sceptical of our appropriations is that they conflate these two aspects of quantum mechanics. However, as Peter Bruza showed in his talk, it is possible to provide evidence for ‘quantum decision making’, in the sense of phenomena that conform to quantum formalism, without presuming the existence of quantum-level activity in the brain. Of course, his research begs the question of what exactly is responsible for the phenomena he’s observed. A Penrose-style story of nanotubules may – but need not – do the job.

I would have thought that this a pretty good way to split the difference between the natural scientists and the social scientists interesting in appropriating quantum mechanics for their own ends. However, it would require our side being more explicit about the empirical research programme that could redeem the equations, including its epistemological and ontological commitments.

I should add that there is nothing strange about this way of operating. Projects of reduction and integration in science have typically derived their conceptual scaffolding from mathematical formalisms that are either mirrored at several levels of reality or subject to incorporation through deduction. Kepler was perhaps the first scientist to appreciate this point – and he’s significant because his formulation of the inverse square law was an explicit attempt to use mathematics in the spirit of Plato to convert a metaphor into law – in Kepler’s case, the idea of cosmic gravitational attraction as akin to the heat that the Sun as the ultimate light source provides to planets at various distances. Like Galileo, Kepler’s scientific status was firmly established only in retrospect via Newton. (Kepler was known mainly as an astrologer in his day.) Nevertheless, Kepler’s mathematical explicitness enabled subsequent scientists to test the metaphorical intuitions on which his equations was based, some of which survived, some not. Wendt’s project is arguably at this Keplerian stage.

Q4

Prelude to Q3CI


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As a primer for Q3CI – 2018’s Q symposium – panelists from Our public forum were invited to appear on Australia’s public broadcaster, the ABC.

  • Firstly, two of our panelists, Sydney University Scientist Michael Biercuk & George Washington University and Obama advisor Alison MacFarlane joined Q’s director James Der Derian on A Matter of Facton the eve of our public forum to discuss drones, AI and the future of Quantum. Points were raise about the democratisation of quantum computing, and how open and collaborative public research would be if there was a breakthrough in terms of a military or security application of the technology. A recording of the broadcast is available here.
  • Q director James Der Derian also appeared on ABC Radio’s Breakfast program, discussing quantum supremacy, and what that means for the future of artificial intelligence, science, war and peace. We shall post a link here when available.
  • Will Quantum even happen? There is debate within the scientific community about the ability for quantum computing to ever be practically implemented beyond tech-demos. While we’ve seen in the flesh functioning 50-qubit chips perform in environments built for demonstration, their usage in practical terms outside heavily controlled conditions of these spaces, applied to real-world tasks is exposed to significant hurdles. Israeli mathematician Gil Kalai argues while we will never see a true quantum computer in this article hosted by Quanta Magazine here. A
  • Lastly, our public forum “STRANGE PHYSICS: OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB, DRONES, ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND QUANTUM COMPUTERS” is being held tonight at the University of Sydney which we will be live tweeting under the hashtag #q3ci. Tickets for those in Sydney will be available here – https://t.co/Batb0vPGl4
  • A last minute update: an article on ‘Nature’ About efforts to build a quantum internet driven by Stephanie Werner similar to the classical internet precursor. The project, to be installed in four Dutch cities should be completed in 2020.
Uncategorized

The Security Threats of Quantum Computing.


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While much of the talk about the post-quantum future concerns artificial intelligence, threats posed by quantum to encryption and data security have slid under the radar. As we and others have written about before, the dramatically increased computing power provided by qubits not only facilitates more efficient problem solving, but also impressively improves an attackers chances of breaching encrypted systems; providing what this Washington Post article calls a “skeleton key”, and render the current standard of the RSA encryption algorithm practically useless against a quantum-equipped attacker. This means that current security methods will need to be upgraded almost simultaneously with the first quantum computer coming online. Starting to implement quantum-proof systems is essential for the security of all our data to be maintained, and highlights the importance that both governments and private enterprise are placing on their research projects.

The issue of about quantum and encryption will be the subject of the Q Public Forum at 6pm, February 15 2018 at the General Lecture Theatre, University of Sydney, which kicks off the the fourth annual Q Symposium, ‘QC3I’:  Quantum Computing, Communication, Control and Intelligence.

Image licences under Creative Commons – https://pixabay.com/en/computer-encrypt-encryption-1294045

Q4

The Quantum AI Revolution.


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Some 200 years ago, the Industrial Revolution drove workers from farms to factories, and created the grand cities of the world, fuelled by the fires of industry.

The monumental shift generated by quantum will be the same, with complex AI programs able to take over many of the jobs which employ many of us today. Once the substance of sci-fi series, the field has seen rapid development in recent years, much of the progress happening in the background; great leaps and strides, occurring with little fanfare in the media or political discourse; being blurred together with the growth of smart devices and AI systems.

Indeed many of us are happy with our new AI pals; software like Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant and others are rapidly becoming part of people’s everyday routines. Smart devices and other ‘Internet-of-Things’ are becoming ubiquitous wherever we go. As powerful as these services may seem to the end-user in the street, they are still constrained by the limitations of processing power available. Of course the power in our phones and IoTs are nothing to compared to those that the quantum future will bring. Commentators have been shocked at the rate of development in the quantum field, just a few years ago the talk was quantum as a couple of decades way – at best; yet as of last year, multiple manufacturers have shown off functioning 50 qubit chips. While the practical applications of these chips are limited – mostly to weather modelling – they do show the viability of having a chip available for some commercial tasks in the near future.

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A qubit short for quantum-bit, differ from that of a ‘classic’ computer chip. Whereas a classic chip is limited to returning a 1 or a 0 for each calculation, a qubit can exist in three states, 1, 0 or 1 & 0. This escalation of states vastly improves the rate in which calculations are made, and opens the door to new and potentially disruptive applications by exponentially increasing computing power.

So why is this important? As Friedman discusses in his recent New York Times op-ed; Quantum computing will open up the ability to process larger amounts of information, faster; revolutionising the way that we interface with artificial intelligence in our daily lives. Existing ‘unsolvable problems’ for classic computers, could with quantum assistance, see solutions in minutes, or even seconds. Experts predict that soon, many jobs will disappear fully to AI; trains, trucks and taxis are likely the first to be automated with the explosive growth of driverless or autonomous vehicles. Here in Australia, the same questions are being asked about other fields of work, what will end up automated in the near future?

While we aren’t there yet, the technology that quantum heralds will quickly be able to create AIs which can do most “routine and repetitive tasks”. This, as Friedman highlights, raises concerns about numerous economies’ middle classes reliant on this type of work for their livelihoods.  But also more worryingly, the same technologies will invalidate exist methods which we use to secure all our data. The same dramatically increased processing power can also be applied to breaking the encryption of our health records, bank accounts, and personal devices. This goes without saying the threat that quantum poses to state-secrets, and the vast troves of data that are held by governments, ripe for the taking if our ability to secure is taken away. With quantum automative AI, Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics – namely a Robot may not allow a human to come to harm – may no longer be a thing of fiction; rather a required tool in the near-future.

The issue of about quantum and artificial intelligence will be the subject of the Q Forum at 6pm, February 15 2018 at the General Lecture Theatre, University of Sydney, which kicks off the the fourth annual Q Symposium, ‘QC3I’:  Quantum Computing, Communication, Control and Intelligence.