Meta-ethics of quantum technologies – Analysis – Eurasia Review

By Prachi Mishra

Quantum science is important for studying the finer details of physical matter, and the technologies derived from it have immense disruptive power. The atomic bomb, lasers and semiconductors are some of the first results of quantum mechanics. These technological translations represented the first generation” of quantum applications. While lasers and the atomic bomb were breakthroughs in the mid-20e century, the “second generation” is interested in designing materials previously extracted from nature to manipulate them using quantum computers.

The novelty of quantum technology differentiates it from other emerging technologies. It will strengthen computing power, significantly reduce processing time, and easily penetrate modern encryption. However, unlike other emerging technologies, quantum capabilities can also increase national security threats, dramatically increase the number of cyberattacks, and pose a challenge to secure data transfer.

From the in-depth study of the dangers of the use of the atomic bomb over the past century to the regulation of modern cyberspace to mitigate cybercrimes, the social, economic, legal and ethical impact of technologies has become essential for peace, security, stability, and sustainable development.

Cooperation or conflict? : What the atomic bomb taught the world

The consequences of the use of the atomic bomb continue to be central to contemporary understanding of the ethics of science and technology. Being the main practical application of quantum science, the lessons learned from the use of the atomic bomb can indeed be a springboard to evolve the ethics of quantum technologies of the 21st century. At the heart of this learning is whether nation states develop technologies for conflict or cooperation. For those leading the second generation of quantum computing, it becomes a matter of morality, whether they are offering a helping hand to the have-nots or exerting technological, economic, political and psychological domination over them. Technology leaders in the field must understand whether they are relying on quantum science for the good of humanity as a whole or to undermine the freedom and sovereignty of others.

While many multilateral organizations, conventions, treaties and pacts were put in place after the world wars to restrict the use of technology which can lead to catastrophic events, the world has also witnessed many aberrations. With these learnings, shaping the ethics of quantum technologies becomes the responsibility not only of the scientific community, but also of nation states, universities, civil society and opinion leaders.

Some Contemporary Ethical Concerns

With a handful of global tech companies, like Google, IBM, and Intel, making immense strides in quantum technologies, it is highly likely that they will assert even greater dominance in global tech decisions, key tech trends, and the rules that will govern their use. . This could lead to more acute scrutiny by these tech giants and together with other technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT), they can easily expand their oligopolistic behavior. The same could also apply to nation states. With the development of quantum computing, the ability of some countries to massively expand surveillance of their own populations and deploy a variety of technical measures to monitor them will also increase exponentially.

Another major ethical issue with the use of quantum technology is its ability to easily hack classical cryptography. countries like China and the United States (United States) who have made significant progress in building a quantum computer and testing several applications have an advantage over other countries. A conventional desktop PC or any other portable device will not be able to withstand cyberattacks launched from a quantum computer. It puts the data of billions of people at risk, undermines the technological sovereignty of hundreds of countries, and leaves national secrets vulnerable. Whereas quantum resistant algorithms are underway, a major concern arises with the information already in the cloud, the thousands of internet-connected devices, storage devices and millions of servers on which a colossal amount of data is stored. What adversaries will do with quantum computing capabilities on this volume of data is a question in global discourses on quantum ethics. With cases of deep counterfeits on the risequantum technologies will only exacerbate the problem.

Similar challenges plague scientists in all other fields as well. For example, for biologists, when quantum computers become mature enough to manipulate genetic sequences, how can the fairness and morality of these experiments be ensured? And for a social scientist, quantum applications should not be elusive and should never propel societies into a wider economic gap. Likewise, concerns about equitable access to the quantum internet and preventing the monopolization of quantum computing, while ensuring sustained technological progress, will need to be explored. As most of them would argue, these discussions should develop alongside technological development.

Cardinal rules for shaping quantum meta-ethics

In this context, it is necessary to establish rules, agreements, frameworks and guidelines for the ethical, legitimate and moral use of quantum technology. At the most widely accepted level, the normative principles of ethics can also be extended to quantum technologies. These include its fair and just use, benevolence and benign translations of technology, and sustainability. A some principles have been listed in Table 1.

In addition to these generic ethical principles, the meta-ethics of quantum technologies will need to be adapted to the underlying laws that govern quantum science, such as superposition, tunneling, and entanglement. For example, when quantum computing is used with machine learning algorithms on quantum datasets, the nature of the results will differ from classical results, which raises ethical issues. Therefore, frameworks that align with the very nature of quantum science will need to be put in place.

Who will supervise the ethical agreements?

When developing ethical agreements for the use of quantum technologies, physicists, scientists and academics who are experts in the field should be given the role of decision maker. Quantum technologies must adhere to standard rules of ethics and legality, and conventions established by the scientific community must also be adhered to. Since quantum applications and quantum data will be different from traditional applications and data, specific ethical frameworks for these application areas could also be developed. For example, guidelines for health care may differ from those established for financial markets. To regulate quantum technologies, nation states must use an interdisciplinary approach where evidence-based technology policymaking is used with social sciences and natural sciences.

Nation states can take advantage of global platforms (such as G20 and regional multilateral groupings like QUAD) to initiate and mature discussions on the ethics of quantum technologies in a manner similar to existing technologies like AI and machine learning. Similarly, coalitions and working groups that have been set up by multi-stakeholder ecosystems including governments, industry associations, and intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations for emerging technologies, can also be modeled for quantum technologies. These will act as holistic systems that can provide both standard and context-specific ethical guidelines.

Apart from these, targeted projects and initiatives in universities and civil society organizations can play an important role in shaping global and contextualized discourses on quantum technologies. For example, the Quantum Ethical, Legal, Social and Political Implications (ELSPI) projectwhich is a joint initiative of Stanford University and Oxford University, or Quantum Meta-Ethics Project, which is a collaborative effort of the University of Sydney and the Observer Research Foundation, has produced literature and other intellectual resources to explore the implications of quantum technologies on societies at large. They also facilitate the exchange of knowledge between different communities and guarantee the participation of civil society.

Final remarks

Meta-ethics and quantum agreements should not be seen as an obstacle to new technological development and innovation. Rather, they should pave the way for inclusive technological translations that benefit humanity. These frameworks should be adopted by all factions of the quantum multistakeholder ecosystem, including the quantum science community. Developing rules and guidelines for this purpose will indeed be onerous as it will require bringing together the social sciences, philosophy and the pure sciences.

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