A group of experts on quantum computing, including scientists and business leaders, wants to raise ethical questions about the potential of this technology to create new materials for warfare and speed up the manipulation of human DNA.
Six experts speak in a 13-minute video entitled
Ethics: Call to Action, which will air Monday on YouTube and on Quantum Daily, a free online resource for information about quantum computing.
The purpose of the video, in which a former quantum leader
Google will begin conversations with other leaders in quantum computing about the ethical implications of this technology.
Whenever we have new computing power, we can share it with humanity, [but] you can imagine how it could also harm people, said John Martinis, a physics professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara and former chief scientist for quantum hardware at Google.
Although quantum computers are still in their infancy, it’s important, he said, to start discussing the potential pros and cons of this technology and find a way to balance them. They want to think about the future, he said.
Dr. Martinis and others like Ilana Wisby, CEO of Oxford Quantum Circuits, and Nick Farina, founder and CEO of quantum computer hardware company EeroQ Corp. are also featured in this short video.
Quantum computers can significantly accelerate the discovery of drugs and materials, as well as complex calculations in finance. Companies such as Visa Inc. and
Roche Holding Ltd
Everyone is experimenting with quantum technologies in the startup phase.
Thanks to quantum physics, quantum computers can explore a very large number of possibilities in near real time and produce a probable solution. While conventional computers store information as zeros or ones, quantum computers use quantum bits or qubits, which simultaneously represent and store information as zeros and ones.
A commercial quantum computer has yet to be built, but startups and technology giants such as Google
International Business Machines Corp.
to stimulate the commercialization of technology.
This equates to a whole new industrial revolution, says Ilyas Khan, founder and CEO of Cambridge Quantum Computing, which develops products, software and cyber security algorithms that companies can use in early experiments with quantum computers. He believes that in the wrong hands, this power could also be used to create harmful materials or maliciously manipulate the human genome. We need to have these talks today, said Mr Khan, who was also seen on video.
While it will likely be years before ethical standards for quantum computing are developed, Mr. Khan said he is now beginning to discuss these ethical issues with British government officials. If ethics had been discussed in the mid-1990s, there might have been an ethical check on technologies like social media and privacy. We were asleep at the wheel, Mr. Khan said.
Experts are already considering some of the potential problems associated with quantum computing. For example, financial services firms are preparing for the time when a powerful quantum computer could break some of the most common cryptographic techniques currently used in cyber security. Hundreds of the world’s best cryptographers are vying to develop new encryption standards for the United States that will protect against both classical and quantum cyber attacks.
Matt Swain, editor of the Quantum Daily, who produced the short video with editor and co-founder Evan Kubes, said his goal is to create an advisory board of experts to discuss the topic of quantum ethics. Video is the first step, he said. We want to sound the alarm, but we don’t want to create fear, he said.
Email Sarah Castellanos at [email protected].
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