Skip to main contentIBM 

The era of quantum utility must also be the era of responsible quantum computing

Now that we’ve entered the era of quantum utility, we are using quantum computers as computational tools to access a computational world we’ve never had access to before.

The era of quantum utility must also be the era of responsible quantum computing

16 Jan 2024

Mira Wolf-Bauwens

Ryan Mandelbaum

Last year, we used a quantum computer to run a circuit beyond the reach of brute-force classical simulations,1 and a suite of other utility-scale experiments followed. We expect the advancement to accelerate in the coming year.

Introducing a new technology into the world, one that can do things beyond what we could do previously, requires us to be thoughtful — we must research and develop responsibly. To that end, quantum computing and ethics experts at IBM have been researching the societal implications of quantum computing, and our role as a quantum computing provider in mitigating potentially undesired consequences of the technology.

We call this effort Responsible Quantum.

This effort, situated within IBM Research’s Responsible and Inclusive Tech research team, ties in with IBM’s long-standing sense of responsibility to society. As early as 1935, Thomas J. Watson Sr. declared that men and women should receive equal pay for equal work, for example. IBM policy in 1953 banned discrimination in hiring. Today, our AI Ethics Board has done groundbreaking work reviewing AI applications.

As part of this effort, we also started to shape and collaborate in a number other important initiatives in the field of responsible quantum computing. We have been part of the core team drafting the World Economic Forum’s Quantum Computing Governance Principles. These were released in 2022 and have since been used by countries such as the Netherlands, the UK and Australia to inform their position on national strategies and other initiatives such as the Exploratory Quantum Technology Assessment.

Today, the WEF published the next part of that work: The Quantum Economy Blueprint. The report analyzes and modularizes the core elements of regional and national quantum strategies to enable others, while also further developing the building blocks for successful quantum technology and quantum ecosystem development strategies.

This blueprint is based on the core values that were defined in the Quantum Governance Principles: transparency, inclusiveness, accessibility, non-maleficence, equitability, accountability, and the common good.

The report also aims to promote the responsible development, deployment and use of quantum technologies, and has therefore included dedicated sections discussing spreading awareness and educating on quantum as well as the role of innovation-enabling governance.

Responsible Quantum continues these efforts for developing quantum technology here at IBM. We define Responsible Quantum Computing as quantum computing that’s aware of its effects. The research ties into a recently emerging field of Responsible Quantum research.2 Our effort is focused both internally and externally. This effort is based on our Responsible Quantum Principles for developing and deploying quantum technology, which our team implemented internally last year:

Make a positive societal impact

We are developing a new form of technology. We are doing so because IBM is the catalyst to make the world work better. Therefore, quantum computing, too, should make the world work better by prioritizing use cases that make a positive societal impact.

Explore use cases with foresight

Developing a new technology means we may unlock use cases or algorithms that never existed before. We must be prepared for unintended impacts to use cases that seem positive.

Promote our products accurately

As innovators, it is our responsibility to ensure that the world is aware of quantum’s promise, its limitations, and the expected development timeline.

Make consistent principled decisions

It is the responsibility of IBM Quantum employees and IBM Quantum leadership alike to uphold these principles. Where decisions come in conflict with these principles, it is the responsibility of leadership to make decisions consistently.

Build a diverse and inclusive quantum community.

IBM Quantum is building a global quantum computing ecosystem. It is our responsibility to create an ecosystem that represents the diversity of the world at large, and be inclusive of people of all backgrounds, experiences, and abilities.

We define Responsible Quantum Computing as quantum computing that’s aware of its effects.

With the help of the Responsible Quantum team, IBM has already implemented contractual language barring the use of our products for certain potentially harmful applications. And, in the case of irresponsible use of quantum, we also develop IBM Quantum Safe technologies to protect organizations against bad actors who might misuse future large-scale quantum computers to undermine data security and integrity.

Finally, IBM supports the Open Quantum Institute, which has been initiated by the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator and is hosted by CERN. The Open Quantum Institute’s mission is “to inclusively unleash the powers of quantum computing to ensure that the whole world contributes to and benefits from quantum computing.”

It’s our mission to bring useful quantum computing to the world and make the world quantum safe. That mission requires the responsible development of quantum computing, both at IBM and beyond. And we’re excited for you, the quantum community and our partners, to join us in creating this future for quantum.


  1. Kim, Y., Eddins, A., Anand, S. et al. Evidence for the utility of quantum computing before fault tolerance. Nature 618, 500–505 (2023).

  2. Carolyn Ten Holter, Philip Inglesant & Marina Jirotka (2023) Reading the road: challenges and opportunities on the path to responsible innovation in quantum computing, Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 35:7, 844-856, DOI: 10.1080/09537325.2021.1988070


Quantum starts here