(Wired) Justin Sherman has written to explain the fallacy and danger of using a Cold War analogy to formulate tech policy. Sherman believes that many policymakers take these Cold War analogies as hard truth, consequently misunderstanding everything from the global threat landscape to the ways in which particular technologies should be regulated. Instead, he urges today’s leaders to ought to recognize the new and different alongside lessons from the past, and to remember the policy impact of these analogies.
Sherman is concerned about policymakers comparing quantum computing, which promises to enable greatly increased computing complexity, to nuclear weapon technology. As their logic goes, nuclear nonproliferation and counterproliferation efforts, which aimed to prevent the acquisition, spread, and retention of nuclear arms capabilities, could also be applied to quantum computing.
Sherman stresses the analogy comparing quantum computing to nuclear weapons is a mischaracterization. Quantum computers don’t kill hundreds of thousands or millions of people when used. They’re developed in corporate research labs and universities, not just secret government facilities. When quantum computers are tested, it’s not evident on the world stage in the same way as a nuclear explosion. Perhaps there is something to be learned from the Cold War here—like the value of preserving the US’ scientific and economic openness—but the aforementioned comparison again falls short.

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