Hi-Tech Diversion and Conversion

Funny how things unfold. Serendipity never fails to astound me. While driving about the countryside this afternoon on this unsurpassably brilliant day I overheard a BBC program about quantum computing, the business of combining the customarily separate binary themes such as one and zero to afford greater capacity and exponential performance.

Quantum computing is poised to upend entire industries from finance to cybersecurity to healthcare, and beyond—but few understand how quantum computers actually work.

Though I am nowhere near savvy enough to understand quantum computing, it speaks to my interest that only as recently as this morning we were discussing how reliant we’ve become upon our devices (iPhone, MacBook Pro, iPad, Apple Watch); and then this afternoon after my drive I spent upwards of an hour devoted to trying on a pair of pants delivered from the on-line internet retailer Amazon, ordering a cosmetic product from another on-line site and then requesting another clothing item from Amazon. And it was only within the past several weeks that I have ordered and received two pair of spectacle frames – something I would notoriously only have considered doing in person. I suspect many of you have already succumbed to on-line shopping but it is something I’ve only pursued since the advent of the pandemic. I have hitherto been reluctant to use on-line shopping other than for searching for a product; but otherwise I have insisted upon seeing the thing in person so to speak. I realized however that my increasing discomfort with walking means that on-line shopping is perfect for one such as I.  Not to mention that two of the products I was looking for were nowhere to be found locally; and that any in-person shopping I may have attempted abroad would likely have resulted in nothing more than the expenditure of gas.

Historically I am a shameful model of intransigence, having routinely resisted technological advancement.  I recall for example thinking that employing my fill-in-the-blanks legal precedents was as convenient as enduring the cost and annoyance of buying and learning how to operate a computer. Admittedly both the cost and annoyance were appreciable.  My first computer cost $3,500 (and came with two keyboards because the clerk was hopelessly hung-over on the Saturday morning I bought it). The learning curve at the office was painful as well. Indeed I believe I initially resolved to abandon the computer as an entire mistake.

Over the years that followed there was an endless succession of new computers, each an improvement of the last. The cost of the latest computer was a fraction of what I had initially paid. The hardware advances were in line with the software developments. All told I was the first lawyer in Almonte to have a fax machine, an electric memory typewriter, a computer and the Law Society Title Insurance software. There is no question that the technology both improved and facilitated my law practice.

I was however always cautious to avoid careless submission to the software in particular.  Having participated so regularly in the commercial growth of both computers and software I was fully aware that ultimately there had been a human being behind it all and that it was therefore open to error, shortfall and misgiving. I therefore ensured full reliance upon review of what the software produced. There was in the end no replacing focused attention upon detail.

I also discovered that technology is open to accommodation. During the financial meltdown in the 1990s I amused myself to translate a predominantly retail/construction accounting software to a legal accounting use. The primary difference was the prevalence of not one banking account but multiple accounts including the general account and endless numbers of trust accounts as required by the Law Society of Upper Canada. It was a somewhat burdensome system but its popularity meant that my accountant easily adjusted to it.

The latest version of my technology story is the complete reliance upon Apple products only.  I retained my primary office computer (complete with files) for several years after retirement but it essentially sat idle with the exception of an occasional search for some precedent or other document upon which nothing really depended. Eventually it was shut down and given to the HUB.

Because since retirement we’ve spent six months each year in Canada and Florida we’ve learned to depend upon our mobile devices and laptop computer to capture and retain a record of our accounting, income tax, medical, insurance, estate administration and personal documents so that everything is at hand no matter where we are.  We have also ensured that everyone communicates with us electronically to avoid mail being stuck in a mail box in one country or another.

With the advent of the pandemic we’ve been unable to attend the Apple Store in person to update our primary devices as we regularly do. It is the one retail ceremony I insist upon doing with a clerk. The anachronism no doubt speaks to the noteworthiness of the wheeze to me.