Here come the robots

I’m intrigued by the rapid change in technology and the potential impact on business and society in general.  Late last year, Boston Dynamics created a video that showed its humanoid robots and a canine robot…


I’m intrigued by the rapid change in technology and the potential impact on business and society in general. 

Late last year, Boston Dynamics created a video that showed its humanoid robots and a canine robot dancing to the 1962 hit “Do You Love Me?” 

It’s impressive to see the robots mimic human movements. One challenge is speculating how these advances could affect our business processes and labor forces. 

Many physical workplaces appear to be vulnerable to robotic automation. As robots automate more jobs, employees who perform more manual and routine tasks will lose their jobs.

The results also suggest that robots are likely to spread to highly skilled occupations such as health, education, social services, manufacturing and certain types of services. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that overall civilian employment will grow to 169 million workers by 2029, about a 6 million increase over current levels. One-fourth of the growth is anticipated in low-paying jobs for home health and personal care aides and cooks and wait staff in restaurants.

Where to find robots

When I speak to CPAs across the country, I will ask them which is more difficult: to make a robot dance like Boston Dynamics does in the videos, or to fully automate an accounting transaction from purchase order through multiple allocations to the financial statements? 

Making the robot dance is so much harder. 

Accountants have been lucky because automation has first focused on manufacturing areas. It isn’t that the accounting process is unimportant; it’s just that the manufacturing process could see more significant gains.

However, these same technological advances are progressing through other areas within companies. We will see humanoid robots designed to reduce the need for human interaction.  

In what areas can we see robotics now?  

  • Driverless trucks represent massive robotics combined with artificial intelligence. 
  • Michael Jordan wants to use drones to deliver beer on his golf courses. 
  • Amazon is looking to drones to expand delivery services. 
  • Any job that’s routine or rote, dangerous or dull is a candidate for robotic applications. 

Also, consider the potential for changes to the labor force. I’m not advocating this, but someone will scrutinize routine, repetitive jobs for automation. Society must be prepared to retrain workers as current jobs are lost and new technical robotic job opportunities arise. 

The dark side of robotics

MSCHF, the prankster art/marketing group, bought a Spot robo-dog robot from Boston Dynamics for $74,500 and used it in a scary way in February. They attached a paintball gun to the robot and allowed people worldwide to control the robot for two minutes via the internet. The robot was in a small room that mimicked an art gallery. It shot the paintballs at art objects. Boston Dynamics condemned the prank.

While something extreme like a dystopian robot takeover is doubtful, more automation could lead to job losses and poverty.

Low-wage workers are hit hardest due to plant closures and account for the largest percentage of total job losses in the United States. Statistics show that if low-wage earners and middle-income workers lose their jobs because of automation and then find new jobs, they face a pay cut of up to 30%. 

This isn’t meant to scare anyone. It’s to raise awareness and try to be ahead of the curve. 

How it can affect your business

To track these changes and the potential impact on your business, buy a mind-mapping software program, or always have a blank piece of paper and pen on your desk. 

Mind-mapping is a free-flowing way to visualize and organize ideas and information. It can help you during strategic planning when you’re preparing analyses for SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) and PESTLE (political, economic, sociological, technological, legal and environmental).

Every time you read about a technology advancement, jot it down and bring it back to your management team for discussion. Over time, you’ll raise your team’s awareness to be looking for advancements even beyond technology.

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