Will quantum computing be a game changer for governments?

Video interview
April 2024


  • "Two regions in the U.S. were deemed tech hubs for quantum, in Colorado and Chicago, which means there’s going to be extra money in research dollars for developing workforces and coming up with new technologies. That’s one way the U.S. is leading."
  • "Eventually we’re going to cross that line of about 4,000 or so logical qubits that can crack encryption. When that happens, overnight, certain secrets will be exposed, and you can’t just flip a switch and rewrite everything. So right now, we’re working towards this new deadline."
  • "We do have a few solid programs here in the U.S. and universities and groups that are helping develop talent, the Chicago Quantum Exchange is a great example. We have that kind of growing talent approach, but we’re still not able to very quickly create teams and companies."

In this VISION by Protiviti Interview, Joe Kornik, Editor-in-Chief of VISION by Protiviti, sits down with Konstantinos Karagiannis, Protiviti’s Director of Quantum Computing Services, to discuss quantum’s impact on the future of government, where the U.S. stacks up with the rest of the world, and how encryption and protecting sensitive and classified information will be paramount in the quantum era. Karagiannis has been involved in the quantum computing industry since 2012 and is the host of Protiviti’s popular podcast, The Post-Quantum World

In this interview:

1:00 – What is quantum’s potential to transform governments?

2:30 – When will quantum become reality?

3:40 – Practical use cases – quantum and AI

5:58 – U.S. and other countries – who’s leading?

7:00 – The quantum threat and protecting encryption

8:35 – Quantum skill sets and capabilities

9:55 – The state of quantum in the public and private sector

11:15 – The post-quantum world in 2035

Read transcript

Will quantum computing be a game changer for governments?

Joe Kornik: Welcome to the VISION by Protiviti podcast. I’m Joe Kornik, Editor-in-Chief of VISION by Protiviti, our global content resource examining big themes that will impact the C-suite and executive boardrooms worldwide. Today, we’re exploring the future of government and I’m happy to be joined by my Protiviti colleague Konstantinos Karagiannis, Director of Quantum Computing Services, helping organizations get ready for quantum opportunities and threats. He’s been involved in the quantum computing industry since 2012 and is the host of Protiviti’s popular podcast, The Post-Quantum World. Konstantinos, thank you very much for joining me today.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: Yes, it’s great to be back. Thanks.

Kornik: Konstantinos, the last time we talked for VISION, I think it was back in 2022, and since then the quantum drumbeat I think has certainly gotten louder and we continue to hear more and more about its possible impact. I’m curious about quantum and its potential to transform governments. Is there a quantum game changer for governments that you sort of see coming?

Karagiannis: Well, it’s best summarized in how the White House put it when they did the NSM-10 memorandum a couple of years ago. They said that in order to maintain our leadership position in the world, we have to make sure that we get ahead of the quantum technology space. There’s a lot there, right? To maintain being a scientific and technological leader, you can’t let go of the thing that’s going to be the biggest technological advance. This and AI are pretty much the twins that are going to take us into the future. Since I’ve been on, of course, AI has stolen a little bit of the thunder but it’s funny because one of the big pillars of quantum is machine learning.

You’ve got optimization, machine learning and simulation, and these three areas are going to affect all aspects of the private sector and the government sector as well. It’s partly about maintaining leadership, which is what a government wants to be able to proclaim in the technological field. That’s part of it. But then, it gets right down to the grassroots level of what’s actually happening. You have energy sectors being revitalized, chemical manufacturing, all types of optimization. Obviously, if you have a government, there’s all sorts of little cogs in the wheel that that could get in the way if you’re not optimizing right. It’s a technology that will just transform all aspects.

Kornik: Realistically, when do you think it’ll have the impact? When do you think some of that could become reality?

Karagiannis: The industry is changing all the time and the timelines of the machine quality is changing and there’s some exciting stuff that’s happening right now. So, the timing of this interview is pretty good. For the first time, we have what are called logical qubits appearing, and these are quantum bits that are error corrected. You usually need some number, large number of physical qubits that you correct for errors and then you end up with these like pure ones that you could do amazing things with.

We’re about two years away from having more logical qubits than we could ever simulate with a classical computer, which means we will have physically the capability of working with these entities that we never could before. If we could only simulate 50, we’re going to have about 100 in two years. Once you have that, you can prove instantly, well, we’re in uncharted territory here. Any advantage that we get, any quantum advantage could be as short as two years away in gate-based, what we call gate-based quantum computing.

Kornik: Where do you see those impacts taking place within the government? What’s quantum’s impact going to be?

Karagiannis: Yes, we’re going to eventually talk in this interview about the threat to cryptography so we’ll put that aside. Before scary things like that happen, there will be an impact in more practical use cases. Right now, with AI becoming more and more important, I think the first thing you’re going to see is that quantum will help certain processes that are either AI or AI-adjacent. That will be some of the first use cases like optimizing information that will be fed to AI, compressing artificial intelligence so it runs better because these machines will always work in tandem, and we’re going to see that most likely in the AI world, too.

Quantum computers are not going to replace classical computers. They’re always going to be that, like extra device that’s really, really good at specific tasks and they’re always going to be in the data center alongside your classical clusters. I think government will, first, take advantage of that aspect of it before they were able to proclaim where the first government that can crack encryption – although, let’s be real, I don’t think any government will proclaim that. I think they’ll keep it as like a secret advantage.

Kornik: Right. We’re going to talk about encryption and sort of protecting classified information in just a minute. Before that though, I do want to ask you, you mentioned earlier about the US sort of m.a.intaining its leadership position. Where is the U.S. government on its quantum journey in terms of funding and R&D compared to other countries? Is it really a leader on the geopolitical landscape?

Karagiannis: Yes, actually we are in some ways. In 2018, President Trump signed a national quantum initiative, and it was supposed to be a five-year act to help boost funding to all aspects of manipulating and using information with quantum. So, quantum information science, basically. That was renewed in 2023. We have the path forward for new money to be given to areas. Two regions in the U.S. were deemed tech hubs for quantum, in Colorado and Chicago, which means there’s going to be extra money in research dollars for developing workforces and coming up with new technologies. So, that’s great. That’s all good. We have these little heartland areas where you can have stimulating quantum growth happening, which will help us as a country. That’s one way the U.S. is leading.

Some ways that we are facing slight challenges. There are other countries where, we’ll pick one, for example China, where we’re being outpaced in terms of scientific papers that are being published and cited. It’s an interesting time where some other countries are obviously generating enough QIS advancements that the world is taking note. It’s possible that we’ll see advantage in some areas come from another country too. Then, it’s a matter of can we reverse-engineer or can they reverse-engineer and how much of it will be scientifically shared with the world like we’re used to seeing in science, or how much of it will be instantly behind locked doors kind of like a secret, that kind of thing is impossible to speculate on.

Kornik: When it comes to encryption and protecting sensitive data, classified information, how important will quantum be in terms of our national security?

Karagiannis: It’s a two-edged sword here. This is all covered also in that NSM White House Memorandum. It’s the idea that we have to maintain our leadership in using quantum computers for things and also in defending against the quantum threat. Eventually we’re going to cross that line of about 4,000 or so logical qubits that can crack encryption. When that happens, overnight, certain secrets will be exposed, and you can’t just flip a switch and rewrite everything. We can’t just overnight have everyone be set up with new encryption standards and all that takes time. So right now, we’re working towards this new deadline. They’ve set one of about 2035 to be ready, and that’s what the federal government’s going to be following.

However, private sector should be getting a little ahead of that because I think 2035 is not really a great deadline. I’m seeing 2030 as being when we have a potential for machines being able to crack encryption. That’s the other aspect that governments have to be ready for and at least the U.S. is making some clear inroads there right now in establishing the things that have to happen. Once NIST publishes the new standards for post-quantum cryptography this year, probably around summer time, there’s certain actions that federal agencies are going to have to take, and regulators, we expect, will copy that.

Kornik: Yes, you mentioned regulators. I’m just curious about skill sets and capabilities. Where do you think the U.S. government stacks up in terms of its quantum talent versus the rest of the world?

Karagiannis: Well, there’s definitely a talent shortage for what will happen as this industry keeps growing. That said, we are doing pretty well on the academic side. We do have a few solid programs here in the U.S. and universities and sort of like groups that are helping develop talent, like the Chicago Quantum Exchange is a great example which is obviously part of the University of Chicago too. We have that kind of growing talent approach, but we’re still not able to very quickly create teams and companies.

It’s still a little challenging to say, “We want to explore quantum. Let’s just build something.” It’s very hard to then go quickly find all the levels of technical skill you need to build something like that out. That’s why right now it’s still very much beneficial to have consulting when it comes to quantum sort of like help you work on your first use case and then start doing the educational path internally. Who can you train up? Who can you hire and bring in? So, there’s still a little bit of a challenge there when it comes down to the private sector.

Kornik: Right. I know you spend a lot of your time doing just that, right? You mentioned the private sector, and I’m curious how quantum in the public sector could impact the private sector. What do business leaders need to know or what should they be doing to sort of prepare for this future?

Karagiannis: Yes, that path towards post-quantum cryptography is a beautiful example of this. It literally says, okay, once these new ciphers are available, federal agencies have to create inventories. They have to show a timeline for how long it will take them to migrate, hopefully before 2030, but they have to establish that. They have to take very concrete actions as a result and we expect that private sector is going to copy that and that’ll be good for everybody because they’ll do the very same things.

They’re not going to do all the R&D required to understand the migration to post-quantum cryptography. We expect they’re going to do the exact same things with rolling out the new cryptography and not breaking anything. It’s that breaking thing that’s dangerous, that’s what we call crypto agility, the ability to implement new primitives and ciphers without destroying everything. The private sector is benefiting.

Kornik: You’ve already sort of taken us out to 2030 and 2035 and talked a little bit about that, but I’m wondering if you could sort of take us out that far or even farther, and talk to us about a post-quantum world and how that will have transformed global governments, or more specifically, the U.S. government or both.

Karagiannis: Yes. When you go out to 2035, of course, you’re in the realm of post-quantum cryptography needing to be rolled out. We’re going to have machines that can reverse RSA, other PK and even other types of cryptography like blockchain and things that we’re using right now. Hopefully, all that will have been replaced, but these machines will be so amazingly powerful by then that it’s hard to even imagine some of the use cases we’ll come up with in 10 years because we are very much scratching the surface right now.

In 2035, I don’t think we’re going to recognize it. I don’t think we’re going to recognize the world by 2030, maybe by 2027 quite frankly, with the acceleration we’re facing so it’s hard to imagine. Let me give you an example of how optimization can change many, many aspects of life. The more data we have to deal with, the more data points, the more moving parts. It starts to become an exponentially out of control situation as you try to make sense of these things. We’ve seen it with supply chain disruptions, the more moving pieces in the supply chain, if something goes wrong with one of them, it affects everything else with like a domino effect.

It all goes back to the traveling salesman problem. How can you visit every country, every city in the country without repeating. That starts to become an exponentially difficult problem to solve. Imagine optimizing the delivery of all sorts of services. They could be physical services like trucks getting to you or trucks getting to you in an emergency. We’ve already seen quantum edge in that. Imagine also delivering much needed resources to people more like digitally or delivering, let’s say things that people count on. For example, the right to vote, how are we going to protect that?

Can one day quantum computing make it more possible to better predict when people will show up, how to have the right amount of folks on hand physically. This isn’t even touching the voting machines. It’s just predicting when people will arrive and the flux and things that will occur. You can really get down to the nitty gritty like that, that things that really impact physical boots on the ground rather than some abstract like algorithm running in the distance, it’s all very visible.

Kornik: Right. Well, we’ll keep up with all those changes by listening to The Post-Quantum World. Thanks, Konstantinos, for your time today.

Karagiannis: Thanks.

Kornik: Thank you for listening to the VISION by Protiviti podcast. Please rate and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts, and be sure to visit vision.protiviti.com to view all of our latest content. Until next time, I’m Joe Kornik.

Close transcript


Konstantinos Karagiannis
Director, Quantum Computing Services

Konstantinos Karagiannis is Director of Quantum Computing Services at Protiviti. He helps companies get ready for quantum opportunities and threats, including quantum portfolio optimization using cardinality constraints and post-quantum cryptography agility assessments. He has been involved in the quantum computing industry since 2012, and in InfoSec since the 1990s. He is a frequent speaker at RSA, Black Hat, Defcon, and dozens of conferences worldwide. He also hosts Protiviti’s Post-Quantum World podcast.

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