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One of the barriers to data storage and processing in existing technology is its binary form: the basic component of computing–the “bits”–are limited to binary encoding as a 0 or a 1. Busting through the binary digital constraint would open up a completely new world of computational power. The March 8 issue of Science includes a special section on the line of research designed to do just that–quantum information processing (QIP). QIP uses quantum mechanics to enable an infinite number of states that could be encoded on each quantum bit, or “qubit.” Given the properties of quantum-mechanical objects, it will be an immense challenge to create the physical architecture to support qubits in computer technology, but if the past of computer science is any indication, we’ll get there.
The chasm between binary and quantum computation technologies captures the limits of the emerging law+tech movement. As a number of previous posts have covered, the law+tech movement is designed to leverage the robust data storage and processing capacities now available to shift some kinds of lawyering services from humans to computers. Many of the tasks that can be shifted are routine, such as e-discovery and automated contract drafting. Some of the tasks, however, are quite sophisticated, such as contract risk assessment and patent litigation planning, and some of the innovations coming out of law+tech are opening up capacities human lawyers could not hope to achieve, such as the data visualizations Ravel Law is experimenting with.
Whether you look at this as good or bad for the legal industry, it’s coming so get used to it. But as much as the law+tech innovators promise to change the way legal services are delivered, they can’t promise what I would call “Quantum Lawyering.” What do I mean by Quantum Lawyering? (more…)