Progress starts with accepting our own ignorance

Gordon Moore was no Nostradamus. And that’s a good thing.

Nostradamus (born Michel de Nostredame) was a 16th-century French seer who, basically, just made crap up. His philosophy on predicting the future apparently boiled down to this: “Make a prophesy vague enough and people will think you predicted everything!”

Moore, on the other hand, settled on a theory that was so accurate, it became a law.

In 1965, Moore — the co-founder of Intel — theorized that computing power would double roughly every two years, and he was right. Those advances continue to this day, making Moore’s Law one of the most accurate and well-known predictors of technological advancement in history.

And make no mistake, those advances impact all of us.

Need proof? Ask anyone who works for the U.S. Postal Service. Or the RIAA. Or any doctor, or book publisher, or journalist on the planet.

Technological advances are redefining every profession on earth.

The day will come, I swear to God, when every tax return, financial report, audit and journal entry will be done automatically, without human intervention. It’s already starting to happen.

How will CPAs add value to their clients’ lives when that day arrives?

If they’re smart, they’ve already started to think about that — how to interpret data instead of just managing it. How to chart their clients’ future success instead of merely recording past performance. How to identify — even anticipate — weak signals of disruptive change and help their clients get ahead of them instead of merely reacting to those changes.

“This is no simple task,” Robert Safian writes in Fast Company magazine. “The vast bulk of our institutions — educational, corporate, political — are not built for flux. Few traditional career tactics train us for an era where the most important skill is the ability to acquire new skills.”

It starts with a mindset — an openness to learn, to realize that our expertise is not finite. Some of the most important skills we’ll need going forward might not even exist yet. Who could have predicted 10 years ago that social media would emerge as an indispensable business tool?

Blind acceptance of the status quo will make us extinct. Our first step is to realize that we don’t know everything — that, in fact, we don’t know anything. That we won’t make any progress until we accept our own ignorance.

When we do that, we’ll open ourselves to a world of unending possibility and opportunity.


Bill Sheridan