February 20, 2017

ABOVE AVERAGE IS OVER:

Robots Will Soon Do Your Taxes. Bye-Bye, Accounting Jobs (Vasant Dahr, Feb. 20th, 2017, Wired)

As my research shows, robots are best-suited to predictable tasks when the cost per error is low. As a task becomes less predictable and a robot makes more mistakes, the automation is worth it only if those mistakes don't carry significant costs. For example, driverless cars make few errors, but those mistakes can be expensive and deadly. In contrast, most tax return decisions, especially the simpler ones, aren't terribly risky, as they're based on massive amounts of historical data on which the machine learns to anchor its decisions.

Take the automobile analogy: Carmakers have gradually integrated more automation into sensing, braking, and acceleration decisions. Cars are taking over navigation with the expectation of that function becoming fully autonomous at some point. Similarly, humans are likely to get more and more comfortable with machines helping us with taxes. Eventually, many of us will probably trust them enough to compose the entire return for us to sign.

More than 2 million people were employed as accountants, bookkeepers, and auditors in 2015. Until now, these types of information-oriented professions have resisted automation because they require managing unstructured data emanating from the real world, making judgments, and dealing with actual people. What's different now, however, is that artificial intelligence's perceptive capabilities have improved. Machines can now handle images, sounds, and text in a way that enables them to ingest and analyze data at high volume, without making costly mistakes. Between accounting professionals and truck drivers alone, about 4.5 million human jobs could be ceded to robots over the next few years.

Posted by at February 20, 2017 10:13 AM

  

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