We’re about to embark on an exciting, albeit dangerous, new reality. We've reached the pre-quantum computing era.
Last year, Google announced that, by the end of 2018, it expects to achieve quantum supremacy, which is the point at which a quantum computer is able to outperform a traditional computer. In recent months, IBM announced that it had successfully built a 50-qubit quantum computer, considered the next revolution in quantum computing. The implications of this are far-reaching. In theory, a single 100-qubit quantum computer processor would prove more powerful than all the supercomputers on the planet combined.
As an executive, it’s critical to understand and appreciate the implications of quantum computing and take proactive steps today to minimize the inevitable negative fallout. The time to prepare for "Y2Q" or "years to quantum" is now.
1. The impending threat to security
Without a doubt, the most concerning aspect of quantum computing technology is its potential to defeat modern cryptography. In theory, quantum computing can rather easily defeat the modern encryption protecting banking transactions, voting systems, our confidential email correspondences, and even cryptocurrency. Larry Karisny, the director of cybersecurity think tank ProjectSafety.org, explains, “Quantum computer technologies can’t be hacked, and in theory, its processing power can break all encryption. This is a winner-takes-all technology that offers capability with absolute security capabilities — capabilities that we can now only imagine.”
Karisny’s comment is especially concerning given that countries such as Russia and China have doubled down in their government investment in quantum computing. The Chinese government, for example, has announced that it is building a $10 billion National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences, expected to open in 2020. The US government, in contrast, does not seem to have a clear plan.
2. The potential for quantum errors
While the potential of quantum computing is enormous, quantum computing technology is subject to severe error. As an executive, it's important to recognize that quantum computing is susceptible to errors. What’s more, in light of the fact that we’re unable to replicate many quantum computing calculations, we may not be able to verify whether results are correct and accurate. In fact, many experts believe that it will be infeasible to correct quantum computing errors. Gil Kalai of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, explains, “The task of creating quantum error-correcting codes is harder than the task of demonstrating quantum supremacy.”
3. Lack of backup capacity
One of the most powerful aspects of quantum computing is the fact that information cannot be saved or duplicated. It remains to be seen how corporations and other entities will backup quantum computing. Today, the best proposed workaround is to transfer data onto traditional storage devices. Unfortunately, this approach is unlikely to be feasible given the massive amount of storage capacity that would be required. Writing for Wired.com, Sophia Chen explains, “By its nature, you can't save or duplicate information on a quantum computer. All that computing power is of little use if you can't back up your work.”
Jason Bloomberg, the president of industry analyst firm Intellyx, is one of the numerous experts who have issued grave warnings about the potential of quantum computing. He explains, “Given how badly the US is losing the cyber war to Russia, it’s no surprise Russia is at the forefront of quantum computer research. Should the Russian government break all of our encryption before the US develops countermeasures, stolen elections will seem like small potatoes. Welcome to the cyber-battlefield of the 21st century.”
Quantum computing simultaneously presents a lucrative opportunity and a serious threat. As an executive, you must start preparing now. It’s imperative that you keep abreast of new developments and advancements related to quantum computing. It’s also crucial to take proactive steps to protect and fortify your current encrypted data so that it can better withstand a quantum attack, develop backup and alternative systems, and double down on research and development related to quantum computing and alternative systems.
As an executive coach with deep expertise in mediation training, I’m able to assist clients in fruitful discussions with a diverse group of stakeholders, including sociologists, historians, and scientists. This enables them to consider the many ethical, legal, and privacy issues involved in the adoption of quantum computing technology. Armed with negotiation training, subconscious bias training, emotional intelligence training, and other resources, I'm able to set my clients up for success.
As a former CEO, I appreciate the need for executives to stay abreast of important transformative technological developments. We need to ensure that we are adopting and embracing new technology, but we also need to ensure that we are adopting technology for the right reasons. As Albert Einstein emphasized, "The human spirit must prevail over technology.”
Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. provides Executive Coaching and Human Resources solutions. Her mission is to make the executive experience exceptionally enjoyable and effective. She believes that the world needs great leaders, and has dedicated her career to helping them.
As an organization psychologist and former corporate CEO, Dr. Nadine understands the pressures and demands executives face. She offers her clients the high expertise that only comes with three decades of consulting success, and a dual Ph.D. in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology. Dr. Nadine is an in-demand speaker, teaches in doctoral programs, and coaches other consultants. She is the author of two books: ‘The Art of Executive Coaching: Secrets to Unlock Leadership Performance’, and of ‘Stress-less Leadership: How to Lead in Business and in Life’. amazon.com/author/nadinegreiner
Contact Information: Feel free to email Dr. Nadine San Francisco Executive Coaching at