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The technology race: who is programming the future?

May 29, 19:45 UTC+3
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Humanity is at the doorstep of a new technological revolution, which is set to change the world – the way the invention of writing and paper did in the past. Global powers have already entered a new technology race, with Russia making it a point not to miss the chance to be leading the charge. The consensus is that the country that will master quantum technologies first will gain a substantial edge over other nations in a variety of industries.

In the mid 1980s, Russia largely missed out on the opportunity to shift to the fifth technological paradigm, which relied on the cutting edge digital and biotechnologies. As a result, the leadership passed on to the US and international hi-tech majors, with Russia's knowledge-based industries suffering a severe slump.

Russia's greatest challenge today is to make it to the cohort of countries that have transitioned to the sixth technological paradigm.

  • Global powers have already joined in the race for supremacy in the world of the sixth technological paradigm, which is expected to reach its apex in the 2040s and come to an end by approximately 2060. This new paradigm will rely on innovations in nano and biotechnologies, information and cognitive solutions, new materials, membrane and quantum technologies, etc.

In the decade to come, Russia should be focusing on the development of breakthrough technologies, including computing of the future.

  • Maxim Vakshtein, head of a project group under the Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects, announced the launch of work in 2016 to develop a quantum computer based on the superconducting technologies. The project is expected to give Russia a considerable competitive edge.

The sizeable government and private investments pouring into the development of quantum technologies confirm their strategic relevance.

  • The EU is planning to invest EUR 1 billion in the Quantum Technologies flagship, while the UK will allocate GBP 270 million as part of a public–private partnership to develop quantum solutions. The US Government has invested some USD 200 million in quantum R&D activities. On top of that, the leading corporations (such as Microsoft, Apple, Google, IBM, etc.) are also working on a number of quantum projects.
  • China has also made substantial investments in the development of quantum technologies over the past few years, with financial allocations for the launch of a quantum satellite and the creation of a quantum radar totalling over USD 100 billion in 2015.
  • Russia will spend around RUB 750 million to create a quantum computer. In April 2016, the Russian Ministry of Education and Science, State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM and Foundation for Advanced Research Projects signed an agreement to set up joint laboratories and approved a roadmap for the project.

Quantum computers are expected to relegate the most powerful of binary systems to the status of outdated machines.

  • The technological revolution will come about thanks to the multi-fold increase in the computing speed. It will take quantum systems mere seconds to perform calculations that binary computers would need thousands of years to complete.
  • Quantum cryptography will undoubtedly be instrumental in achieving a breakthrough in private and national cyber security, as it would make it impossible to break the code and get away with it undetected. The Boston Consulting Group estimates the security market for cyber physical systems at USD 389 billion in 2020 and USD 2.1 trillion in 2035.
  • The atomic clock is also set to improve, becoming susceptible to the slightest changes in nature and therefore capable of detecting underground and underwater objects. The navigation for unmanned vehicles and space exploration will also get a new impetus.
  • The application of quantum computers in other fields is still a matter of debate, though. In quantum physics, the act of observation itself produces changes on a phenomenon being observed. It is therefore hard to predict at this point in time whether the information provided by quantum computers will come across unaffected.
  • The pharma industry is one of the potential areas where quantum computers could be applied, as their calculations would not only materially accelerate the manufacturing of new drugs and boost their efficiency, but also open up brand new opportunities in neurophysiology, genetics, and treatment of previously incurable diseases.

Ruslan Yunusov, CEO at the Russian Quantum Center, believes that Russia is well-positioned to start the fight for technological supremacy.

  • Russia is one of the global pioneers in photonics, plasmonics and quantum physics research.
  • There are, however, serious concerns about the growing shortage of tech-savvy professionals in Russia, with training of new R&D specialists increasingly relevant.
  • To achieve these ambitious goals, Russia needs to create a comfortable living and working environment for both local and foreign professionals. 
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