Seminar Series 2023

Social and environmental implications of developing new technologies – quantum computing and beyond


Currently, there is a big hype around quantum computing, but the state of development is still so immature that many things are not yet tangible. It is not clear when practical applications may arise but there is obviously the potential that quantum computing has huge impacts e.g. on the privacy of everyone’s communication by breaking currently used encryption mechanisms.

Therefore, we want to learn from social and environmental implications of earlier technological developments and formulate key questions that should be addressed when performing active research in potentially pervasive fields.

Consequently, the series will address the problem from two directions:

  1. Quantum computing – chances and risks
  2. Environmental ethics of human activity
ML4Q lab in Jülich
Helmholtz Nanoelectronics Facility, Jülich

To synthesize both approaches we try to consider social consequences from new science developments and vice versa requests for technological solutions for social problems. Both topics are introduced in a generally understandable way based on the current state of science.

Practical implementation

The series will contain elements of a lecture series (Ringvorlesung) and a seminar in the way that some topics will be introduced by (45min) lectures, leaving enough room for discussion while other topics will be discussed based on a few key papers. Each session will stand on its own but should keep a broad view considering questions and insights can be transferred to other areas.

Students who want to obtain credit points for an active participation have to register via KLIPS 14756.8005. Additional material, reference lists and recordings of the lectures will be provided to them through ILIAS.

Topics of the individual sessions are

  • What is quantum-computing? (April, 3)
  • What are the promises and risks in quantum computing? (April, 17)
  • Misconceptions and myths about quantum computing (April, 24)
  • The dual-use potential of quantum computing: Military applications (June, 26)
  • The experience from AI development in the last decades (July, 3)

  • Environmental Ethics of Research (May, 22)
  • Carbon Footprint and Resource Concerns for Batteries: A Reality Check (May, 8)
  • The promise to undo the damage done by fossil technologies by “green infrastructure” (May, 15)
  • Net Zero and the Ethical Challenges in Greenhouse Gas Accounting (June, 5)
  • Technologies for geoengineering and their side effects  (June, 19)
  • Good Scientific Practice and the Culture of Science (June, 12)