Quantum Computing: the Great Leap Forward

Quantum Computing - the manipulation of sub-atomic quantum mechanical phenomena (via entanglement, the property of being in multiple 'states' at once) to facilitate computation - is one of the 'hot topics' in scientific research across the globe. While quantum mechanical technologies are already in use within current technology - such as iPhones for example, Quantum Computing represents a revolutionary new field of technology.

In a nutshell, the significance of Quantum Computing lies in its promise of almost unlimited computational - and thus decision-making - power.

The advent of Quantum Computing has the very real potential - if some of its more optimistic proselytisers are correct - to transform human societies as much as the development of language itself. Indeed Quantum Computing may be the route through which artificial intelligence or a 'singularity' first emerges.

As with all emergent technologies, claims of its future impact range from the conservative to the overblown (we're still waiting patiently for the 'hoverboard' from Back to the Future II for example).

What is clear, however, is that the emergence of Quantum Computing would radically transform analysis and decision-making and thereby impact society in profound ways. Its far-reaching impact could affect, for example:

  • industrial and economic organisation - such as increased predictive analysis for businesses and institutions, or radical changes in market functionality
  • new industries - in addition to transformation of existing industries, Quantum Computing would lead to the creation of new industries, particularly when coupled with biotechnology
  • geopolitical and strategic positioning - control of Quantum Computing would lead to advantages in other technological arenas, with geopolitical consequences
  • employment - Quantum Computing may render obselete entire industries, particularly those relying on the analytical skills of employees

As such, Quantum Computing - the form it takes, its accessibility and ownership - will have profound political, economic and social consequences far beyond the confines of physics departments.

It is incumbent upon Labor to provide the national thought-leadership around how to politically manage, promote and prioritise the emergence of Quantum Computing and other profound technologies.

This section is devoted to discussing the amazing developments of Quantum Computing, its consequences and how Labor can position itself policy-wise to face the opportunities and challenges raised by this watershed technology.

A great introduction to the field is presented in this first-chapter of the seminal text by Nielsen (an Australian) and Chuang.