Humans Are Underrated

Date01 May 2016
Published date01 May 2016
© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Published online in Wiley Online Library (
DOI 10.1002/jcaf.22164
Humans Are Underrated
Tom Pryor
Colvin, Geoff, 2015. Humans
Are Underrated (New York:
If you work in the finance
and accounting profession and
read my review of Rise of the
Robots, you might assume your
career outlook is bleak. I bring
you good news. Geoff Colvin
provides hope in his book
Humans Are Underrated.
It is true that computers,
algorithms, and robots have
and will continue to perform
finance and accounting activi-
ties effectively and efficiently. In
Humans Are Underrated, Colvin
offers a career strategy:
We should know by
now that figuring out
what computers will
never do is an exceed-
ingly perilous route
to determining how
humans can remain
valuable. But a better
strategy is to ask: What
are the activities that
we humans, driven by
our deepest nature or
by the realities of daily
life, will simply insist
be performed by other
humans, regardless of
what computers can
do? (pp. 41–42)
There are many things we
want to hear from a person
instead of computer. One activ-
ity is learning our verdict by a
judge in court. Another is hear-
ing a cancer diagnosis from a
doctor, even if he/she got the
information from a computer.
What financial or account-
ing judgments do you want to
learn from a person instead of
computer? The answers to that
question will be useful career
If you are afraid your job
will be replaced by a com-
puter, author Geoff Colvin
predicts it probably can and
will be. A college degree is no
longer a meal ticket to a good
life or career. Skills of interac-
tion are becoming the key to
Professor John McGinnis
of Northwestern University
says that average lawyers “face
a bleak future.” Their best
chance of prospering may
well lie in using interpersonal
abilities, “by persuading angry
and irrational clients to act in
their self-interest,” McGinnis
explains. “Machines won’t be
able to create the necessary
emotional bonds to perform
this important service.”
Author Geoff Colvin pres-
ents an argument that many
professions will experience
similar impacts as lawyers.
He predicts that “tomorrow’s
most valuable engineers will
not be geniuses in cubicles;
rather, they’ll be those who
can build relationships, brain-
storm, collaborate, and lead.”
Peter Drucker coined the
term knowledge worker in the
late 1950s. In the 21st century,
the most valuable people are
increasingly “relationship
America’s Department
of Defense is being impacted
by the same relationship and
people trends we see in busi-
ness. U.S. Secretary of Defense
Ashton Carter said:
In future wars, win-
ning will mean having
a victory that is widely
accepted, including by
the defeated. So you
won’t win by mow-
ing down millions of
people. You’ll win by
having people at the
front edge who have
human skills.

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