University Project - Quantum computing and it's social impact?


I was hoping to gain some insights on how I can convey to the public the ways in which Quantum Computing can have positive social impact?

I'm going convey this information in an A4 sized infographic to help create more awareness of this technology and how it can help us in the future. From my research the main tangible advantage of Quantum computing is a logistical one, however when I look at the UN sustainable development goals, I was hoping that you could enlighten me if there are other areas where this technology is going to help our race?

The UN Sustainable Development Goals: 1-No poverty 2-Zero hunger 3-Good health and well-being 4-Quality education 5-Gender equality 6-Clean water and sanitation 7-Affordable and clean energy 8-Decent work and economic growth 9-Industry, innovation and infrastructure 10-Reduced inequalities 11-Sustainable cities and communities 12-Responsible consumption and production 13-Climate action 14-Life below water 15-Life on land 16-Peace, justice and strong institutions 17-Partnerships for the goals

Full disclosure, I am a Business school student, so I have a very limited knowledge of the subject but I chose it because I am fascinated by the possibilities of the technology rather than choosing a much more cliché subject!


Posted 2020-11-09T10:33:19.137

Reputation: 17

Question was closed 2020-11-10T12:20:02.713



I've listed down the advantages that I believe Quantum computing will have in the future in the areas of some of the UN sustainable development goals:

  1. Decent work and economic growth: Quantum computing is developing field. We have ideas but we are still working on the implementation because of that, it creates jobs for people around the world who are learning quantum computing, and would like to have a professional career or undergo research in this field.

  2. Industry, innovation, and infrastructure: Quantum computing is a relatively new, and developing area in computer science. We are only in the second generation of quantum technology, so there is a huge possibility of impact under this goal. Technology progress and investing in scientific research and innovation is covered under this and quantum computing can help in promoting innovation, and entrepreneurship to get equal access to information, and knowledge.

  3. Climate action: A quantum computer will increase the storage capacity of a computer and algorithms can speed up the process. We have information about climate changes occurring across the world but while processing that much data is possible cleaning of that data is still very inefficient. If we can develop quantum algorithms that can help us do that, we can understand changes from very early times and see what happened and analyse how it can be prevented from happening again.

  4. Partnerships for the goals: One of the hindrances to investing in quantum computing is a huge cost for the scientific equipment and facilities. Partnerships between developed and developing countries can be essential to achieve this goal.


Posted 2020-11-09T10:33:19.137

Reputation: 74

Thank you for taking the time to respond! I'll use these as a basis for further research – Kit – 2020-11-10T14:03:57.387

No worries. I really think it is a field worth exploring and will have a widespread positive social impact. I look forward to reading your report if you could share it when it's finished! – aditikatoch – 2020-11-10T14:12:36.140



Posted 2020-11-09T10:33:19.137

Reputation: 126

Awesome, thanks for your responses! I'll share the infographic once i'm done for anyone that's interested :) – Kit – 2020-11-10T13:30:21.210


Here are some long-term advantages that are not outside of the realm of possibility. I've stuck to ones that I think are least controversial – we're so far away from realizing any of these that they are fundamentally all speculation no matter how you slice it.

  1. No Poverty: There is no clear advantage here specific to poverty itself. To be frank, quantum computing will most likely benefit more privileged populations, at least in the short term. That is currently the status quo.

  2. Zero hunger: One could speculate that quantum computing technologies may aid in improving agricultural yields by simulating the FeMo cofactor. By understanding this molecule better, it is expected that artificial nitrogenase enzymes may be developed that allow for the efficient manufacture of nitrogen fertilizers. This also factors into energy consumption – the current method for producing nitrogen fertilizer leverages the Haber-Bosch process, which is estimated to account for 1-2% of world energy consumption.

  3. Good health: It is expected quantum computing will contribute to significant improvements in drug development pipelines. To date, the failure rate of a drug from conception to market is quite high – a lower failure rate and improved scalability of in silico simulations of protein-ligand binding studies may significantly improve the economic efficiency of drug development. Whether these improvements translate into greater access, novel antibiotics (often considered economically infeasible to develop), novel vaccines, and improvements in precision medicine is speculative. Nonetheless, I personally believe there is a pathway to significant advances in the biomedical sciences due to quantum computing technologies.

  4. Quality education: I have nothing for you here, maybe someone else has some ideas.

  5. Gender equality: See number 4.

  6. Clean water and sanitation: It's plausible that advances in molecular simulation due to quantum computing could improve our ability to efficiently treat water. For example, one could imagine that quantum computers may lead to improvements in the membrane technologies, used for filtration in reverse osmosis water purification, via quantum simulation. As I understand it, these membranes are expensive and they tend to foul quite quickly, leading to a regular replacement schedule.

  7. Affordable clean energy: Who knows! It would be great if a physicist could chime in here but I imagine quantum computing has some potential to improve our simulations of plasma in a fusion reactor. Whether this would be practical, useful, or translate into scalable nuclear fusion is very much unclear to me (not my wheelhouse).

  8. Decent work and economic growth: I would expect that quantum computing will allow for the growth of many ancillary industries that are powered by advances in science and engineering. This would be in addition to the economic growth inherent to the establishment of a novel industry with a potentially pivotal technology at its center.

  9. Industry, innovation, and infrastructure: See 8; I would add that there is potential for novel secure infrastructure in the form of a quantum Internet. That said, it's hard to predict what that will mean in practice on the global or domestic scale.

  10. Reduced inequalities: This one's complex; in some regards classical computing has democratized knowledge and removed barriers to entry that have typically inhibited broad economic participation by less privileged members of the global community. Of course, it has also increased inequalities locally in technology centers (e.g. the Bay Area). I would imagine that without public policies that emphasize fairness quantum computing could contribute to a widening of these disparities.

  11. Sustainable cities and communities: Quantum computing is often cited as having a potential role in traffic management infrastructure. Usually this is mapped to the famous traveling salesman problem (TSP), which is an NP-Complete problem. What this means is that we don't expect a substantial improvement in our ability to solve large scale instances of the TSP with a quantum computer (i.e. we expect a polynomial speedup for the worst case instances, at best). I'm no expert in this space but my guess is that, rather than improved traffic management, the greatest value may come from some improvements to energy efficiency and a smart electricity grid that leverages batteries with an efficient chemistry (with battery researchers potentially using quantum simulation to develop these chemistries). Ultimately, quantum computing may allow us to eek out small efficiencies contributing to greater sustainability. Another example may be reductions in the energy required for certain types of computing that would otherwise rely on large classical data centers.

  12. Responsible consumption and production: It's unclear (to put it mildly) how quantum computing will make humans behave more responsibly. Perhaps quantum computers may improve demand prediction on the part of manufacturers.

  13. Climate action: Certainly quantum computers won't facilitate climate action anymore than a regular computer does. That said, it may be that quantum simulation or other quantum approaches may allow for the development of novel, efficient carbon capture technologies. That'd be a win. This is a similar argument to the improved battery chemistries noted above, which would be relevant here, too.

  14. Life below water: Unclear.

  15. Life on land: Unclear.

  16. Peace, justice, and strong institutions: Unclear. Though, I will say that if nation states can no longer break one another's encryption it could increase volatility. It's been argued that mutual spying gives governments better insight into each other's strategies, which mitigates opportunities for misunderstanding and strategic miscalculations.

  17. Partnerships for the goals: N/A?

As you can see, most of this stuff is unclear and speculative. The fact is, the quantum information processing field is so new that, in most cases, we can't even begin to conceive of the implications of scalable quantum computing (FTQC). Personally, as with most new technologies (classical computing being a particularly salient case in point), I have no doubt it will be a mixed bag of advantages and drawbacks.

Finally, most examples of an advantage I’ve identified about hinge on large-scale quantum simulation. This is not a coincidence — quantum simulation is one of the best studied applications with the potential to map to many real-world problems in physics, chemistry, and biology. The exponential speedup admitted by quantum simulation also provides the greatest flexibility in implementation; whether we have gains or reductions in the efficiency of the computation (relative to classical approaches) as we map it from theory to practice (I.e. implementation), the exponential speedup means we’ll probably derive a significant advantage in the end. Also, it should be said that many of the applications identified are also the subject of a large volume of machine learning (especially deep learning) research. In the near term, the greatest gains in these problems being solved are most likely to come from classical ML-based methods, not quantum ones.


Posted 2020-11-09T10:33:19.137

Reputation: 663

Thank you for responding! I'll use these as a basis for further research – Kit – 2020-11-10T14:03:28.717

@Kit No sweat! I added a few more thoughts. If you find this is the answer to your question, please accept it. Good luck with your project! – Greenstick – 2020-11-10T23:09:23.947