The World Economic Forum has defined best practices for quantum computers. Photo: World Economic Forum/Jolanda Flubacher
National governments and venture capital firms invested more than $26 billion in quantum computing in 2021 – more than in the last three years combined. Quantum computing promises to transform the future of business, science, government and society itself, according to the World Economic Forum at its 2022 annual meeting, so a fair framework is needed to manage future risks.
As part of the World Economic Forum (WEF), which is taking place virtually this year due to the corona virus, the most important politicians and business leaders will discuss global challenges and future technical developments as well as their effects on the economy and society. The WEF was one of the first organizations to deal with the effects of Industry 4.0 as the fourth industrial revolution worldwide and, for example, founded the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network in 2017.
After Industry 4.0, the World Economic Forum now sees quantum computing as a technology that could fundamentally change the economy and society. The WEF counts quantum computing among “perhaps the most exciting emerging technologies of the 21st century”, which is also becoming increasingly relevant for national, geostrategic and economic considerations. The forum has now published a roadmap for these new opportunities in the public and private sector in the form of the insight report “Quantum Computing Governance Principles” at its virtual conference.
In view of Omikron, the World Economic Forum 2022 will only take place virtually in Davos. Photo: World Economic Forum/Pascal Bitz
“At the dawn of this historic shift, the critical opportunity is to address ethical, societal, and legal concerns long before commercialization,” Kay Firth-Butterfield, head of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning at the World Economic Forum, commented on the potential changes that quantum computing can bring to come to us. “This report is an early intervention and the start of a multidisciplinary, global discussion to guide the development of quantum computing for the benefit of all of society.”
With a view to the upcoming hybrid model of classic, multi-cloud and soon also quantum computing, the forum has now defined a framework for best practice principles and core values. These guidelines are intended to provide the basis for a new paradigm of information processing, while ensuring equal treatment of stakeholders, risk reduction and consumer benefit.
In the current Insight Report “Quantum Computing Governance Principles”, the World Economic Forum gives recommendations for action in matters of quantum computing. Photo: World Economic Forum
The governance principles are divided into nine subject areas and are underpinned by seven basic values and thus form recommendations for action. The topics and the respective goals define the principles:
Transformation: Harnessing the transformative capabilities of this technology and applications for the benefit of humanity with appropriate risk management.
Access to hardware infrastructure: Ensuring broad access to hardware for quantum computing.
Open Innovation: Fostering collaboration and a pre-competitive environment to enable faster development of technology and realization of its applications.
Raising Awareness: Ensuring that the general population and quantum computing stakeholders are aware, engaged and sufficiently informed to enable ongoing, responsible dialogue and communication; the actors with supervisory and decision-making powers should be able to make informed decisions about quantum computing in their respective fields.
Employee Education: Build and maintain a quantum computing-ready workforce.
Cybersecurity: Ensuring the transition to a quantum secure digital world.
Data protection: Preventing possible data protection violations through data theft and subsequent processing by quantum computers.
Standardization: Promotion of standards and roadmaps to accelerate the development of the technology.
Sustainability: Developing a sustainable future with and for quantum computing technology
From the point of view of the World Economic Forum, the development and use of quantum computers should be based on the following seven principles: common good, accountability, inclusion, equality, no malefaction, accessibility and transparency.
The Principles were co-designed by a global stakeholder community composed of quantum experts, ethical and legal experts on emerging technologies, decision-makers and policy-makers, social scientists and academics. “This report is an important step in starting the discussion on how quantum computing should be designed and governed for the benefit of all,” commented Heike Riel, IBM Fellow, Head of Science and Technology and Lead, Quantum, IBM Research Europe. Research leader Riel explains how quantum computers are changing the world in the IDG Tech Talk podcast.
According to the WEF, the next steps of the quantum computing governance initiative will be to work with other stakeholders to adopt these principles as part of a broader governance framework and policy approaches. “Governments and companies around the world are increasingly investing in research and development of quantum computing,” said Derek O’Halloran, head of the Digital Economy at the World Economic Forum. “This report kicks off a discussion that will help us understand the opportunities, set the stage for ethical guidance, and avoid socioeconomic, political, and legal risks well ahead of global deployment.”