Why is President Trump Funding Quantum Computing Research But Cutting Other Science Budgets?
(WashingtonPost) The Trump administration believes quantum research is necessary for national security. Competition with China is what really matters in this case. China named quantum informatics a key plank in its 13th Five-Year Plan and the Made in China 2025 plan — which launched China’s bid to dominate high-tech sectors. Chinese defense professionals speculate that “quantum hegemony” may determine the future of international politics.
Overall, the White House’s proposed $4.8 trillion budget proposal last month, in contrast, isn’t so science-friendly, and cuts many aspects of scientific research. But there’s one area where the Trump FY21 budget does include generous research funding: “industries of the future” like “artificial intelligence (AI), quantum information sciences (QIS), 5G/advanced communications, biotechnology, and advanced manufacturing.”
The proposed budget earmarks nearly half a billion dollars for quantum technology, including $25 million to build a quantum Internet connecting 17 national labs.
quantum technology is caught up in what the U.S. 2018 National Defense Strategy describes as “the reemergence of long-term, strategic competition between nations.” Analysts in the West speculate about a “quantum arms race that will transform warfare” — a race that some scientists claim “America is losing.”
Many of the current fears of Chinese dominance and the quantum threat rely on mistaken assumptions. China has made progress in quantum communications, rather than quantum computing. These are very different technologies. Indeed, the reason China is so interested in quantum networks is because it is paranoid about its vulnerability to U.S. cyber operations. The United States, by contrast, is undoubtedly the leader in quantum computing.
Jon R. Lindsay, Assistant professor in the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, has authored this warning article about describing quantum technologies in broad terms about their potential, while overlooking the limitations. Political advantage depends on organizational policy and behavior, not just advanced technology. He contends the quantum espionage threat is exaggerated. Instead, Lindsay reminds us, “Smart policy can compensate for technological weaknesses, and poor policy can squander technological advantages.”