Reichstagsgebäude

German Elections! What do the parties say about ̶m̶̶̶a̶̶̶t̶̶̶h̶̶̶?̶ quantum?

Germany votes for a new parliament on the 26th of September 2021, so only in a few weeks from now. What do the German parties say about math in their election platforms? Not much, but they talk much about math-related topics such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing. So let us have a look! Actually, only at quantum thingies. Otherwise, it is too much to write here.

This here is not the place to study German politics, but here a quick introduction, so that you have a vague idea of the general picture. There 53 parties running. Here I limit myself to the six democratic parties in the German parliament. These are as follows.

  • CDU. The Christian Democratic Union of Germany (Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands). Germany’s conservative party (outside of Bavaria).
  • CSU. The Christian Social Union in Bavaria (Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern). Bavaria’s conservative party. CDU and CSU usually act as one single party, so we will treat them as such.
  • SPD. The Social Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands). Obviosuly, Germany’s social democratic party.
  • FDP. The Free Democratic Party (Freie Demokratische Partei) is Germany’s liberal party. (Here “liberal” in its traditional meaning, not the modern AE usage of the word.)
  • The Left (Die Linke). Germany’s socialist party.
  • The Greens. More precisely, Alliance 90/The Greens (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen). Obviously, Germany’s Green party.

Do not reach too much into my descriptions as I wanted to keep them short. The parties are sorted by how much they write on quantum thingies. My translations are ad-hoc and in most cases I tried to keep translations very literal. This is results in ugly English with too long sentences, but the German is ugly too (while long sentences are more acceptable in German). If you fail at understanding any of my translations, please ask.

1. FDP

The FDP’s platform is entitled “There was never more to do” (Es gab nie mehr zu tun) and can be found here. Luckily, they do not say anything about quantum, so I do not have to write anything here.

2. The Left

The Left’s platform is called “Time to act! For social security, peace and climate justice” (Zeit zu handeln! Für soziale Sicherheit, Frieden und Klimagerechtigkeit) and can be found here. They also ignore quantum. Good for them. Good for me.

3. SPD

The SPD’s program is entitled “Out of respect for your future” (Aus Respekt vor deiner Zukunft) and can be found here.

The platform states four future missions (Zukunftsmissionen). In Future Mission III, entitled “Digital Sovereignty in Germany and Europe” (Digitale Souveranität in Deutschland und Europa), we find our first relevant blurb.

Wir setzen uns für eine gezielte und koordinierte Unterstützung der deutschen und europäischen Digitalwirtschaft auf allen Technologie-Ebenen und entlang der gesamten Wertschöpfungsketten ein: von der Halbleiter-Fertigung und der Quantentechnologie über die Cloud und Künstliche Intelligenz und Edge-Computing bis zur Cyber-Sicherheit, sicherer und vertrauenswürdiger Hard- und Software sowie Netzwerktechnik und datenbasierten Geschäftsmodellen.

We commit to a focused and coordinated support of the German and European digital economy on all levels of technology and for the whole value-added chain: from semiconductor production and quantum technology, to the cloud, artificial intelligence and edge computing, to cyber security, more secure and trustworthy hard- and software as well as networking technology and data-based business models.

Then there is Section 2.6 dedicated to science and research. On page 21 we find the following:

Um auch in Zukunft innovativ zu bleiben, werden wir die Stärken des deutschen Wissenschaftssystems in seiner ganzen Breite und Vielfalt und seiner internationalen Ausrichtung erhalten und weiterentwickeln. Dazu fördern wir Zukunftstechnologien wie zum Beispiel Quantentechnik, Künstliche Intelligenz, Alternativverfahren und Wasserstoff an vielen Orten im Land.

So that we also stay innovative in the future, we will maintain and develop the strengths of the German economic system in its whole breadth and variety and its international orientation. For this we support future technologies such as quantum technology, artificial intelligence, alternative processes, and hydrogen in many places in the country.

I have no idea what “alternative processes” (Alternativverfahren) refers to. Maybe alternatives to animal experiments. Maybe something completely different.

4. The Greens

The Greens’ platform is named “Germany. Anything is possible.” (Deutschland. Alles ist drin.) and can be found here. We first encounter quantum computers in Chapter 2 on page 60.

Nach der Corona-Pandemie braucht unser Land einen neuen wirtschaftlichen Aufbruch. Das Beste, was die Politik dazu beitragen kann, ist, das zu tun, was sie die letzten zehn Jahre sträflich versäumt hat: in unsere gemeinsame Zukunft zu investieren. Nur wenn auch der Staat seinen Teil beiträgt, wenn öffentliche und private Investitionen gemeinsam auf ein Ziel ausgerichtet werden, wird Europa den Anschluss im Bereich moderner Zukunftstechnologien halten und sich im Wettbewerb mit den USA und China behaupten können. Wir starten in der nächsten Legislaturperiode eine Investitionsoffensive. Mit Investitionen in schnelles Internet, überall. Spitzenforschung vom Quantencomputer bis zur modernsten Biotechnologie.

After the Corona pandemic our country needs a new economic dawn. The best that politics can contribute is to do what they neglected for the last ten years: to invest in our common future. Only if the state contributes its share, if public and private investments focus on one common goal, only then will Europe keep up in the area of modern future technologies and will be able to stay in competition with the USA and China. We start the next legislative period with an investment offensive. With investments in fast internet, everywhere. Cutting-edge research from quantum computing to most modern biotechnology.

The paragraph continues for some more, but quantum stuff is not mentioned again. The German text has (in my opinion) some awkward tautological phrasing which I kept.

Quantum reappears again on page 75. Again, only half the paragraph. Not much about quantum.

Die rasante Entwicklung des Corona-Impfstoffs von Wissenschaftler*innen und Unternehmer*innen aus Mainz hat gezeigt, welche Innovationskraft in unserer Forschungs- und Unternehmenslandschaft steckt. Eine Innovationskraft, die der Staat mit Tempo und entschlossenen Investitionen unterstützen muss. Vor allem die Bereiche Künstliche Intelligenz (KI), Quantencomputing-, IT-Sicherheits-, Kommunikations- und Biotechnologie oder auch die weitere Entwicklung von ökologischen Batteriezellen wollen wir besonders fördern, damit wir unsere technologische Souveränität sichern können und in der weltweiten Konkurrenz vorne mitspielen. Dabei legen wir einen besonderen Fokus darauf, die ökologischen und sozialen Potenziale der Technologien zu heben. So verbessern Innovationen die Lebensbedingungen der Menschheit und sichern den Wohlstand von morgen.

The fast development of the Corona vaccine by researchers and entrepreneurs in Mainz did show which innovative power is inside our research and business sectors. An innovative power that the state has to support with speed and decisive investments. Primarily, we want to specifically fund the areas of artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, IT security, communications and bio technology and also the further development of ecological batteries, so that we can secure our technological sovereignty and so that we can have a top position among our worldwide competitors. Here we put a particular focus on elevating the ecological and social potentials of the technologies. That way innovation improves the living conditions of humanity and secures the prosperity of tomorrow.

5. CDU/CSU

The title of the platform reads “The platform for stability and renewal. United for a modern Germany”. (Das Programm für Stabilität und Erneuerung. Gemeinsam für ein modernes Deutschland.) They write the most, so they are getting subsections. Unless I am mistaken, they are also the only ones who do not only talk about quantum computers, but also other quantum stuff.

5.1. Foreign Policy Section on the EU

Section 2 talks about foreign policy in the EU. There on page 24 we find the first mention of one of our buzzwords. Here we find the following:

Die Stärkung der Wettbewerbsfähigkeit der europäischen Industrie ist angesichts der Verschärfung der globalen Rahmenbedingungen und der Rolle Chinas wichtiger denn je. Unser Ziel ist es, dass Europa in den wichtigen industriellen Zukunftsfeldern wie Künstlicher Intelligenz, Quantentechnologie, Halbleiter, Wasserstoff oder Blockchain weltweit einen Spitzenplatz einnimmt.

The strengthening of the competitiveness of the European industry is more important than ever. This is due to more severe general global conditions and the role of China. It is our goal that Europe takes a leading position in the important industrial sectors of the future such as artificial intelligence, quantum technology, semiconductors, hydrogen and block chain.

This is reiterated in a similar context on page 26:

Wir wollen, dass digitale Ökosysteme, in denen Politik, Wissenschaft, Forschung und Wirtschaft für die Entwicklung und Finanzierung neuer digitaler Produkte zusammenarbeiten, auch in Europa etabliert werden. Wir setzen uns für einen deutlichen Ausbau der Rahmenbedingungen für solche gemeinsamen Initiativen auf europäischer Ebene ein, zum Beispiel bei Künstlicher Intelligenz oder Quantencomputern.

We want that digital ecosystems get established in which politics, science, research and industry collaborate towards the development and financing of new digital products. We advocate for a significant expansion of the framework conditions for such common initiatives on a European level, for instance in the areas of artificial intelligence or quantum computers.

5.2. The Quantum Blurb

We have a whole subsection on quantum thingies starting on page 85.

The intro of the section on quantum: Der sichere Umgang und die Verfügbarkeit von Quanten-Technologien der neuesten Generation bieten enorme Innovationspotenziale. Die Quantenkommunikation stellt einen neuen Sicherheitsstandard für die digitale Kommunikation sowie die IT-Infrastruktur dar. Quantenbasierter Kommunikation und Kryptografie gelingt es, sensible Daten bei Banken, Versicherungen, im Gesundheitssystem und bei kritischen Infrastrukturen noch besser zu schützen. In der Medizintechnik ermöglichen optimierte Abbildungsverfahren Fortschritte beispielsweise in der Krebserkennung.

The secure handling and the availability of quantum technologies of the newest generation provides enormous innovation potentials. Quantum communication represents a new security standard for digital communication as well as IT infrastructure. Quantum-based communication and cryptography achieves that critical data with banks, insurances, in the health care system and in critical infrastructure projects are even better protected. In medical engineering optimized imaging techniques enable progress with for example cancer detection.

The comparative in the text is incomplete. Better protected than what?

This general introduction is followed by three slightly more specific goals, but only two seem to talk about quantum computing (the other one is on high performance computing). Goal 1:

Wir wollen bis 2025 in Deutschland einen konkurrenzfähigen Quantencomputer bauen. Damit dieses Vorhaben gelingt, müssen Forschung und Wirtschaft eng zusammenarbeiten. Zugleich setzen wir auf Kooperationen mit anderen führenden EU-Staaten und tragen so dazu bei, unsere technologische Souveränität im Bereich der Quantentechnologien zu sichern.

We want to build a competitive quantum computer in Germany by 2025. For this project to be successful, research and industry have to collaborate closely. At the same time we commit to a cooperation with other leading EU member states and therefore we contribute to secure our national sovereignty in the area of quantum technology.

Goal 2 (only one sentence!).

Wir werden zusammen mit allen Partnern die Aus- und Weiterbildung zum Thema Quantentechnologien voranbringen, indem frühzeitig Fachkenntnisse und Ausbildungsziele mit Bezug zu industriellen Anwendungen erhoben werden.

Together with all partners, we will advance education and training on the topic quantum technologies by surveying subject knowledge and educational goals in relationship to industrial application early on.

Note that I was unsure how to best translate this and what exactly they are trying to say. They want to somehow think about regulating education/vocational training for quantum thingies.

6. Some Remarks

To summarize, FDP and The Left say nothing about quantum, Greens want to fund quantum computers, SPD quantum technologies, CDU/CSU have specific goals and are the only ones to talk more broadly and detailed about various “quantum technologies”. (Edit: Misrepresented the SPD here earlier by mistake.) One common theme for funding quantum research is competition with China and the US. Each time quantum is mention it is in the context of some form sovereignty: national sovereignty (CDU/CSU), digital sovereignty (SPD), and technological sovereignty (Greens). Of course all also mention the alleged economic potential of quantum.

Given this setting in which investment in quantum research is seen as a matter of national security, it is not much of surprise that how much text the different parties dedicate to that topic.

But my real concluding remark should be on language. What do you mean by Alterantivverfahren, SPD? Is there non-modern future technology, Greens? Things are even better protected with quantum technology, CDU/CSU? Better than what? Surely, writing an election platform is a messy political process, but it must be possible to include some copy-editing.

Hopefully, votes for a party based on what it writes about quantum. Also, if you are German, then please vote. (If not, then also vote, but maybe not in the German federal elections.)

7. Credits

The picture is by Jürgen Matern/Wikimedia Commons.

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