There's been a lot of discussion about automation and technology replacing jobs. But there's been much less discussion about the positive sides of automation and in particular how automation can improve productivity.
A good example are the various tools that help the self-employed do their taxes.
They'll also tell you it's easy to miss, not know about, or forget to record tax deductible expenses.
Intuit's TurboTax Self-Employed, for example, has a nifty feature that greatly helps with this (disclosure: Intuit is an Emergent Research client).
It's an automated tool called ExpenseFinder. It proactively uncovers business expenses by gathering and automatically scanning bank accounts and credit card transactions. It then separates work and personal transactions and organizes them by category.
ExpenseFinder then recommends potential deductible business expenses. Users confirm which expenses apply to their business to help them get every deduction they deserve.
This tool is especially useful for those who mix business and personal expenses on credit cards, something most independent workers, freelancers and part-time self-employed workers do.
It's also very useful for those who aren't familiar with business expenses or aren't sure what they can and cannot deduct.
As mentioned above, there's much angst these days about the potential impact of automation technologies on jobs.
For example, a widely cited study from Oxford University suggests 47% of all workers in America could lose their jobs to automation over the next decade or so.
Even more alarming, physicist Stephen Hawking says:
"the automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining."
He predicts that in the long term automation and artificial intelligence will will bring radical increases in efficiency resulting in mass unemployment as humans are replaced by machines.
The potential endgame according to Hawking is that automation and A.I. "could spell the end of the human race".
Since Dr. Hawking is clearly one of the smartest living humans, we're not going to dismiss his concerns. But we do think he may be a bit pessimistic. We also think he's ignoring the productivity gains automation tools provide.
For those of us who are self-employed, automation tools like ExpenseFinder give us more time to spend on higher value added activities. This increases both our productivity and the value of our services. Because of this, we become less susceptible to job loss due to automation.
We've been exploring how automation and A.I. are impacting knowledge work. We'll have much more on this in the coming months.
But based on our early research, we are far less pessimistic about automation and jobs than folks like Dr. Hawking are.