Two articles from the South China Morning Post were really interesting this week:
„US needs a hi-tech revolution to combat China, says General Mark Milley
- Military must adapt to ‘fundamental change’ under way in the character of war
- Joint Chiefs of Staff head wants smaller, more capable forces which fully embrace robotics and artificial intelligence
The US military will need to fully embrace robotics and artificial intelligence if it is to maintain superiority over China, according to the Pentagon’s top general.
Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley also said smaller, more capable forces armed with long-range missiles would need to be posted more widely around Asia to hem in the top US adversary.
“We are in the middle of a fundamental change in the character of war,” he told the Defence Forum Washington online symposium at the US Naval Institute on Thursday.
Milley cited the spread of precision-guided munitions, drones and other robotic equipment, and advanced satellite communications, and said those who mastered them best would be “decisive” in war.
“Our ability to sense is unbelievable. We can see the world today as you could never see it before. We can reach out and we can track, see, identify,” he said, adding that with long-range precision munitions, if you can see it, “you can hit it. This is fundamental. And this has a huge impact on the future of combat”.
“If you put in artificial intelligence and you do man-machine teaming, add that to robotics, put in precision munitions and the ability to sense and see, throw in a few hypersonic weapons, and you’ve got a fundamental shift” in the global battlefield, he said.
Milley said robotic weapons would be ubiquitous within 10 or 15 years, with China rapidly developing such capabilities.
“They would like to not only match us but exceed us, dominate us, be able to beat us in armed conflict by mid-century.”
The growth of China’s military power over the past 40 years
Milley, who is expected to remain in his job under president-elect Joe Biden, said the US should shrink its military footprint abroad, as permanent bases in places such as South Korea and Bahrain left US forces, their families and staff vulnerable.
“I am not a fan of large permanent military bases from the US overseas, in other people’s countries. Smaller forces, widely distributed, that are very difficult to detect will be key for a future military.”
To prevent China from taking control of the western Pacific in a conflict, he said, the US should have land-based units in the Philippines, Vietnam and Australia, operating long-range precision missile batteries that could take out Chinese navy ships.
“Why should we just cede that space to them? We shouldn’t.”
And while the USA is still talking about a technological revolution, China reports another success in quantum computing and AI:
„China claims quantum computing lead with Jiuzhang photon test, creating machine ‘one trillion times faster’ than next best supercomputer
- Researchers said their prototype took a little over three minutes to complete a task that would take the world’s fastest conventional machine 600 million years.
- Results put the country firmly at the forefront of the field, lead scientist says
Chinese physicists say they have built a quantum computerone trillion times faster than the most powerful supercomputer, with potential for some real-life applications.
The researchers said that using a process called “Gaussian boson sampling”, their Jiuzhang prototype quantum computer took a little over three minutes to complete a task that the world’s fastest conventional machine would not be able to complete in 600 million years.
“This achievement firmly established our country’s leading position in international quantum computing research,” a team of researchers led by
Professor Pan Jianwei said in a statement introducing a paper published on the website of the Science magazine on Friday.
Quantum computers rely on some counter-intuitive physics of the subatomic world, and are extremely fragile and difficult to maintain.
‘Quantum leap’ for China satellite
However, conventional computers struggle to cope with problems that involve uncertainty, such as predicting the rise and fall of the stock market, simulating the vibration of some elusive atoms, tracing the origin of a new-found virus, or guessing a bank account password.
(… The Jiuzhang was built to find clues in this kind of chaos. For instance, a database may contain many smaller data sets, some of which could have an unknown relation to the other. The Jiuzhang could quickly find out which data sets were related, a daunting task to traditional computers if the database contained a large amount of random information.
This unique calculation capability has a wide range of potential applications such as data mining, bioinformatics and finance, according to the researchers.
In the test reported in Friday’s paper, the Jiuzhang used light particles called photons to perform calculations. The photons must be generated in their purest possible form, because even a small physical discrepancy could lead to errors. And they must be produced one after another, a technical challenge that pushes optical precision to the limit.
“It is easy for us to have one sip of water each time, but it is difficult to drink just a water molecule each time,” said Pan, a lead scientist in China’s national quantum research programme with the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, Anhui province.
Though small in size, the Jiuzhang could be one of the most complex optical instruments ever built, with 25 crystals, each tailor-made and maintained at precise temperature, to manipulate the photons and simulate real-life chaos.
To obtain accurate results, Pan’s team also developed the world’s most sensitive light detectors.
But how could the results be verified?
If the machine made a mistake, Pan’s team reasoned, it could be detected by indirect measures such as abnormal spikes of temperature in some critical components, which did not happen.
They also tested the results of smaller-scale calculations on Shenwei TaihuLight, the fastest supercomputer in China.
One of those tests consumed US$400,000 worth of computer time, according to Scott Aaronson, a peer-reviewer of Pan’s paper.
“This was by far the most expensive referee report I ever wrote,” he said.
Aaronson, a computer science professor with the University of Texas, Austin, came up with the original idea of a light-based quantum computer. He told the South China Morning Post that he did not expect the pace of development to be so fast.
When he proposed the idea, some physicists said it would never work. Even Aaronson once thought the design would remain on paper forever.
(…) The Jiuzhang is not the first quantum computer to appear to outperform a traditional computer. Google announced last year that Sycamore, a similar machine, could do a task in 200 seconds that would take 10,000 years on a supercomputer.
But researchers from IBM quickly showed that the same task could be done on a traditional computer in two days with a new algorithm. And Sycamore made a lot of mistakes due to the instability of its operation.
The Jiuzhang, named after a 2,000-year-old Chinese maths text, is China’s answer to the sceptics on quantum computer technology. It does not need to work sealed in extremely low temperatures like some other quantum computers and can operate in a stable manner for longer.
And, in the boson test, it was 10 billion times faster than Sycamore, securing a huge advantage in performance highly unlikely to be challenged by a traditional computer, according to some physicists not involved in the study.
The times are over to claim that China could only copy technology from the West and would get all its successes from economic espionage. Graham Allison once said that China is not doing Research and Development (R&D),, but R&D&T ( Research &Development &Theft). While this is correct, one should not forget that not only China harmed intellectual property rights, copied technologies and had economic espionage—the West and the USA are also doing this as became last known in the NSA scandal. And scholars and knowledgeable people of economic history know that these are not new symptoms of the last decade. Just a look at the history of the atomic bomb, the Manhattan Project, how Russia and China got their nuclear technology shows this as the most obvious and best-known example. It should also not be forgotten that globalization pushed by the West also made it possible for China to hire Western engineers, scientists, experts, as advisers and even managers for Chinese companies. As Trump said: I don´t blame the Chinese that they took advantage, but the Western politicians and Davos elites who were giving the Chinese the advantages. In this sense Trump was correct.
But we don´t want to engage in a morale discussion. More important is how the CCP and the West see technological progress. While the Germans and Europeans are complaining that the USA and China would steal their technology, it should be clear that most technologies „stolen“ from them become more and more outdated and that Europe and Germany really has a problem if it is about new technologies. The technological gap – civil and militarily- between the Europeans and the USA and China is too obvious. There is not too much to „steal“ anymore, just the opposite. Germany and Europe might come in the situation that they have to copy or steal from China or the USA just to get access to the new technologies. And without a military industrial complex, joint venture capital, a Silicon Valley, or EU hi-tech fonds, nothing will change.
The EU has now at least decided on a new Green deal, but it is questionable whether the EU budget and the ECB-funded grants and loans have a uniform thrust in the direction of new technologies and analog and digital infrastructure construction and not to fill any financial holes in the state budgets. Long story short message.: A European hi-tech investment fund or some sort of industrial policy would be needed that promotes new high-tech technologies and brings them to a breakthrough so that the technological gap between Europe and the United States and China can be closed.
A European investment fund that promotes new industries and start ups, as well as existing national champions nationally and European, but as a new EU Manhattan and Apollo project. A kind of Apollo project from cloud computing, quantum computing, AI, blockchain technology, robotics to nano and biotechnology and also such new developments in Silicon Valley as artificial meat. New ecological technologies would have to be also addressed, which can already be part of the current New Green Deal of the EU. ..Trillions of savings are in the bank accounts with zero interest rate policy and are not invested in productive new technologies, but are continuously decreasing. Bringing this dead, unproductive capital to a productive utilization is the idea of Walter Kohl, son of former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, in his book „Which future do we want?” (Welche Zukunft wollen wir? ) “.
A European Silk Road Marco Polo 2.0 would be needed, a project that in addition to the systematic development of a high-tech industry in research. Development and production also remove the investment backlog in the analog and digital infrastructure in Europe, which are also prerequisites for the use of these new technologies, leaving the young generation with a well-functioning infrastructure for the future as the legacy of our generation, a common interest project that unites today´s Europe, a vision and concrete material advantages, as well as jobs and economic growth then generated in a multiplier effect. On the one hand as a counterpoint to China’s New Silk Road, a European infrastructure project that renews Europe’s promise of prosperity, makes it concrete and creates optimism again. Especially since every European also wonders: Why are the Chinese building a train route from Budapest to Belgrade and not the Europeans? It is also about getting the Chinese backyard in the form of the 16 plus 1 group back by connecting European non-EU members. The first serious supporters have already appeared. On the one hand, the FAZ already headlined: „Why not a European Silk Road?“ The idea is now gaining further supporters from three research institutes, albeit in the still rudimentary form of a high-speed long-distance train network for Europe – here from the Freitag newspaper:
„A recent proposal from the Düsseldorf Institute for Macroeconomics, the Austrian Economic Institute wiiw and the French Institute OFCE has shown that there is another way. In view of the EU negotiations on a reconstruction fund to deal with the Corona crisis, they are calling for Europe to build a network of four super-fast train lines that connect east and west, north and south. A route should run from Lisbon via Paris, Berlin, Copenhagen to Helsinki. At an average train speed of 250 to 350 kilometers per hour, the travel time from Berlin to Paris would be reduced to four hours. Those who travel the distance by plane today take longer. The researchers calculated that simply switching passengers from planes to trains would reduce CO2 emissions by four to five percent. Freight traffic would also be shifted to the new rail. The 18,250-kilometer network would cost 1.1 trillion euros – an amount roughly double the 500 billion earmarked for the EU’s reconstruction fund. But it would be worth it. What would a movement from below do to effectively to counter global warming? It would network across Europe to promote such a project. It is so exemplary. The politicians are waving away? This may show that our free elections are not as free as they seem. The movement from below would combine their struggle for an ecologically effective large-scale project with the struggle for an electoral system that does not, of all things, spare the economy – that is, leaves it to capital, on which everything else depends. The chances of getting a lot of approval would be great, also because the institutes propose even more. They consider the highspeed train network to be the core of a “European silk road”, which would also include new ports. The continent’s borders, the Balkans, the Caucasus, would be better connected to the industrial regions in the west. The researchers expect 3.5 percent economic growth and two million new jobs. ”
Furthermore, in addition to the civil infrastructure, military use for NATO should also be considered, which, like ecological aspects and more, should include the ecological promotion of regional public transport networks to overcome the urban-rural divide in the analog and digital infrastructure, in order to create a holistic concept for the greatest possible benefit. The whole thing should also be thought of with future orientation in matters of Eurasia and the USA. It is also interesting to see that In a joint guest article in the FAZ, the chairman of the Atlantik-Brücke (Atlantic Bridge) and former Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and John B. Emerson, former American Ambassador to Germany and Chairman of the American Council on Germany propose a future transatlantic agenda, among this some kind of European or even Eurasian Silkroad and which is mentioned as „Conception of a transatlantic infrastructure initiative with Africa and the Eurasian area as a democratic, fair and transparent alternative to China’s “New Silk Road”. One question remains in this project. If they speak of Eurasian area, would there be any space and connection in a transatlantic Eurasian Silkroad for Russia?