The risk of giving in to quantum progress

Over the next few years the tech industry has a roadmap to overcome the challenges facing quantum computing. This will pave the way to growth in mainstream quantum computing to solve “hard problems”.

There are numerous opportunities, from finding a cure for cancer to the development of new, more sustainable materials and tackling climate change. But a recent short film on quantum ethics has highlighted the risks, which may be as profound as the Manhattan Project that led to two atomic bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

One interviewee featured in the film, Ilana Wisby, CEO, Oxford Quantum Circuits said: “We won’t fully understand the impact of what we have until we have got the systems, but it will be revolutionising and will be lucrative for some.”

Making the impossible, possible

The experts discussed the need for a debate across society to assess and appreciate the risk quantum computing will pose. Ilyas Khan, CEO Cambridge Quantum Computing said: “We may be able to shift the boundaries of what can and cannot be done with machines.”

Faye Wattleton, co-found EeroQ Quantum urged the innovators and policy makers to take a step back to consider the implications and its impact on humanity. “If we can do in a few minutes what it would take 10,000 years to do with current technology then that requires careful consideration.” From a societal perspective, what does this kind of power mean?

Just because a quantum computer makes it possible to solve an insoluble problem, does not mean it should be solved.

In the past, there was oversight and governance of technological breakthroughs like the printing press, which paved the way to mass media and the railways, which led to mass transit. But IT has become arrogant. Its proponents say that it moves far too quickly to be restrained by a regulatory framework. As an expert at a recent House of Lords Select Committee meeting warned, policy-makers are not very good at looking ahead at the long term impact of a new technological development. In the 1990s, who would have considered that the growth of the internet, social media and mobile phones would be a stimulant for fake news and a catalyst for rogue states to influence elections in other countries.

Khan describes the lack of controls on the internet like being “asleep at the wheel”. What are the implications of a quantum computing society? Perhaps, as Khan, says, society need to anticipate these issues, instead of being asleep at the wheel again.

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