About Q5

‘QRP3’ – The Quantum Race: Parallels, Powers 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, Powers and Perils (QRP3), to be held 21-24 February 2019.


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


Physicists and philosophers, historians and futurists, peace activists and security analysts, policy makers and journalists, among others, gather to explore the technological, strategic, ethical and societal implications of a quantum race.


A quantum race begs questions of beginnings, scale and boundaries. The field of quantum mechanics first emerged from a collaborative international race to explain, through the principles of uncertainty, entanglement and the wave function, how the microphysical world works. Laboratory validations were followed by a race to produce the first practical applications, including many of the technological markers of modernity, like thermonuclear weapons, transistors, lasers, LEDs and mobile phones. Quantum is now scaling up to the macrophysical, in a race to develop quantum computing, communications and artificial intelligence as well as to explain and model photosynthesis, bird migration, chemical reactions and most controversially, human consciousness.  Hyped by media, popularized in film, promoted by corporations and accelerated by states, the quantum race has generated new metaphysical debates about the ethics of AI, the role of surveillance and the nature of reality itself. QRP3 will explore the geopolitical power, historical parallels and negative as well as positive consequences of a quantum race.


In 1939 Niels Bohr and John Wheeler posited nuclear fission, Einstein and Szilárd the atomic bomb and and Turing an electro-mechanical bombe. Eighty years later, scientific as well as philosophical questions first generated by quantum mechanics have been revived and amplified by new theoretical discoveries, technological applications and human-machine interfaces. Rather than wait for the possible to become actual, QRP3 stages a timely international and multidisciplinary inquiry into the risks and opportunities of the next stage of a quantum revolution.


The strategy is to quarantine critical thinkers and innovative practitioners; to question classical assumptions in the social, natural and physical sciences; and to quantize new modes of thinking about peace and security. The Q method includes thought experiments and creative speculations; laboratory findings and practical applications; historical and philosophical inquiry; worst and best-case scenarios; dreams and prophecies. The Q goal is to turn transdisciplinary research into accessible transmedia productions, including a collection of essays, an e-book, a long-form documentary film and a website for all things quantum, Project Q.