EY: The Call for Responsible Innovation in Quantum Computing

Research from EY and Oxford University has emphasised the need for a measured approach to quantum computing
EY and Oxford University study highlights the critical balance between innovation and responsibility as quantum computing approaches commercial reality

As quantum computing emerges from the realm of science fiction into tangible reality, it brings with it a wave of excitement and potential. 

This groundbreaking technology, which harnesses the principles of quantum mechanics, promises to revolutionise fields ranging from drug discovery to financial modelling. However, a recent study by EY and the University of Oxford's Responsible Technology Institute (RTI) has emphasised the need for a measured and responsible approach to this powerful new frontier.

Quantum computing represents a paradigm shift in computational capabilities. Unlike classical computers that process information in binary bits (0s and 1s), quantum computers utilise quantum bits or qubits. This allows them to perform complex calculations at speeds that dwarf traditional computing methods, opening doors to solving problems previously thought insurmountable.

Navigating challenges: The road to commercial quantum computing

Yet, as with any emerging technology, the road to fully realised commercial quantum computing is paved with significant challenges. The EY and Oxford study highlights the importance of maintaining a pragmatic view of these hurdles while advocating for responsible innovation and proactive risk mitigation.

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One of the key findings from the study is the delicate balance between generating excitement for emerging technologies and maintaining realistic expectations. While half of the surveyed technologists, researchers, and policymakers acknowledged the value of drumming up societal enthusiasm (often to attract investment), an overwhelming 84% believed that claims about such technologies are frequently exaggerated in public discourse.

This disparity underscores a critical aspect of responsible innovation: the need for accurate and transparent communication. Mira Pijselman, Digital Ethics Lead at EY, warns of the potential pitfalls of overhyping technology, drawing parallels to the AI sector where inflated claims have led to public distrust and societal harm.

“The whitepaper’s findings indicate that counteracting misleading information and engaging in responsible science communication are key dimensions of practising responsible innovation in relation to quantum computing. We have already seen concerns with underperforming products, loss of public trust, and active societal harms in technology spaces adjacent to quantum computing – such as AI – where ‘hype’ may be used to propel interests and narratives that are not always aligned with public good.

“It’s important that we learn from history and communicate accurately and responsibly when speaking about quantum computing technology.”

Collaboration: The key to unlocking quantum computing's potential

The study also emphasises the importance of collaboration in harnessing quantum computing's full potential. A staggering 87% of respondents agreed on the necessity of involving diverse groups, including policymakers and advisers, in the development of new technologies. This multidisciplinary approach is vital for creating a comprehensive, long-term vision for the role of quantum computing in our future society.

Furthermore, the research highlights the role of government in fostering an inclusive and collaborative environment. With 92% of respondents supporting government involvement in funding new technology development, it's clear that public-private partnerships will be crucial in shaping the quantum computing landscape.

As we stand on the brink of this quantum revolution, the call for responsible innovation becomes ever more pressing. This means not only pushing the boundaries of what's technically possible but also considering the ethical, legal, and societal implications of these advancements. It requires bringing together experts from various fields – from quantum physicists to ethicists, from legal scholars to commercial strategists – to engage in meaningful dialogue and shape the trajectory of quantum computing.

Dr Carolyn Ten Holter from the University of Oxford emphasises the need for an ethical and responsible approach to managing quantum computing's immense potential.

“The whitepaper champions an ethical and responsible approach to the management of quantum computing’s considerable potential, while providing the theoretical grounding and practical steps required to ensure we can achieve this.”

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