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Regulating Magic: Why We Need to Establish a Regulatory Framework for Quantum Computing and Artificial Intelligence

The promises of quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and other advancing technologies sound like magic. However, even magic is subject to the laws of economics. And even quantum computers are “legal things…technological tools that are bound to affect our lives in a tangible manner,” as Valentin Jeutner explains in The Quantum Imperative: Addressing the Legal Dimension of Quantum Computers. Analogous to Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, Professor Jeutner proposes a three-part “quantum imperative,” which “provides that regulators and developers must ensure that the development of quantum computers: 1. does not create or exacerbate inequalities, 2. does not undermine individual autonomy, 3. does not occur without consulting those whose interests they affect.” Should regulators seek to apply these principles?

Consistent with the regulatory philosophy principles in Executive Order 12988, there is always the option of not regulating, particularly in the absence of a demonstrated, compelling public need. However, we, as a society, are now beginning to understand the social harms caused by the largely unregulated operation of a ubiquitous technology service provided by highly concentrated social media platforms. In advance of any governmental policy decision, we need conceptual and legal frameworks that will allow us to assess whether regulation is needed and, if so, provide a public, transparent foundation for any new regulations. To help initiate this process for social media, the Administrative Law Section of the American Bar Association, in cooperation with representatives of the Canadian, UK, and US governments, convened an informal “brown-bag” forum to ventilate possible strategies for regulating social media. Participants discussed different approaches that were already being implemented as well as possible new strategies ranging from self-regulation to primary regulation of social media platforms by their financial regulators.

The increasing reliance by social media companies on AI/machine learning algorithms suggests that a regulatory framework appropriate for social media platforms may also be relevant to other advanced information technologies and services. However, the extraordinary potentials and possibilities of quantum computing indicate the need for a quantum-specific framework for assessing and possibly regulating quantum computing and AI. The federal government has established a framework for promoting the development of quantum computing, the National Quantum Computing Initiative, and is engaged in various supporting exercises. However, federal officials have given relatively little attention to assessing quantum computing’s social implications. Nor has it spent much time developing potential regulatory principles and strategies. In November 2020, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sent all federal agencies a guidance memo on regulating artificial intelligence applications, but the memo did not mention quantum computing. Fortunately, the Wallenberg Foundations have launched a ten-year Initiative for Humanistic and Social Scientific Research in AI and Autonomous Systems’ (WASP-HS) that will “study the ethical, economic, labour market, social and legal aspects of the ongoing technological transformation of society.”

As part of its work, WASP-HS established the Quantum Law Project “the first research project dedicated specifically to the study of the legal implications of quantum computing.” Although it “aims to carry out a comprehensive appraisal of the legal implications of quantum computing on autonomous systems and AI, the project focuses on three questions in particular: How does quantum computing affect the practice of law? How does quantum computing affect the legal process? How does quantum computing affect metaphysical assumptions about law?”

The Quantum Law Project will be holding a conference at Lund University (Sweden), 28–30th of April 2022 on The Legal Dimensions of Quantum Computing. In preparation for the conference, the Quantum Law Project has issued a Call for Papers. Everyone interested in the future of quantum computing, AI, and society should be closely following the work of WASP-HS and the Quantum Law Project.

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