Students at South Debate Quantum Computing


This is a Quantum Computer running in Espoo, Finland. While functional quantum computers like this exist and demonstrate their ability to function, they are far from exhibiting the great potential of exploiting quantum phenomena for computing.

Fariz Imran, Staff Writer

On March 1st, the Eastern Massachusetts Debate League held the final debate of the season, a thrilling battle of wits among the best ranked high school debaters in the region. 

As a part of this organization, the Debate Team at Plymouth South engages in “policy debate,” an American debate form in which teams of two argue for or against resolutions proposed by another team. Each year, a handful of students engage in discourse about the merits and flaws in a policy proposal that pertains to the year’s designated topic. This year, students nationwide discussed plans proposing an increase in security cooperation with NATO. Students on our team at South have taken to arguing for changes in policy to build up defenses against the threat posed to cybersecurity by a new technology called quantum computing.

Quantum What?

A “quantum” is the smallest, most fundamental unit of some physical phenomenon. A single quantum of the light from your phone or the sun, for example, is a photon, the fundamental particle that comprises light. Quantum theory is the theory explaining the nature of matter and energy at the level of a quantum (again, very small). Ever heard someone say quantum mechanics or quantum physics? These terms often appear in science fiction media and pop-culture when a writer or director needs science-y exposition to make bizarre technology and other impossibilities somewhat believable. The novelty and complexity of these studies has allowed its vocabulary to become the media’s go-to science-jargon. In reality, quantum physics and mechanics are simply branches of physics and mechanics dealing with quantum theory—small stuff.

“Computing” is simply the use of computer technology to perform some task. Thus, quantum computing is a field of computation based on quantum theory. This new approach to computers exploits the properties of matter at the quantum scale—specifically its simultaneous particle-like and wave-like behavior—using the distinct hardware pictured below. The theoretical result of this is remarkable: A computer that calculates dramatically quicker than modern computers. Today, however, the technology is admittedly impractical.

What’s the big deal?

The worldwide financing of this technology is substantial, with 35.5 billion dollars invested on quantum technologies only last year. It can be reasonably argued that even if quantum technology is not significant to us today, or next week, it certainly will be. A sufficiently advanced quantum computer could, hypothetically, do damage anywhere from clearing bank accounts to shutting down government defense systems. It is for these security implications that the governments of major superpowers have shown interest over the years. China invested 11 billion dollars over 2019-2021, and the US enacted the National Quantum Initiative Act only 7 months ago. The results of this are evident. Only two years after the computational feats demonstrated by Google’s quantum computer, Sycamore, China’s quantum computer, Zuchongzhi, proved itself an incredible 10 million times faster. 

The Team at South

Students in the debate team discuss policy solutions to weighty issues such as this. This year, they considered the allocation of individual national resources in quantum computing to a cooperative NATO effort. Perhaps by pooling resources, defenses could be developed quicker. While the discussion on this topic is over, students still have the opportunity to debate going forward. With the Debate season coming to a close, the National Federation of State High School Associations has announced the nationwide High School policy debate topic for the 2023-2024 school year: Economic Inequality. Those interested in joining the team for next year are welcome in Room 115, any Tuesday after 2 PM.