October 26, 2020

Mandatory Viewing and Predictions for Understanding the Accounting Profession’s Future

Last week I decided to dust of an old favorite of mine: The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil (Mandatory reading for the paranoid self-proclaimed futurist). I use the term dust metaphorically, because of course I read it on my smartphone on a flight home from Melbourne.

This leads me to the point — Kurzweil has an exceptional track record of making the right calls. In his 1999 book, The Age of Spiritual Machines, Kurweil predicted that in 2009 the majority of reading would take place on screens rather than books. Although his timing was slightly out, he certainly called it.

The Singularity is Near is mainly concerned with nanotechnology and DNA programming, and frankly scares the shit out of me. The book did prompt me to dig up some old material, including this cheesy 2004 video from Microsoft. They have had an awesome track record of predicting the future, and once you watch, you'll see how on the money they were.

Earlier this year they made some predictions about what the next ten years will look like. Considering most of this technology is probably in development in some lab at Microsoft, I suspect it will be pretty accurate.

So what does this mean and what will the next ten years of accounting look like? Allow me to make some predictions so you can all come back and laugh in my face if I get it wrong in 2025.

  • Your smartphone will replace your laptop (or desktop if you’re still using one of those). This will mean accountants will basically always be on. If you’re still running client server infrastructure you’ve probably got bigger things to worry about.
  • Your desk (and walls) will be an interactive surface that will work with with your smart phone. It should translate to a more enjoyable computing experience. Hopefully, by virtue of this, video conferencing won’t suck anymore.
  • I certainly hope all accounting firms are totally paperless within the next ten years.
  • Self-driving cars will enable you to sneak in an extra hour of chargeable work every day. Sorry, you probably will not be paid more for this productivity gain.
  • Accounting software will continue to get more intelligent, doing most of the grunt work for us. Accounting data will be stacked with a myriad of non-financial metrics. This will enable us to provide quality real-time management intelligence to our clients.
  • Accountants will hold multiple jobs simultaneously and geographically dispersed project teams will assemble and disband as needed. Think Upwork on steriods. This will be a huge adjustment for the accounting profession, but hopefully a welcome one bringing more liquidity to the labor market.
  • I also think gamification will become a more important factor in all professions. If someone can get accounting to feel more like Assassin’s Creed I’ll be stoked.
  • Legislation and regulations will not change, they will probably just get more complex. Fortunately you’ll be able to vent your frustrations at an IRS hologram.

In the short term, I believe this technology will initially translate to the profession invading even more of our personally time (Remember the glory days when you could only access email at the office). In the long run though, I expect this technology to have a more disruptive effect on labor force dynamics.

What do you think? Any predictions I missed?

Image: HASLOO/iStock

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