Pentagon Seeks an Edge in Quantum Computing

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The Pentagon’s research arm wants to get up to speed on quantum computing before China and other adversaries.

The Pentagon’s moonshot research office is calling on the tech community to help gauge the promises and limitations of quantum computing in the years ahead.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on Thursday asked technology experts from industry and academia to weigh in on the impacts quantum computing could have on artificial intelligence, physical systems, data analytics and other research areas. As science continues overcoming the physical barriers to quantum computing, the agency also wants to better understand the technology’s limits and get a rough idea of when to expect researchers to hit different milestones.

“There are hard problems, e.g. in quantum physics, quantum chemistry and materials, that are nearly intractable using classical computation platforms, but that might be successfully modeled using a universal quantum computer,” officials wrote in the request for information. “DARPA seeks to challenge the community to address the fundamental limits of quantum computing and to identify where quantum computing can relevantly address hard science and technology problems.”

DARPA will use the proposals to recruit participants and speakers for a potential quantum computing workshop at a yet-to-be-determined date, the agency wrote in a post on the government’s federal business opportunities website. Responses must be submitted by August 10.

DARPA said it’s particularly interested in learning about the ways quantum technology could improve general computing performance and accelerate artificial intelligence and machine learning systems.

The world may see be years from its first general-purpose quantum computer, but federal tech leaders are already discussing ways the technology could impact data privacy and other tech areas, and beginning to worry the U.S. is losing its edge in the quantum research space.

China, for instance, is slated to open a $10 billion research center for quantum applications by 2020. By comparison, the U.S. spends roughly $250 million per year on quantum research.