Emerging Technologies

This is the biggest risk we face with AI, by Google CEO Sundar Pichai 

Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer, Alphabet; Chief Executive Officer, Google, USA, speaking in the An Insight, An Idea with Sundar Pichai session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 22 January. Congress Centre - Aspen 1 Room. Copyright by World Economic Forum/ Greg Beadle

Sundar Pichai says he is a technology optimist Image: World Economic Forum/ Greg Beadie

Briony Harris
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • The combination of AI and Quantum will help solve the world's problems.
  • The biggest risk will be failing to grasp its potential for good.
  • We will need quantum encryption to keep data secure.

The combination of AI and quantum computing will help us tackle some of the biggest problems we see, Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai said at Davos 2020.

"When I look at the future and say - 'how do we drive improvements?' - quantum will be one of the tools in our arsenal," he said.

He also admitted that there would be challenges as well as opportunities. For example, quantum computing will be able to break traditional encryption methods within the next 5 or 10 years, meaning that quantum encryption will needed.

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He also said that he was clear-eyed about the risks of technology, including AI, and called for a governance framework.

"AI is no different from climate - you can’t get safety by just one company or country working on it - you need a global framework."

But he added that the importance of AI could not be underestimated.

"The biggest risk with AI may be failing to work on it and make more progress because it can impact on billions of people," he said.

Here are 3 ways quantum computing could improve our lives.

1. Improved health

"What's exciting about quantum computing is that it will allow us to understand the world in a deeper way," he said.

"Nature at a fundamental level works in a quantum way - at a subatomic level things can exist in many different states at the same time. Classical computers work in 1s and 0s, so we know that's an imperfect way to simulate nature."

Quantum computing, on the other hand, will be able to simulate molecular structures which in turn will help discover better drugs.

More accurate simulation of molecules and protein folding will also help scientists with the advance of genetics and synthetic biology.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google on quantum computing at Davos 2020

2. Reduce agricultural carbon emissions

The same ability to simulate nature could also help in the battle against global warming, predicting weather patterns and rainfall, for example.

"Nitrogen fixation - the process by which we make fertilizers - accounts for 2% of global carbon emissions. And that process hasn't changed in a long time. Quantum computers allows us the hope we can make that process more efficient," he said.

3. Battery design

Better batteries and storage solutions are key to the more widespread use of renewables.

Sundar Pichai gave the example of designing more efficient batteries as another use for the power of quantum computing.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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Emerging TechnologiesFourth Industrial RevolutionForum InstitutionalStakeholder Capitalism
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