In this Q&A, Michael Helander, CEO and co-founder of OTI Lumionics, argues that any regulation of quantum computing must be at a global scale and needs an international consensus.
Enter Quantum: How does OTI Lumionics use and support quantum computing?
Michael Helander: OTI Lumionics works with mobile device and display manufacturers to develop advanced materials for consumer electronics. OTI is one of the few fully-integrated materials companies actively working on developing the fundamental theory and algorithms to simulate materials on quantum computers.
Materials that are simulated using new algorithms can be synthesized, scaled up and tested in a pilot production environment, providing closed-loop feedback, all under one roof. This contrasts with most other companies in the space,
In addition, OTI has developed unique algorithms to transform materials simulations for gate-based quantum computers to an Ising model representation that can then be efficiently solved with quantum annealers, for example, D-Wave, or quantum-inspired annealers such as Azure Quantum QIO or Fujitsu Digital Annealer.
The ability to run quantum algorithms on annealers enables OTI to simulate industrially relevant sized material problems to high accuracy without quantum error correction, today. Even more compelling is they get meaningful results back from the simulations that outperform the capabilities of traditional computational chemistry simulations.
Elon Musk said AI could be “humanity’s biggest existential threat” if governments don’t regulate it. What similar threats from quantum computing are people concerned about?
A major concern is a possibility that most of our existing computing will become obsolete if the full potential of quantum computing is realized the way that everyone has hyped up. With the potential to break encryption, all the data stored on these computers – including health and banking records – would all be open information, and this qualifies for any field that uses computers today. This would ultimately give a clear asymmetric advantage, causing a winner to sweep the entire market.
To mitigate these threats, should quantum computing be federally regulated?
In my opinion, federal regulation of quantum on an individual country basis wouldn’t solve the risk because other countries won’t adhere to the same regulations. Quantum is a winner takes all situation, so government regulation can be counterproductive. We see a similar trend with emerging regulation of AI and image recognition technologies today; countries with little to no regulation are advancing much faster than those that have regulations.
Quantum research and commercialization efforts involve a lot of international collaboration. How can we support this progress while regulating it?
Regulation of quantum computing is a global scale issue and there must be an international consensus around it. The ban on CFCs is a good example. Everyone agreed that they were bad, so it was regulated internationally, which was effective. While this is difficult to do, the world needs to be cohesive on the regulation to avoid potential security threats.
Should quantum computing technology and IP be subject to export control like other sensitive technology?
Maybe the hardware; however, the algorithms and software are hard to control in the case of export regulation. It’s not clear if that’s going to be an effective approach as a lot of leading quantum research ends up in the public domain through publications and patents, which effectively negates any export controls.
We’re already seeing government intervention via NIST introducing post-quantum cryptography algorithms. Could this be a model for further quantum computing regulation?
That’s a good approach. The government can help mitigate the risk of quantum by focusing on standards, which it is generally supportive of. It’s still a difficult challenge to get right as we have already seen some of the NIST post-quantum algorithms being broken.
Is there anything else you’d like to add on the topic of quantum regulation?
Quantum computing is a new tool to help us solve problems more effectively. We are many years away from quantum computing reaching its full potential, which will require billions of dollars of investment over the next decade.
Like many of the past breakthroughs in science and technology that have delivered powerful new tools – for example, radio, digital computing and the internet – we need to strike a balance between regulation and providing enough freedom for industry to continue to invest in development.
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