Ever since the Edward Snowden-provided news broke that the NSA spent in excess of $100M on quantum computing I meant to address this in a blog post. But Robert R. Tucci beat me to it and has some very interesting speculations to add.
He also picked up on this quantum computing article in the South China Morning Post reporting on research efforts in mainland China. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, it is light on technical details. Apparently China follows a shotgun approach of funding all sorts of quantum computing research. The race truly seems to be on.
Not only is China investing in a High Magnetic Field Laboratory to rival the work conducted at the US based NHMFL, but there is also Prof. Wang Haohua’s efforts based on superconducting circuitry.
Interestingly, the latter may very well follow a script that Geordie Rose was speculating on when I asked him where he thinks competition in the hardware space may one day originate from. The smart move for an enterprising Chinese researcher would be to take the government’s seed money, and focus on retracing a technological path that has already proven to be commercially successful. This won’t get the government an implementation of Shor’s algorithm any faster, but adiabatic factorization may be a consolation prize. After all, that one was already made in China.
But do the NSA revelations really change anything? Hopefully it will add some fuel to the research efforts, but at this point this will be the only effect. The NSA has many conventional ways to listen in on the mostly unsecured Internet traffic. On the other hand RSA with a sufficiently long key length is still safe. For now if customers were to switch to email that is hardened in this way it’ll certainly make the snoops’ job significantly harder.