The Rise of the Robots

For sure, we are in an era when we are all seeing the rise of the robots in our work and personal life’s. However, how far will this go? What is the realistic threat to jobs and the likely impact on the economy?

Some of our team were recently part of a tour around the BMW Mini plant in Oxford, where it was obvious that the implementation of robotic technology has impacted the size of the human workforce and changed the skillset requirement. One fellow tour attendee, who once worked on the production line at Rover in the 1970’s, said “I was there when the first robot was introduced to help install the windscreens and the comment was that they would never take over”. Today, the majority of the initial bodywork framework is put together by robots.

From automation and robotics to artificial intelligence, that is claimed to be capable of beating humans at their own games, then for sure a different way of working and consuming is upon us again.

Intelligent algorithms are already well on their way to making white collar jobs obsolete: travel agents, data-analysts, and paralegals are currently in the firing line. In the near future, some claim that doctors, taxi-drivers and ironically even computer programmers are poised to be replaced by ‘robots’. There is even a question mark over the future role of Accountants!

So, we were interested to join the recent meeting of the ‘Oxford Business Book Club’, held at Blackwell’s bookshop, where the book under discussion was ‘The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of Mass Unemployment’ by Martin Ford 

One question covered by the Author, Ford is “If a ‘robot’ could do your job quicker than you and better than you for no pay, would you still be employed?” More here on amazon

Another area covered was the prospect that “Without a radical reassessment of our economic and political structures, we risk the very implosion of the capitalist economy itself.”

The discussion, views and personal opinions were very interesting and the conversation was engaging throughout. There was even some fear about just how far Artificial Intelligence (AI) could go, after one attendee shared how AI is now also including the consideration of emotions.   

As a summary, the consciences of opinion was that:

  • Robots and Artificial Intelligence will definitely be even more prominent in our life’s in the next 12 months.
  • The timeline of change is difficult to really know, as the pace of change is greater than possibly ever experienced.
  • There will be an impact on the economy, as people change roles, retrain, change skill, etc. Possibly impacting the government funds from taxes or consumer spending of disposable income.
  • It was felt that the true capability was still being tested and yet really unknown.
  • Those tasks that are structured and / or repetitive would be most likely under threat.

So, what about the threat to us as Accountants?

For sure, the latest developments in software and technology will help business owners and professional service providers such as Accountants do things differently, more efficiently and some would argue without human error (not that we make errors!). Already, we are seeing recognition software that provides the ability to scan receipts or invoices and import the information to our accounts software. With most of the bookkeeping software, we are seeing the introduction of Artificial Intelligence, with the recognition of repetitive transactions and automated posting options.  

Here at Chapman Robinson and Moore we have a close relationship with the technology and software providers and are constantly reviewing areas that will help us and our clients in the roles we currently undertake. Some of our work will for sure be undertaken by artificial intelligence software and big data systems, but in our opinion this will never replace our human touch and the knowledge or experience that we are able to offer.

We pride ourselves on the personal relationship we have with our clients and the collaborative way we work with our clients to develop their business. Software and technology will only help this in the future.

Watch this space!