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Driving to work the other day I was listening to an item on the Today programme on Radio 4 about a new Quantum Computer.
For those of us who are not up to date with scientific developments, Quantum Computers rely, as the name suggests, on the laws of quantum physics, allowing them to work much more quickly than conventional computers. In basic terms, computers are based on a system of noughts and ones and in quantum physics a digit can be both a nought and a one at the same time. This enables Quantum Computers to complete calculations in a fraction of the time it would take a conventional computer (or something like that - I am a lawyer not a scientist). When I say a fraction of the time, I mean a very small fraction. The report said that the Quantum Computer had solved a problem in less than three minutes which it would take a conventional computer ten thousand years to complete.
My immediate reaction when I heard this was, if it would take a conventional computer ten thousand years to work out the answer to the problem, how do they know that the Quantum Computer got it right? For all we know, it might have whirred away for a couple of minutes (assuming quantum particles "whirr") and then come up with anything. Perhaps they should have tried it first on something more straightforward, such as 2 + 2. If it told them that the answer was 7 they would know that they needed to go back to their tiny little quantum drawing board.
I had an image in my head of a room of scientists high fiving each other and saying "yes! it's come up with an answer!. Now we just have to wait 9,999 years 364 days 23 hours and 57 minutes to see whether this thing works. Shall we put the kettle on?"
Regardless of whether the Quantum Computer works or not, what this does show is that we are living in a world of ever developing technology and this is something that comes up regularly these days when we are making Wills for clients. Until relatively recently our clients would tell us about their assets and they would own a house, some cash in the local branch of the bank, maybe some stocks and shares etc. These days increasingly they will have digital assets and accounts. Not all of our clients have joined the bitcoin revolution but they do often have cash in online bank accounts, stocks and shares in electronic form and other "belongings" that may be less of monetary value and more of sentimental value, such as their collection of family photographs in the cloud, social media accounts etc.
Not only will they not always know how such assets will be dealt with on their death (and how their family and executors would get access to them) but it can be the case that the law has not kept up with technological developments, rules can differ from asset to asset and what works for one company might not necessarily work for another.
It is not always as straightforward as giving someone your passwords - it can be an offence under computer misuse legislation for someone other than you to use your password. One high profile case involved family of a soldier who was killed in Iraq who wanted access to emails he had sent for sentimental purposes but the company with which he had his email account would not allow them access.
Two particular points come out of this:
For further advice or to review your Will contact Mark Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01423 502211. He promises that if he can get access to Google's new Quantum Computer he will respond within seven tenths of a second.
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