Let’s get fiscal

Smartphones aren’t making us any smarter, says Nury Vittachi 
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The accountant on your arm

Nury Vittachi

Hong Kong’s humorist on the mind-numbing yet interesting uses of today’s technology

Technology equals trouble.  A reader wrote to me about a girl in the United States state of Arkansas who read a one-liner on the Internet: “When I’m bored, I send a text to a random number saying ‘I hid the body, now what?’”

Amused, she decided to try it. She sent a text saying “I hid the body, now what?” to a random number – which turned out to belong to a police officer’s phone. You can guess the rest of the story.

People don’t think any more. They just do whatever their technology tells them.

Case in point: At a fruit and vegetables shop in Caine Road, I bought 10 items costing HK$2 each.

The teenage cashier did not use her mono-cellular brain to multiply 10 by two. Nor did she take note of the HK$20 note I was thrusting at her.

Instead, she punched the number two into a calculator 10 times over. She lost count halfway and had to start again. And even then, the total she tried to charge me was wrong.

Anyway, so this is why I was a bit doubtful when another reader told me about a product which describes itself as “an accountant on your arm.”

This is an “app” (a trendy word which is short for “appalling waste of time”) which turns your smart watch into a “portable accountant.”

Videos of the product show it doing only one thing: sending an alert every time someone pays an invoice.

This doesn’t really qualify it to be called “an accountant on your arm,” surely? Unless your definition of an accountant is a person standing by the mail room shouting “Someone paid a bill!” at intervals. Oh, I don’t know – at some companies, it probably is.

But the idea of having an accountant on your arm is a good one if someone actually did it right.

Ideally, all chief executive officers should be forced to wear artificial intelligence smart watches which would wait until the wearer discusses any type of spending proposal and then shout in the voice of the chief financial officers: “No! We can’t afford it!”

“People don’t think any more. They just do whatever their technology tells them.”

Actually, I would rather like to have a watch that says those words for my wife and children, unless they are reading this, in which case of course I wouldn’t.

But a portable robot accountant would be a good thing.

There’s one out-of-office job that accountants always get landed with – and most hate doing. That’s dividing up the bills after group meals at restaurants. It’s a pain because a) the accountant is off-duty, b) most accountants haven’t done mental math for years, and c) there’s always one diner who insists on paying only for what they personally consumed.

Technology has a good answer for this one. Theres even an app that takes a photo of the menu, where each diner taps the items on the list that he or she ordered – and the accountant in the app sorts out individual bills for every diner (and a tip for the server). Or you could just use your phone’s calculator (although not as “social” or “interactive” as an app).

But of course there’s one other way of quite literally having an accountant on your arm: you can do it by marrying your business manager. Singer Celine Dion did it and is one of too few musical celebrities whose private and public lives have been long, steady and successful.

See? Girls, dont be fooled by young pretty-boy hunks – she married an old bald guy with glasses, not unlike one of the writers in this magazine.

Meanwhile, technology features in this very publication have often made the point that AI will take over the boring parts of accountants’ jobs, leaving them just to do the interesting, challenging stuff.

Like for instance if your client sends you a text message saying: “I hid the body, now what?” 

Nury Vittachi is a bestselling author, columnist, lecturer and TV host. He wrote three storybooks for the Institute, May Moon and the Secrets of the CPAs, May Moon Rescues the World Economy and May Moon’s Book of Choices

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