23 Mar 2022 5 min read

QuSecure CPO Co-Authors Report on Quantum Computing Governance Principles

QuSecure CPO, Rebecca Krauthamer recently co-authored a report on “Quantum Computing Governance Principles” for the World Economic Forum.

For the full report, click here.

The governance principles are a huge step forward in establishing ethical foundations as the quantum computing ecosystem moves out of infancy and towards maturity. Especially in light of the quantum cybersecurity threat, the principles provide an important guide for organizations, governments, and NGO’s working to ensure the highest standards of cybersecurity and privacy for their stakeholders. The following are excerpts from this document.

Quantum computing is in its early stages. If the majority of those involved in developing the technology intend it to have a positive impact on humanity, it is vital to have a set of principles on which key stakeholders such as researchers, developers, users, and governments can agree. This necessity has motivated the co-design of the Forum’s Quantum Computing Governance Principles. The World Economic Forum, as a global forum for political, economic, social, and technological stakeholders, is well positioned to be at the forefront of drafting such principles.

This is an ideal time to develop such principles: First, quantum computing is sufficiently advanced for us to have an idea of the areas in which it will start to have an impact and what kind of impact that will be. Second, the technology is not yet so far advanced that such principles can only be retroactive. Third, the socioeconomic ecosystem around quantum computing is no longer in its infancy but is growing rapidly.

While advancing rapidly, quantum computing technology remains at an early stage of development. The engineering challenges facing quantum technology mean that the roll-out of these technologies is likely to differ from that of classical computational devices. Furthermore, the experience of other technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), biotechnology and surveillance technologies, has shown that educating stakeholders in the research and development pipeline early about governance issues can avert some of the pitfalls of and mistakes made in prior technology development – such as an absence of assurance mechanisms. Conversely, engaging the quantum stakeholder community early on can also assist policymakers and governments in ensuring that governance regimes applicable to quantum technologies are workable, feasible and do not inadvertently constrain or impose unnecessary regulatory barriers on the realization of quantum computing’s technological potential. Finally, there is a significant opportunity to ensure the timely education of the public and to start a public discourse on how best to realize the positive effects of quantum computing on society.

Quantum computing gives rise to distinct governance considerations that may not arise in other fields. The Forum’s Quantum Computing Governance Principles concern themselves with the opportunities and challenges specific to quantum computing. For example, one area in which it is expected to have an advantage over classical computing systems is the simulation of natural quantum systems (e.g., molecules). This has the potential to significantly accelerate discoveries in fields such as material science. The implications of this challenge the ways in which developments in the area are currently governed. Since existing governance standards do not capture responses to these challenges, the Forum’s Quantum Computing Governance Principles must be distinct from guidelines that govern classical forms of computing. It may be distinct, but quantum computing is not separate from classical computing. Hence, the Forum’s Quantum Computing Governance Principles do, in some areas, touch on other principles. This also holds true for existing industry group standards that cannot easily be applied to quantum technology.

Understanding quantum computing as the basis of the governance principles

In curating Forum’s Quantum Computing Governance Principles, the following technological assumptions have been made:

A. It will be possible to build a fully programmable universal fault-tolerant quantum computer.

B. Quantum computing will make computation of certain specific problems more efficient and/or precise (e.g., optimization problems etc.).

C. Quantum computing will accelerate computation towards solving problems currently deemed intractable with classical machines (e.g., breaking of currently deployed public-key encryption schemes etc.).

It is important to mention that at the time of drafting the Forum’s Quantum Computing Governance Principles there are several fundamentally different technology platforms available (for example: superconducting qubits, silicon spin qubits, ion traps, photonic quantum computing) that may allow the development of a fully programmable universal fault-tolerant quantum computer. Some of these technology platforms are slightly more mature than others, but all of them are still in the development stages and no clear winner is identifiable. Achieving scalable quantum computing with fault tolerance (active error correction during a computation) giving measurable quantum advantage over classical computation is the long-term milestone for the field of quantum computing.

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