The Robots are Coming!

I’ve been noticing more and more articles about how many of us are soon to be replaced by robots. A recent study by Oxford University suggests that 35% of jobs in the UK are at risk of automation in the next 20 years. Worryingly, accountants rank in the top 10 jobs most likely to be replaced. Others at risk include taxi drivers, lawyers, doctors and journalists. For some, this conjures up Hollywood visions of a dystopian future in which man battles robot, however the reality is likely to be much more benign.

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have set the stage for computers to do many of our jobs as software becomes more sophisticated and becomes self learning. Even simple online accounting software can now learn where transactions should be posted. Given electronic input from online bank feeds and digitised invoices, it can make postings with no human interaction. In terms of routine information processing, humans just cannot compete.

Initially there will be winners and losers as the employment landscape changes over time. The winners will be those with the capital to invest in the new technologies and the losers those employees suddenly finding their traditional roles obsolete. However, it’s not necessarily bad news in the longer term as new jobs will be created. Reports estimate that last year 4.4 million IT jobs were created to support big data and data science initiatives. It is projected that, in the US, every big data related role will generate employment for 3 additional people outside of the IT function. Going forward there is likely to be increased demand for software engineers, software developers and other support services.

The reality is that most jobs are unlikely to be wholly taken over by robots, however there will become aspects of them that are enhanced or rely increasingly on AI. Those jobs that rely on face to face contact and creativity are those less likely to be replaced by our robot friends. It is therefore likely that roles will evolve over time to marry the powerful technology of AI with the human element to create a hybrid – a cyborg rather than a robot.

Now, whilst none of this will happen overnight, there will a gradual shift towards the automation of jobs and the increased use of AI. It’s certainly something that businesses and the professions should be thinking about now when considering the skills that employees are likely to need in the future.

At Barnes Roffe, we are well versed in dealing with routine accounting compliance, however we already actively encourage client contact and creative thinking to help our clients with tax and strategic issues. If the use of robots and AI to produce real time, improved analytics enables us to help clients make better business decisions, then that is to be welcomed. Let’s just hope that the robots don’t take over the world and we’re forced to bring Arnie back from the future….. again!

Talk to Barnes Roffe today
Share this page:
Contact Us
ICAEW The Chartered Institute of Taxation ACCA IPG IR