Responsible Innovation: applications of quantum technologies and their security implications.
The Human Centred Computing research group in Computer Science here in Oxford investigates the ways in which technology affects communication, collaboration and knowledge exchange within scientific, work and home settings, and considers how new technologies can be designed and developed to be more responsive to societal needs. The group is one of the leading centres of expertise in Responsible Innovation, an emerging set of practices which aim to ensure a proper embedding of scientific and technological advances in society. Responsible Innovation recognises that we cannot predict the future but we can try to anticipate plausible outcomes, so that we can be prepared for the social changes brought by new technologies. Rather than limiting innovation or being another "hoop to jump through", Responsible Innovation provides a creative resource to understand technology in new ways.
This talk will discuss the promises and challenges raised by our Responsible Innovation investigations into quantum computing and related technologies. Inter-disciplinary researchers (physicists, engineers, materials scientists, computer scientists) at Oxford are leading one of the major efforts to build a quantum computer in the Networked Quantum Information Technologies (NQIT) Hub. Quantum technologies have important applications for defence and security. We already know that a powerful quantum computer will be able to break existing Internet encryption – but a sufficiently large computer is still years away. Conversely, quantum cryptography, which is already being offered as a commercial service, uses the principles of quantum mechanics to provide information-theoretic security which cannot be eavesdropped.
Powerful technologies such as these raise questions: who will have access to this technology? What other applications of will appear, as technologies become reality and are widely adopted? How may they be used for the benefit of society? I will draw on the insights of Responsible Innovation to explore these questions in the context of quantum computing. If there is time, I will also discuss some other very exciting work of the group.