The societal impact of the emerging quantum technologies: a renewed urgency to make quantum theory understandable

Pieter E. Vermaas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialScientificpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
51 Downloads (Pure)


This paper introduces the special issue The societal impact of the emerging quantum technologies as a contribution to a more inclusive societal debate on quantum technologies. It brings together five contributions. Three are authored by quantum technology researchers who give explorations of the possible impacts of quantum technologies on science, industry and society. The fourth contribution discusses within the framework of responsible research and innovation, the ways in which quantum technologies and the societal debate about them are presented in European policy documents. The final contribution analyses how the popularisation of quantum theory for wider audiences has evolved, and can be improved, with the emergence of quantum technologies. This introduction is also a call for a renewed effort to make quantum theory understandable. A preamble to a societal debate about quantum technologies is that all stakeholders understand these technologies to a reasonable degree, and the current framing of quantum theory as enigmatic in not helpful to meeting this. It is argued that philosophers of physics can help overcome this framing by explaining how quantum theory and quantum technologies are similar to every-day descriptions and technologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-246
Number of pages6
JournalEthics and Information Technology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Impact of quantum computing
  • Impact of quantum cryptography
  • Philosophy of physics
  • Popularisation of quantum theory
  • Quantum Manifesto
  • Responsible research and innovation
  • Societal debate on quantum technologies


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