Speech in IQM Finland kickoff party

In Innopoli 3 on August 29th 2019.

Dear party people

Writing a kickoff keynote speech can sometimes be tricky. Especially when your audience knows the topic of the party much better than you do. So, I will not embarrass myself by trying to tell you about quantum computing, even though those qubits are the reason we are here tonight, drinks in our hands.

And … I have also embarrassed myself quite enough already. You see, I am writing a science fiction novella about quantum computers. Actually, the old basement lab of our hosts, is one of the key scenes of that novella.

A couple of weeks ago I gave the text to Mikko and asked, what does he think about the story.

Last I saw him, he looked kind of nauseated.

Sorry about that, Mikko.

Ladies, gentlemen, in between

While Quantum technologies have received their share of media attention, people still see them as something from the future, something that we do not need to think about yet.

Funding and founding of IQM Finland proves that the future is already here – that it is finally time we should really start thinking about quantum technologies. Not only coders, mathematicians and engineers, but the whole society. 

What is the impact of quantum technologies on our society? What kind of regulation and legislation do they need? Which ethical questions we should address … preferably before quantum technologies saturate our life?

The discussion around artificial intelligence offers us some insight. It is only a couple of years ahead of quantum technology. 

While public discussion of AI ethics and regulation has barely had time to begin, the programme of Antti Rinne’s government declares that laws obstructing use of artificial intelligence in social security benefit processing are to be reviewed… Or that one of the goals of our foreign policy is actually banning of AI based autonomous weapons systems.

Who would have thought of that just four years ago, when the programme of the previous government was written?

And what are we going to see in 2023, in the next government programme?  Quantum computers should be in there, must be in there, as AI’s are in the current programme. 

And not only in the Finnish programme but on other European nations too. Otherwise we are going to lose the quantum race to China and U.S., which have been proven much more determined, when it comes to quantum technology development funding

We have, four years. That is more than the AI discussion had.

# # # But … why is public discussion so important? Because technology alone is not enough. The society must be ready for it in order to benefit from it. And that may be one of the bigger challenges for quantum technology developers.

Are people going to accept it in their day-to-day life? Are they ready to hand over their financial and health data to quantum computers? 

Fortunately, we do not have negative mental images to fight against like artificial intelligence developers do. They have hundreds of movies, books and tv-series, where AIs attack humans.

# In order to trust quantum computers, people have to understand them.

Artificial intelligence is facing the same challenge today. It is not an accident that basic AI courses are being taught around Finland. For example, the Elements of AI course of the Helsinki University Open University has been completed by tens of thousands of Finns. Even our President has participated and encourages all of us to get basic understanding of artificial intelligence. That is some endorsement.

As a result, Finns are going to be more likely to accept decisions made by bank or social insurance AIs than those people who do not understand how an AI works. Such resentment to all digital services is common around the world, and is holding back digitalisation of our society.

# # #So, are you ready to teach the basic principles of quantum computing to Finns, like we are already teaching them to understand AIs?

Because, someone has to do it.

# # #

Another ethical challenge is privacy. Quantum computing is going to totally disrupt data security industry. Quantum computer is to encryption like Turing’s Bombe was to Enigma.

[I was told after the speech that my sources are outdated as quantum proof cryptography is already under development.]

We should already be asking our financial institutions and telecom operators, how good their data protection is. Does their encryption or block chains survive an attack by a quantum computer? 

For example, the National Security Agency of the United States has officially warned that the algorithms used to lock up secret data are not safe anymore because of the development of quantum computing.

Of course, quantum cryptography tools – capable of warding off quantum attacks – are going to be developed too, but they may be much more expensive than the existing tools. 

It is possible, that in a few years only governments and major corporations are going to have these quantum tools. But not others. Protecting your life from government’s curiosity may become practically impossible.

And the first nation to have access to operating quantum computers, is going to upset the international power balance. The secrets of other nations are theirs to read while they can protect their own from foreign prying eyes.

No wonder, for example NSA is investing heavily on quantum computing. Both to defend and to attack.

We can only hope that the development of quantum computing goes along the same lines as traditional computers did: First they are going to be very clumsy and expensive, but over time, new generations of quantum computers will be both cheaper and more powerful, making them available to everybody.

Access to quantum computers defines also which companies dominate world markets. Quantum computers can solve optimization problems much faster than traditional computers. For example, development of new drug molecules is actually an optimization problem. The first pharmaceutical company mastering drug development with a quantum computer, is going to dominate world drug markets.

In addition to new drugs, new materials are going to come to market, allowing us to build things that are impossible, for the time being.

Maybe the most important thing about quantum computing is how it enables development of other technologies like traditional computers enabled gene editing with crispr-technology.

It is these other technologies, new materials and chemicals, more efficient vehicles and integrated circuits … just to mention a few … it is these technologies that change our world.

Major companies are going to fall. New industries are going to be born.

Like Henry Ford’s assembly line exploded productivity, which gave us five day work weeks with eight hour work days, consequences of quantum computing may allow us to earn a living with even less work, as optimization improves work productivity. State secretary Sanna Marin may have been a visionary.

Dear party people

Technology is not neutral, technology has values. Take Internet, for example.  The very first versions of Its core algorithms were written by California university hippies in the late 60’s and early 70’s. No wonder information wants to be free and censorship is treated as a bug. No wonder, dictators have had problems controlling it.

How is quantum computing going to be? Is it going to be like the Internet … or like its Soviet counterpart, a computer network connecting Russian universities … with built in surveillance and control? Is quantum computer going to be a hippie or a commissar?

It is in our hands here and now, in this time, in this community researching and developing and funding quantum technologies. Are we … hippies or commissars?

When it comes to regulation, we must resist the urge to do something immediately, just because we are a little afraid. We do not know enough yet to decide what kind of regulation, if any, may be needed. We do not know enough about quantum computers nor about their impact on our society. But we have to be ready to act on a short notice, because the transition to quantum society, it is going to happen quickly. Otherwise we end up with laws like the Finnish modem hijacking law. When it finally came, no-one was using modems any more. No-one.

It is not going to be enough that we regulate quantum technologies here in Finland, quite contrary. Any efficient regulation of technology requires international agreements, and quantum technology is no exception. But do not worry. We do not have international agreements regulating even Internet, yet. In spite of several UN conferences over a decade, trying to achieve such an agreement.

Dear friends,

We are here to celebrate the founding of IQM Finland … and its funding. 


May those euro’s never feel lonely in you accounts.


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