Author: Project Q

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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.

Project Q

Quantum Economics


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Screen Shot 2018-01-15 at 12.58.45 pm Photo by Martina Birnbaum/EyeEm/Getty published online by Aeon

Twenty years ago, the idea of quantum consciousness was considered fringe science at best, or New Age quackery at worst. Today, the tables have turned. A quantum theory of mind is now recognized in psychology and philosophy as one of the more plausible explanations for consciousness to have emerged from a very spotty collection of conjectures. Elsewhere, many of the traditional Newtonian conceptions of reality that once informed the social sciences are being regularly challenged by their quantum counterparts. The latest casualty (but probably not the last) to this rising tide appears to be Economics.

Since the 2008 Global Financial Crisis  – an event which many conservative economists, including Robert E. Lucas Jr (a Nobel Laureate and the former president of the American Economic Association), thought impossible –  it has been clear that the field of Economics is in need of an overhaul. While there is a growing consensus that the foundations of Economics rests on a very thin model of the rational actor, there has been little  agreement on how to remedy the situation. Consequently, progress has been slow. David Orrell, in his recent article ‘Economics is Quantum’, argues that quantum mechanics provides means to overcome many of the failings of traditional Economic theory.

Citing social scientist Alexander Wendt (a Q Symposium participant) and psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky (founders of behavioural economics and subjects of Michael Lewis’ new book The Undoing Project), Orrell makes a compelling argument for money being the economic equivalent of quanta within physics. While the analogy may at first seem like a stretch, there are several surprising similarities:

‘[according] to quantum physics, matter is fundamentally dualistic in the sense that it is composed, not of independent, billiard ball-like atoms, but of entities that behave in some ways as ‘virtual’ waves, and in other ways as ‘real’ particles… the same can be said of money, which is also real and virtual at the same time. For example, a coin is made by pressing a stamp into a metal slug. The stamp specifies the numeric value of the coin, while the metal represents its value as an object that can be owned or exchanged. It therefore lives partly in the virtual world of numbers and mathematics, and partly in the physical world of things and people and value, which is one reason for its perplexing effects on the human psyche.’

In Laws of Media: The New Science, Marshall McLuhan wrote, ‘I do not think that philosophers in general have yet come to terms with quantum physics: the days of the Universe as Mechanism are over.’ While quantum is only just beginning to touch Economics (and other domains of human knowledge outside of physics), the future seems clear: quantum is coming. The full article can be read here.

Project Q, Q Research

The Race for Quantum Supremacy


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When Project Q began its investigations into quantum innovation in 2013, the prospect of a functioning quantum computer was often given, at best, as somewhere between 15 to 20 years out. With each passing year, the timeline began to collapse.

This month the Project Q team once again took to the road for its documentary film. We visited the big names in quantum computing (as well as some smaller start-ups) and interviewed some of the key thinkers in the field. The takeaway? Quantum supremacy – the moment when a quantum computer solves problems a classical computer cannot – could well be reached in the next six months.

For those unfamiliar with the differences, quantum computing represents not only a substantive jump from classical computing but revolutionises the very way in which computing processing takes place. Qubits, the quantum-bits that form the basic elements of a quantum computer, are able to exist in multiple states of 1 and 0, whereas classical computers use digital bits operating in on-off states of either 1 or 0. The superposition of states vastly improves the rate in which calculations are made, and opens the door to new and potentially disruptive applications.

One of the highlights of trip was our visit to the quantum Google Lab in Santa Barbara, California, where we interviewed chief scientist John Martinis in a meeting room named after Richard Feynman, the brilliant physicist who first came up with the idea of a quantum computer in 1981 (yes, there were bongo drums).

Project Q visits John Martinis at Google Lab

The development of a 49-qubit chip by Alphabet (Google’s parent corporation) was not only mooted but given a roll-out date of the end of the year. While a practical quantum computer for the end user might still be a decade away – and require hundreds of thousands of qubits and robust quantum error correction – a 49-qubit chip paves the way towards quantum supremacy in areas like the factoring of prime numbers (which keeps the NSA up at night) or the simulation of complex systems (which would be very useful in chemistry, medicine and weather prediction).

Upon landing back in Sydney, we found many of our findings confirmed in a lead article in the Wall Street Journal. Keeping one eye on the shrinking timeline for quantum computing, and the other on a growing need to bring the public up to speed, we decided it might also be a good idea to move up the delivery date of our documentary film, Project Q: The Question of Quantum.

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Microsoft intensifying its presence in the higher education research field


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Last July, Microsoft and The University of Sydney announced a continuous partnership with the University’s Nanoscience Laboratory to develop quantum technology based computers. It is now confirmed that the IT giant has also established a Quantum Centre at The Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen. This seems to be following a trend of the implementation of research labs between the corporate world and institutions of higher education for which quantum physics and technology research has been a large recipient. Microsoft’s other experimental research sites are at Purdue University, and Delft University of Technology. There are only four labs of this kind in the world.

CharlesMarcus

Professor Charles Marcus, head of The Niels Bohr Institute’s Centre for Quantum Devices (Qdev)
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Carnegie Corporation of New York announces award of major grant to the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney for Project Q


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Who will benefit from and who will be harmed by the advent of quantum computing, communications and artificial intelligence? Are social media, global surveillance, data-mining and other networked technologies already producing quantum effects in world politics? Will a quantum revolution present us with sentient programs, feral algorithms and non-human forms of intelligence? Who will ‘win’ the quantum race? When and how will quantum be ‘weaponised’? What are the implications for peace and security?

These and other pressing questions have been the key issues addressed by the first-ever multidisciplinary project on quantum innovations, ‘Project Q: Peace and Security in a Quantum Age’. Started three years ago by the Centre for International Security Studies (CISS) with funding from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the School of Social and Political Sciences and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Project Q was created to assess the possibility, significance and global impact of new quantum technologies. (more…)

Project Q

“Is uncertainty the defining feature of our contemporary experience?”


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This past month the Centre for International Security Studies (CISS) held the inaugural CISS Global Forum, a two-day event that began with an evening roundtable at the University of Sydney, followed by a full day workshop to discuss peace and security under uncertainty.

The Global Forum series was designed to respond rapidly and critically to new and pressing global issues. This year’s Forum focused on assessing the impact of uncertainty on peace and security from the interstices of philosophy and politics, science and the humanities, journalism and history.

(more…)

Project Q, Q Research

The Cyber Age Demands a New Understanding of War — but We’d Better Hurry


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Project Q Director, James Der Derian wrote an article for a special feature about war in the cyber age on the Berggruen Institute’s Zócalo Public Square. The article traces the history of ‘cyberwar’ and our understanding of it, but highlights the need to consider war in a quantum age.

Read the full article here via the Berggruen Institute’s website.

Image: Berggruen Institute website

Q Research

The future is quantum: solution to the world’s critical problems


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Quantum physicist and professor from the University of Bristol, Jeremy O’Brien writes, ‘quantum computers will solve problems that conventional computers never could’ in this latest piece for the Financial Times (paywalled).

The article covers the general problem with conventional computers, and what quantum computers offer as a solution. O’Brien describes the benefits a quantum computer may bring: from designing new pharmaceuticals to solving “unquantum” problems such as increased database search speeds.

“We may ultimately use this simulation power to design new pharmaceuticals, clean energy devices and polymer membranes for fuel cells. In fact, we could apply quantum computing to the design of any material for any purpose — from transport and construction to sensors and prosthetics — since those materials are ultimately made of molecules and atoms, and understanding their properties and interactions is a quantum mechanical problem. This is one of the most compelling features of quantum computing: it’s a technology that expands the way we can think, and the extent of the possible solutions we can investigate.”

This article was published as part of the ‘Masters of Science’ series, showcasing insights from men and women at the forefront of the most exciting research today. Jeremy O’Brien is the director of the Centre for Quantum Photonics (CQP) at the University of Bristol.

Image: Open Transcripts.org

Project Q, Q Research

A sneak preview of ‘Project Q: The Question of Quantum’


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At a special roundtable at the International Studies Association (ISA) meeting in Baltimore, James Der Derian, Director of CISS at The University of Sydney, presented the teaser for the documentary film Project Q: The Question of Quantum. Click above to watch.

The teaser takes us from the subatomic to the cosmic to ask the question of what happens when quantum computing, communication and artificial intelligence go online. The film is a part of a transmedia project funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York that will include a special issue of the Security Dialogue journal; a collected volume of multidisciplinary essays; and an e-book for policymakers.

All four will be tied together by the Project Q website, which acts as a hub for the latest news stories, short video features, interviews and archival material from past events.

The roundtable, ‘What’s Quantum Got to Do with It?: A New Philosophy for the Science of International Relations’ will feature presentations by William E. Connolly (Johns Hopkins University), Larry N. George (California State University, Long Beach), Jairus V. Grove (University of Hawaii, Manoa), Alexander Wendt (Ohio State University), Colin Wight (University of Sydney), Shohini Ghose (Wilfrid Laurier University) and Stephen Del Rosso (Carnegie Corporation of New York).

Recently, Stephen Del Rosso from the Carnegie Corporation of New York wrote a piece on quantum philanthropy which highlighted Project Q’s work to better understand quantum’s far-reaching implications. The piece is now available to read without a pay wall here via the Carnegie Corporation website.