When the conversation amongst those who claim to be experts turns to those trades that are most likely to be re-engineered by artificial intelligence, our profession regularly seems to get a mention.
Many of us might argue that such an analysis merely betrays a lack of understanding of the services that accountants can provide to their clients.
In reality, various types of AI have been making our lives easier for the last half century and it could be posited considerably longer. In China and probably elsewhere, the abacus has been going for millennia.
Back in the good old days, it was typewriters, dictaphones and comptometers (younger readers who are baffled might just find a picture via a Google search), which lessened the burden on secretaries and comptometer operators.
These gave way to calculators, which soon became pocket calculators and more recently mainframe office computers, PCs, laptops and tablets.
Underpinning each of these pieces of kit was some kind of programming, which has become increasingly sophisticated with each new generation of technology.
As a result, anyone who started in the profession 30 or more years ago will have seen incredible change in almost every facet.
Auditing used to be a manual job for juniors using coloured pens. Now, computers do the grunt work, leaving accountants to interpret and analyse. In reality, the computers could do that just as well too.
On the tax front, much of the calculation is now done by budget-priced programs where in the past the numerically talented and highly intelligent were in the vanguard. Interpreting and sourcing legislation has also changed beyond recognition, now that it no longer requires an expert's memory since a database will find that vital statute or case for you in seconds.
The doom and gloom merchants will quickly point out that continuing developments in these fields will render many of those at the bottom end of the profession unemployed within a generation and possibly much sooner.
However, clients still like people and human interaction. Despite the propositions in sci-fi movies, computers will never be able to provide this service. Similarly, they will probably struggle to deal with the foibles of those who wish to act completely irrationally ie most of my clients.
More cynically, those clients who wish to have a product that is pushing at the boundaries of legality (perish the thought) might not want to have an audit trail retained by a computer, where a forgetful accountant could save them from a difficult day in front of a tax inspector or worse in court sometime in the dim and distant future.
There is no doubt that the accountancy business will change beyond recognition in the next few decades. However, I still remain firmly of the belief that those in positions of influence today ie partners or colleagues aspiring to the title have little to fear for the majority and probably the whole of the rest of their careers. The only slight proviso here is that with life expectancy rising and the global economy collapsing, those careers might need to endure until they are in their 80s.