Giancarlo Elia Valori
According to some international press and media sources, China is investing significant sums of money in some dual-use technologies – i.e. both civilian and military at the same time – which would have powerful innovative effects, both in the commercial and in the defence sectors.
This is the result – i.e. the sequence of investment – of President Xi Jinping’s now old request of 2017 for the complete renewal of the People’s Liberation Army by the end of 2035 – a project that implies the one of China’s new global military relevance within 2045.
With a view to following Xi Jinping’s policy line, China has recently increased military spending by 7.5% and funding for “dual” research by as much as 13.4%.
According to the US intelligence, the sectors recording the largest investments would be those of Artificial Intelligence, the enhancement of the e-computation tools and their technical substrates and finally quantum technologies and hypersonic weapons.
There are also research projects on new materials and alternative energies.
With specific reference to military Artificial Intelligence, China is currently studying the new techniques for the Recognition and Selection of Targets, as well as the deployment of mines and, in particular, the automated land and sea attacks.
For all major States, contemporary war is labour saving and soldier saving, as it happens with the same advanced technologies when they are used in a civilian context.
Fully automated vehicles, drones and submarines, equipped with a semi-autonomous analysis of the area of operations, so as to relieve the Chief of Staff from simply tactical issues – which are often not completely matched with updated data – and to concentrate instead on strategic equilibria.
With the arrival of new hybrid operations for everybody, the Chinese battlespace with simultaneous and multiple dimensions will have a dimension and a series of cascade effects that will make necessary an AI and quantum computerized analysis at a high level of complexity and simultaneity.
This also applies to the civilian political and strategic decision-making process, which is ever less distinguishable from the military one and, above all, it is a management capable of avoiding those paradoxes of choice that have characterized all contemporary political regimes.
In other words, the incorrect or excessive evaluation of a particular detail, the wrong analysis of timing, as well as the study – this time accurate and correct – of the effects and their specific areas. All man-made errors, often inevitable for the human mind, that AI and quantum computing can avoid.
Whoever has worked on these platforms, even as an international manager, can understand what I mean.
As for the Made in China 2025 project, which aims at freeing China from its ancillary role as economy hosting all the mature industries of the world, China will deal mainly with advanced semiconductors.
As early as September 2014, again upon President Xi Jinping’s recommendation, the China Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund was set up. This entails that, if all goes well, China will very soon have semiconductors for IA machines and for advanced systems. For the civilian economy or for military systems, assuming that a difference can be made between them.
In China’s planning, quantum mechanics applications have their origins in the Five-Year Plan which began in 2016.
Since then a megaproject has been in place, which is expected to lead to IA quantum communication and to the operational quantum computer by the end of 2030.
In a brief essay on its corporate blog which, by chance, disappeared shortly after its publication, Google has finally declared it has reached global quantum supremacy, with a new supercomputer capable of solving, in three minutes, a computational problem that the most powerful computer currently available would solve in 10,000 years.
However, what is the point for the geoeconomic and, above all, technological struggle between China and the United States, the two real future competitors for world leadership? In fact, this is the real competition between the two countries.
The competition on quantum and AI technologies is needed to be the strongest in the world in the field of frontier innovation and technology, i.e. of all the devices for coordinating and interconnecting data that will revolutionise, in particular, all future economic, political and administrative processes, including financial ones.
The processes of a new finance, which currently can only be glimpsed on the horizon.
Now it is still the last phase of “hard” and information technology and later there will be the further phase of frontier innovation and technology at biological and biochemical levels.
With innovations that will make the current quantum and IA revolution pale into insignificance, but will be based precisely on these technologies.
As mentioned above, a quantum computer is above all a hardware platform for applying and creating quantum deep learning algorithms, i.e. the algorithms that currently contain mainly Artificial Intelligence techniques.
Hence of complete simulation – just to use the mentality of the military Chiefs of Staff.
The quantum computer initially exploits Richard Feynman’s idea, i.e. the exploitation of the properties of the particle wave or, rather, of the subatomic particle when it presents itself as a wave.
Therefore, the quantum computer can break the limits imposed by Moore’s Law, which provides for the doubling of transistors in circuits every 18 months.
Hence, in the quantum computer, there is no longer an objective and physical limit to the miniaturization of circuits.
Just think of the ability – for those who can develop such technologies – to defend themselves from computer attacks, and to develop complex and verifiable scenarios without social experiments in corpore vili.
An unimaginable theoretical and political revolution.
The only exception to the Sino-American duopoly is Israel, with a consortium of companies and State agencies studying civilian and military AI and quantum security.
Furthermore, in addition to quantum computing, Israel has a specific interest in quantum communication, but also in advanced encryption and in the evolution of high specificity sensors.
Other geopolitical needs, other technological choices.
Nevertheless China, too, is developing quantum radars, hyper-specific sensors, new tactical and strategic AI and quantum imaging, new meteorology and automated navigation techniques.
Once again we can guess China’s interest in dual-use quantum technologies, especially in view of China’s already announced economic shift towards Blue Economy and environmental protection.
China has already launched Mucius, a quantum satellite put into orbit by a “Long March” missile in August 2016 – a satellite that allowed a quantum phone call between the space and three Chinese ground stations.
As early as 2012, again upon President Xi Jinping’s order, the Quantum Experiments of Space Scale (QUESS) was funded.
In China the QKD quantum cryptography is already a reality and is physically inviolable.
Financial analysts maintain that the next market for quantum computing – which will not have, if not in an unspecified future, a very large retail market as happened for laptops – will be worth as much as the current market for “classic” supercomputers, namely 50 billion US dollars while, as early as this year, the market for the traditional products of advanced but not quantum commercial computing will be worth 1.2 trillion US dollars.
The first quantum computer suitable for the public will probably appear in 2030 but, in the early twenties of the third millennium, the market for computing machines with a first level quantum technology will be worth over 500 million a year.
Nowadays we have to do with government quantum computers of 19 or 20 qubits.
Someone even announced quantum computers of 50, 72 and 128 qubits, but there is no evidence of that.
It should be recalled that, unlike the traditional bit, the qubit can be worth both “one” and “zero”. It is a mathematical vector that, in theory, can take up all the information available in the world.
Nevertheless, on a strictly military level, quantum computing is currently essential for developing and reaching global hegemony.
The aforementioned Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) is capable of making all strategic communications safe, while the quantum cryptoanalysis and the creation of “covert” languages is an intrinsically offensive practice.
There will no longer be agents capable of opening a safe when an Ambassador is absent – just the launch of a quantum frequency from an AI computer will be enough.
In the future, the war will be totally offensive in all its phases and it will serve to defeat, destroy and integrate – into its value chain – dangerous technologies and the most important data of the enemy.
Probably the population will not even realize it, as happened at the beginning of the October Revolution when – as Curzio Malaparte told us – the Bolsheviks conquered the basics of power (energy, light, phones, etc.) while the people, unaware, were dining out or went to the movies.
In principle, the QKD works by sending photons superimposed on the normal encryption.
According to Heisenberg’s principle, whereby we cannot determine all subatomic quantities simultaneously, the QKD photon states are indeterminate until they have been isolated and measured.
Again with the QKD, this enables us – inter alia – to understand whether the message has been intercepted and by whom.
As stated in the State Council Document of July 2017, for China Artificial Intelligence is the new primary goal of international competition and “the new engine of economic development”.
Moreover, AI offers “new opportunities for social construction” to China.
For the civilian sector, IA and quantum supercomputers will be useful for social planning, especially in a phase of economic maturity and of necessary accurate distribution of resources and potentials. In this regard, just think of the pension and health systems.
In a key sector for future development, namely the military one, China is thinking about the use of AI and quantum computing to fully automate the battlefield, but above all to combine it with the accurate calculation of resources, with their protection from cyberattacks and with the integration between civilian economy and military operations.
Therefore, AI and quantum computing are mainly used “to integrate China’s economic, social and national defence”.
In the planned time schedule, China will develop its own quantum and AI strategy in three phases. Firstly, to synchronize the current general technology and the widespread AI application – at world standard level – by the end of 2020.
Secondly, to create a new generation of Artificial Intelligence theory and technology.
This means possible Chinese hegemony in Big Data Intelligence, Cross-Media Intelligence, Group Intelligence, Hybrid Enhanced Intelligence and Autonomous Intelligent Systems.
Cross-media intelligence means content analysis, media monitoring and creation of semantic online search keys.
Group Intelligence means consensus decision-making, halfway between socio-biology, political science and crowdsourcing IT applications.
Hybrid Intelligence is the effective synthesis between man and machine. The Autonomous Intelligent Systems are systems that learn from reality and process it according to enhanced models, deriving from human learning, multiplied by many times.
Hence, again according to the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, it is necessary to develop – at first – a system of Big Data, and later an IT theory of cross-media perception, as well as a theory of hybrid artificial intelligence, with an improvement and refinement of the man-computer symbiosis, but also with new models for the evolution of knowledge and of the hybrid enhanced intelligent learning, i.e. the man-machine one.
Thirdly, to soon develop – for the Chinese leadership – a new heuristic and quantum theory of intelligent computing.
And again, IA Group Intelligence.
Hence Advanced Learning, with the study of statistical learning innovative technologies.
All this is a technological and political model that must be interpreted according to the current doctrines of the Chinese PLA.
For China, the international military and economic forces have strongly accelerated their differentiation, especially between advanced and developing countries.
Strategic competition is on the rise.
However, the Chinese Armed Forces’ policy line – also at technological level – can be summarized as follows: a) to resist and stop – at first and on the borders – any external aggression; b) to reject any “areas of influence” logic, which would close China into a peripheral area; c) to adhere to a military logic of territorial defence and of protection of the primary interests abroad, but always jointly with other States; d) to fully mechanize/automate the Armed Forces in 2020; e) to maintain a state of average efficiency and of very high speed of response; f) to pursue anti-terrorism and the defence of China’s foreign interests; g) to establish a new relationship between politics and the defence system, not based on mere dependence.
In the doctrinal history of the Chinese Armed Forces, everything began – in recent times – with the 2015 document on the “Chinese Military Strategy”.
In particular, enhancement of the role played by the Technical-Scientific Committee of the Central Military Commission, as well as careful protection from the danger of the “technological and strategic surprise effect”, and a radical innovation of the doctrines for the use of the Armed Forces.
This will be the new level of strategic and political thinking of the Chinese Armed Forces.
However, with a view to being crystal clear on the matter, what is a quantum computer?
It is a computing machine using the laws of quantum mechanics to solve problems and make calculations.
The traditional computers are based on the binary digit (bit), i.e. the minimum amount – between 0 and 1 – of binary information needed to discern between two equally probable events.
The quantum computer uses the qubit, an overlapping of quantum states that can be 0 and 1 at the same time and in several layers.
For example, if I look for the word “China” in a text, the traditional computer proceeds at maximum speed, but line by line, to search for that word.
Conversely, the quantum computer has all the pages available at the same time. This is exactly what the aforementioned qubit is from the operational viewpoint.
GIANCARLO ELIA VALORI
Honorable de l’Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France
President of International World Group