The Robots Are Coming for Phil in Accounting: Workers with college degrees and specialized training once felt relatively safe from automation. They aren’t.

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I’m a musician and I don’t even feel safe from automation. AI composition, especially for things like film scoring is getting ridiculous. And when it comes to pastiching Bach and Mozart, machines can fool experts already.


When you “automate” a factory, it’s very obvious: there was an assembly line with people standing at it and now there are big robotic arms where the people used to be. When you “automate” white collar work, it’s the kind of back-end software that nobody ever sees and might not notice. Debra in accounts payable used to have to manually enter a bunch of stuff. Then the company’s SAP consultant implemented some tool to have all that stuff autofilled. What happens to Debra? Either they give her more of some other kind of work to do, or they lay her off and someone else is told to do her old job, which is now more like a couple of hours a week task instead of a full-time job.


This seems off. For the most part the old-school accounting jobs are already gone. There are few “turn the crank” positions even now; expenses, reporting, invoicing, rev rec, payroll … all of that is automated today without AI. That said, there is still a huge need to stitch these money processes together with the human processes. Unless we stop having human employees, human customers and humans writing the GAAP rules and tax code there is going to need to be experts that understand them and can translate uncoded reality into books that reflect it.


I used to do desktop IT support for a company. Our team thought we were all irreplaceable, since if you have a computer issue, you need an IT person on-site. We got replaced with, and I’m not making this up, a vending machine. Your machine stops working and you’re hard down? Put your employee ID in, your team’s expense account number, pop your machine in there, and within seconds you have a fresh machine in your hands. The machine takes the one that doesn’t work, completely wipes the drives, reloads the standard image on to it, and puts it on a rack inside the machine waiting for you. You can even get power adapters, mice, and keyboards from it (though it won’t take the old ones). There’s a guy that comes in periodically to re-stock mice and keyboards, and occasionally put an entirely new machine or three inside. The old peripherals go into a pile that’s picked up every quarter or as needed.


Let’s parse this statement. “Not all bots are the job-destroying kind. Holly Uhl, a technology manager at State Auto Insurance Companies, said that her firm has used automation to do 173,000 hours’ worth of work in areas like underwriting and human resources without laying anyone off. ” But, how many employees have gone from normal quits, fires, retires and untimely deaths? How much has payroll been reduced?