The West must urgently act to ensure China does not dominate important emerging technologies and gain control of the “global operating system”, Britain’s top cyber spy said on Friday. In an unusually blunt speech, Jeremy Fleming, director of the GCHQ spy agency, said the West faced a battle for control of technologies such as artificial intelligence, synthetic biology and genetics.
“Significant technology leadership is moving East,” Fleming said at Imperial College London. “The concern is that China’s size and technological weight means that it has the potential to control the global operating system.” “We are now facing a moment of reckoning,” he said.
World powers will compete to shape the future by developing the best technology, hiring the people with the best brains and dominating the global standards that will govern the technologies, Fleming said.
Fleming said quantum computing, which uses the phenomena of quantum mechanics to deliver a leap forward in computation, was getting closer and posed huge opportunities but also risks.
The West should forge ahead with developing quantum-proof algorithms, he said, “so we’re also prepared for those adversaries who might use a quantum computer to look back at things that we currently think are secure”.
He called for better fostering of market conditions to enable innovation, and create a diversity of supply in a broader set of technologies.