On September 16 and 17, legal practitioners, academics, scientists, and engineers gathered for the Transatlantic Quantum Forum (TQF) to discuss law and policy issues related to quantum technologies.
Co-hosted by the TUM School of Social Sciences and Technology, the UCLA Institute for Technology, Law & Policy, and the Yale Information Society Project, participants convened at three satellite locations in Munich, LA, and New Haven for one of the largest legal conferences to date that addresses quantum technologies.
Law and policy for quantum technologies is burgeoning into a robust field of study that draws on many different legal practice areas and policy issues, including intellectual property, competition law, privacy, and cybersecurity. With a focus on quantum networks and quantum computing, participants at the TQF highlighted key issues, including:*
- the vulnerability of public key infrastructure and networks to an attack enabled by a quantum computer;
- the intersection of quantum technologies with standards and intellectual property rights;
- the efficacy (or lack thereof) of existing legal frameworks to address new risks brought by quantum technologies; and
- the regulation of quantum technology development for responsible innovation.
The three conference hubs were connected for a series of plenary sessions that were complemented with smaller, workshop-style presentations and discussions locally at each hub. This format fostered deeper discussions and new collaborations.
Indeed, interdisciplinary collaboration was a persistent theme—both in practice and in discussion. The participants came with diverse backgrounds including: computer science, physics, engineering, law, and ethics. This lead to new working relationships to further the quantum technology law and policy discourse in a holistic and comprehensive way.
Many discussions addressed the need for greater interdisciplinary collaboration at the decision-making level.
Participants agreed that collaboration is needed to foster a responsible global quantum ecosystem that protects human rights and societal values, namely equity, diversity, inclusion, and decolonization. At the heart of this goal is finding common language between these different groups—not only between social scientists and STEM, but also within these broad fields. A cryptographer’s language and understanding of a quantum computer can be different from a physicist’s. Finding a common ground between the numerous perspectives from each field of study is the first step toward realizing cohesive policy goals.
The future of national and global quantum ecosystems is in the hands of the governments, industry, and research institutions furthering quantum technology development. It follows that these players should be a part of the discourse about responsible technology development alongside social scientists and policy makers.
Some industry players are already leading the Call to Action for ethics in quantum technologies, including Oxford Quantum Circuits, EeroQ, and IBM. Similarly, the recent launch of the Quantum Ethics Project at the Institute for Quantum Computing in Waterloo, Ontario aims to bridge the gap between scientific research and the social impact of such research. Another interdisciplinary initiative is the University of Ottawa’s Nexus for Quantum Technologies Institute (NEXQT), which recently expanded to include members from the university’s Faculty of Law to address societal and privacy issues of quantum technology development in addition to the Institute’s scientific pursuits.
These various initiatives are a promising path forward toward incorporating legal, societal, and ethical conversations into quantum technology development, and they are breaking down the barriers that have historically separated STEM and non-STEM fields. The TQF complemented these efforts and demonstrated the value in establishing these interdisciplinary relationships.
*Accessing Participants’ Papers and Presentation Materials
Many of the participants’ papers are currently unavailable to the public as they are in pre-publication stages.