(TheConversation) Quantum science has noticeably shifted, from the domain of physicists concerned with learning about the universe on extremely small scales, to a source of new technologies we all might use for practical purposes.
Quantum technologies are expected to impact many aspects of our society, including health care, financial services, defence, weather modelling, and cyber security.
We must look ahead to what a quantum society might entail and how the quantum design choices made today might impact how we live in the near future.
How do we stop ourselves blundering into a quantum age without due forethought? How do we tackle the societal problems posed by quantum technologies, while nations and companies race to develop them? These questions and more are posed in this essay by Tara Roberson,a postdoctoral research fellow in responsible innovation and science communication at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems. Her research interests include science and technology hype, rhetoric in science, and responsible innovation.
Australia’s CSIRO released a roadmap that included a call for quantum stakeholders to explore and address social risks. An example of how we might proceed with this has begun at the World Economic Forum (WEF). The WEF is convening experts from industry, policy-making, and research to promote safe and secure quantum technologies by establishing an agreed set of ethical principles for quantum computing.
Roberson writes, “Australia should draw on such initiatives to ensure the quantum technologies we develop work for the public good.” She also advises, “We should also review the language used to describe this “second quantum revolution”.
Roberson closes, “Framing this as a “race” to develop quantum technologies means prioritising urgency, commercial interests and national security at the expense of more civic-minded concerns. . . .This process should clarify societal expectations for the emerging quantum technology sector and inform any national quantum initiative in Australia.”

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