While many attorneys may already be familiar with the gains new innovations like blockchain and artificial intelligence offer, few have even heard of the biggest and most promising technology on the horizon – quantum computing.
As technology plays an increasing role in the practice of law, it’s essential that attorneys stay abreast of emerging technologies and disruptors in the field. And in the case of quantum computing, it has the potential to completely transform the legal profession, and many other professions for that matter.
What is quantum computing?
Quantum computers are not a more powerful version of classic computers. It is something entirely different. Quantum computing is based on the study of quantum physics, which looks at the actions and interactions of subatomic particles, like electrons, photons, and protons. Quantum computing harnesses the quantum properties, such as superposition, entanglement, and interference, of subatomic particles to simulate complex scenarios, analyze patterns, solve compound problems and accelerate machine learning.
Classic computers rely on bit magnetization, which allows for binary positions of 1’s and 0’s. Quantum computers, however, use specially designed quantum chips to control quantum bits, known as qubits, the fundamental unit of quantum information. Unlike classic computers, qubits allow for many positions to occur at once, called a superposition, in a much smaller space.
Quantum computers can also use the property of entanglement to make variables correlated to one another and conduct parallel calculations. These properties allow for calculations that are not possible on today’s computers – in terms of both volume and difficulty.
Earlier this year, IBM announced the completion of the first commercial quantum computer. The IBM Q System One is not for sale, but customers can access its computing power via the cloud. Other technology companies like Google, Intel, Microsoft, Rigetti Computing and IonQ are developing quantum computing capabilities as well.
Although it is only in the early stages of development, this computing power opens the possibility for the automation of complex legal reasoning, known as “computational law.” The development of a cloud-based quantum computing infrastructure would allow for the creation of computational law applications (CLA), capable of calculating and analyzing compound patterns to deliver on-demand legal advice.
There are countless other opportunities for the application of quantum computing and the advancement of deep learning AI-based algorithms, from teleportation of information and the simulation of nature to advanced encryption. These developments have the power to transform major industries, such as healthcare, engineering, cybersecurity, and telecommunications.
The applications of quantum computing to the legal profession were covered during the recent International Bar Associations’ 6th Biennial Technology Law Conference in Berlin on November 8, 2019. Marking the 30 year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the conference brought together practitioners, regulators and private organizations to recognize three decades of innovation and the continuing transformation that lies ahead. Authors Monica Zent and Ian Connett spoke on a panel session devoted to quantum computing during the event.