June 22, 2018

Is There a Smart Person Shortage?


A thought to ponder: Is our technology getting too smart? Are we going to run out of enough smart people to wrangle it?

After writing about quantum computing last week, I started imagining the number of physicists that would need to be on-call at Geek Squad. We’d have to dig up Albert Einstein’s body and clone his DNA to build the small army of geniuses we would need to fill the jobs.

Okay, a sharp spike in the demand of physicists isn’t going to happen anytime soon, but the shortage of qualified people is a practical concern in lots of industries.

While the verdict is still out on if we still have an accounting talent crisis — what about the shortage of smart and ambitious people in general? Does the world have enough smart people to do all of the knowledge sector jobs we are dreaming up?

Everything, particularly with regard to technology, is a lot more complex than it was a decade or two ago. Toss in all the other professions vying for top talent, and we may be in a bit of a pickle.

Can humankind keep up with technology?

Elon Musk and other futurists are super worried about our impending inferiority to machines, as discussed on Futurism.com:

Soon, very soon, our computers will surpass us in every skill imaginable.

This fact concerns a number of individuals, as artificial intelligence is predicted to outpace humanity at an unprecedented rate, which may result in AI looking at us as nothing more than house pets (or maybe even doing away with us entirely).

Musk’s solution is to implant a computer to link to your brain — so there’s that.

Huddle Inc. references the “superintelligent” phase of artificial intelligence, aka singularity, starts “when computers become both aware and exponentially smarter than their human creators,” and that could be sooner than we think. One acclaimed futurist, Ray Kurzweil, said that “the human brain will be reverse-engineered by 2029. By 2045… we will achieve the singularity.”

Technology is plowing forward and advancing every day. It’s tough to even remotely keep up, even if we studied and made a conscious effort as a society to value this type of knowledge in our schools and through our public policy.

The problem is maybe we are getting dumber instead of making gains with regard to human intelligence.

Are we regressing?

NPR weighed in two years ago with a debate about whether “smart technology [is] making us dumb” by posing this question:

But, are we smarter now that technology has put a lot more than a slide rule into our pockets? Or are we so dependent on technology to do things for us that we are losing the ability to make our own magic, mentally, socially and politically?

The debate resulted in a tie. Go figure.  

In my personal experience, I have met a lot of inept people. Or, maybe people are just lazy. Our resident futurist, Chris Hooper, also noticed accountants are notorious for being lazy and our skills often atrophy if we don’t use them enough:

Further, I think not using our core accounting muscle, has made us dumber. These days I’m barely using the skills I learned at university or my Chartered Accounting course. My team and myself see a lot of the traditional accounting value chain as a chore and an inconvenience.

Nah, we are getting smarter!

At least there is some support that we are actually improving in terms of fluid intelligence (i.e., processing abilities) and crystallized intelligence (e.g., knowledge), called the Flynn effect.  Research, reported in Wired magazine, indicates that we have been getting smarter over the last 100 years with increasing problem-solving scores, nonverbal scores (while verbal scores are stagnant), and scores that “exists primarily on those tests with content that does not appear to be easily learned.” Fluid intelligence, the ability to acquire and process information and multi-task more complex tasks, is becoming easier.

So, maybe there hope for us after all without a brain implant.

The Smithsonian Magazine examined the Flynn effect and overall increase in average IQ score over the last 100 years and concluded that:

What is important is how our minds differ from those of people 100 years ago, not whether we label it “smarter” or “more intelligent.” I prefer to say our brains are more modern.

More modern or not, one study referenced in Psychology Today indicates that the smartest are getting smarter.

I’d like to think that lots of CPAs would fit into this “smarter” category. You may disagree.

Image: Unsplash.com

Related articles

Tracking Charitable Donations? Now There’s a CPA-Developed App for That

In more non-iPad, Apple-related news, we learned earlier this week about iDonatedIt, an iPhone app developed by BMG CPAs in Lincoln, Nebraska. The app is designed to track all non-cash charitable contributions whether it be clothes, furniture or family members (okay maybe not the last one). This will allow you to track all of our donations to Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. rather than receiving that crappy receipt they give you that has nothing on it.

Being interested in all things accountant-ish, we got in touch with BMG to find out how this bit of ingenuity came about.

We spoke with Todd Blome, a partner at BMG who came up with the idea and he told us that as soon as he got an iPhone he was thinking of ideas for apps that would be useful for his clients. Since Todd is the tech-savvy partner at BMG, (he heads up their IT consulting services) he started kicking around ideas right away and eventually landed on the idea for iDonatedIt.

Todd told us that the development was fairly simple and that there were only two test versions prior to releasing the app.

“So far we’ve 100% positive feedback on iDonatedIt,” Todd told us, “We’re definitely looking for suggestions for improvements or add-ons.” The one idea that has been floated to Todd was adding a tax savings tool to the app so that a user could determine how much tax savings would be created by the donations. “That will probably be in version two,” he told us.

iDonatedIt retails for $2.99 at the app store and as Todd noted, “a donation of one item pays for the app.” A version for the Droid is currently in the works as well.

Todd and the rest of of his team at BMG are kicking around a few more ideas for apps but he said they want to make sure iDonatedIt is working as good as possible before committing to another project. Check out the demonstration below and jump over the firm’s website or follow them on Twitter to give them your feedback.

Shoeboxed: Saving Accountants One Nightmare Client at a Time

Last week we briefly mentioned Shoeboxed.com and how they can make all your shoebox receipt toting clients disappear. Not only that but it may save some of your more aggressive employees the trouble of explaining why they punched out the deadbeat who showed up with their receipts on April 15th.

We were fortunate enough to spend a some time with Stacy Chudwin, the Company’s Director of Communications, to learn more about the Durham, North Carolina Company.

Stacy told us that the Company got its start by servicing small businesses who wanted to avoid the hassle of tracking expenses by keeping a mind-numbing amount of receipts around, “Businesses can simply compile all their receipts, send them to us and we scan, enter the data and categorize them.”

Now the Company offers an “Accounting Professional Plan” which allows CPAs to do the exact same thing for those clients who aren’t so organized with their bookkeeping, “CPAs can either have their clients send us the receipts directly or they can send the us shoebox that gets dropped off on their desk and we’ll take care of the rest,” Stacy said.

Once all the data entry is finished you can access the information via your business’ account and for CPAs, you can create sub-accounts for each individual client. These reports can then be exported to a number of applications including QuickBooks, Quicken, Excel, and others.

The Company has also developed a free iPhone app that will extract all the information from a photo of the receipt. So for you Holiday Inn jockeys out there, you don’t have to stuff all your receipts in your suitcase and try to decipher everything you spent two weeks later.

“So far all of the feedback from our clients and users of the mobile apps have been great, however everyone wants more features both in their accounts and for the app,” Stacy told us.

Stacy also maintains the Shoeboxed Blog that is updated a few times a month that has areas for “Small Businesses”, “Taxes”, “Budgeting” and “Shoeboxed.com Resources”. She also informed us that they have a very active Twitter account, “We like to use Twitter to make announcements, to highlight recent press, and to retweet some positive feedback from followers, but we will also respond one-on-one if a user has an issue and reaches out to us via Twitter.”

If you’re not hip to the whole Twitter thing the Company has online customer support and a toll free number for all your questions.

The Company has several different plans for both businesses and accountants and both come with 30 day trials. So if you’ve more nightmare clients thatn you can count, what are you waiting for? Thanks to Shoeboxed, now you can add more clients instead of wanting to physically attack them.