• 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.

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.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The World Economic Forum was the first to draw the world’s attention to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the current period of unprecedented change driven by rapid technological advances. Policies, norms and regulations have not been able to keep up with the pace of innovation, creating a growing need to fill this gap.

The Forum established the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network in 2017 to ensure that new and emerging technologies will help—not harm—humanity in the future. Headquartered in San Francisco, the network launched centres in China, India and Japan in 2018 and is rapidly establishing locally-run Affiliate Centres in many countries around the world.

The global network is working closely with partners from government, business, academia and civil society to co-design and pilot agile frameworks for governing new and emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous vehicles, blockchain, data policy, digital trade, drones, internet of things (IoT), precision medicine and environmental innovations.

Learn more about the groundbreaking work that the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network is doing to prepare us for the future.

Want to help us shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution? Contact us to find out how you can become a member or partner.