Aliyun and Chinese Academy of Sciences Sign MoU for Quantum Computing Laboratory (press release, Market Watch, July 3, 2015)
Aliyun, Alibaba Group’s (BABA, -2.03%) cloud computing subsidiary, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) today announced that they have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Shanghai to co-found the Chinese Academy of Sciences – Alibaba Quantum Computing Laboratory (the Laboratory).
American Government’s official response to this news:
“The USA considers China’s recent quantum computing activities to be extremely unhelpful. The US State Dept. has decided to make a proportionate response to those activities. We are hereby ordering all of MIT’s top computer scientists to point their prodigious cannons at China. Here is a photo to show that we are serious”.
While on the subject of cannons, let me mention that MIT is a loose cannon itself. A few days after this photo was taken, MIT started negotiations with Alibaba to ship a dozen or more of MIT’s brightest grad students to China, where they will be offered permanent jobs with typical starting salaries of $300K/yr (Google salaries for engineers start typically at $200K/yr, but it’s easier to convince someone to live in balmy San Fran than polluted Beijing).(*)
In case you didn’t know, Alibaba is China’s version of Amazon.com/eBay/PayPal combined, except (3 billion people/ 300 million people)= 10 times bigger.
In the short term (first year or so), I don’t think this news poses much of a threat to American QC supremacy/hegemony. However, I am sure that the American defense establishment considers Alibaba’s investment in QC a very serious “national security threat” in the long term. Why? Because all companies in China, especially the biggest ones, are ultimately under tight state control. The Chinese government might like to promulgate the fantasy that Alibaba is Jack Ma’s company and that Jack Ma is worth upwards of $30 billion, but we know better. I don’t doubt that the guy is fabulously wealthy, but I suspect that the truth is that Alibaba is just a front for the Chinese government, and this news means that the Chinese government has now given carte blanche to its QC scientists. I expect that they will soon go on a hiring binge, hiring all foreign QC scientists whom they can convince to move to China, and, of course, hiring a large number of Chinese scientists too.
If they are smart, they will try to create semi-autonomous QC research hubs in multiple locations, including some in foreign countries. Moving everyone to a single location, and organizing their social structure as a monarchy, with a king for life, like Lazaridis has done at Waterloo, Canada, has been shown not to work very well. Indeed, a leading authority in the QC field recently awarded Lazaridis’ QC institute a grade of F in QC hardware development.
Which reminds me, I work for a QC software company headquartered in Toronto, Canada, called Artiste QB net Inc.. We have tons of software and 11 QC software patents. Our US patents do not apply in China, but if Alibaba wants to eventually do QC commerce in America, it might find access to our ever expanding portfolio of software patents very useful. We need all the investors we can get. As an added bonus, our company’s name starts with the letter A (this means it’s a lucky name, just like Alibaba and Aliyun).
A plug for my Russian friends: If I were a QC job recruiter working for Alibaba, before hiring American scientists, I would first consider hiring Russian scientists. Due to the currently depressed oil prices and Ukraine-related sanctions on Russia, many Russians are strapped for cash right now. Russian scientists, which are among the best in the world, are probably more abundant, cheaper to hire, and more willing to relocate to China than their American counterparts.
(*)Just kidding. MIT would never in a million years consider doing something so downright unpatriotic as that!