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The Robots Are Coming for Phil in Accounting

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Illustration of a USB plug as employee of the month.

Workers with college degrees and specialized training once felt relatively safe from automation. They arent.

Credit: Justin Poulsen/The New York Times

Many U.S. companies are adopting software to perform tasks ranging from simple accounting to more sophisticated cognitive work that previously involved teams of employees, and white-collar workers are concerned.

This robotic process automation (RPA) trend is growing rapidly, and independent experts warn that layoffs can follow major corporate RPA efforts, which are implemented to reduce costs rather than improve workplace conditions.

Craig Le Clair at advisory firm Forrester Research said RPA bots' affordability, ease of use, and compatibility with back-end systems are their key selling points to executives, who would rather boost short-term profits than make expensive, time-consuming upgrades.

Research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University economists indicated that task automation has outpaced the creation of new jobs since the late 1980s, possibly because of popular "so-so technologies" that are sufficient to replace human beings, but do not boost productivity or job creation.

From The New York Times
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