[ Essay ] From outsourced to outsoftwared

Note: Originally this article was written when TechCruch was still alive.

Another year, another TechCrunch article. This time they talk about an iPhone application that allows filling in tax returns by taking a snapshot of the paper. It is probably the most awesome software of the year so far (Jan 4) utilizing the fact that the U.S. federal government is working in 19th-century mindset by providing paper-based form. Another country does that too.

One of the many insightful anecdotes in Thomas Friedman’s magnum opus, The World Is Flat, describes how U.S. tax returns are effectively handled by Indian service providers literally overnight using the time difference between the two countries.

Jaithirth “Jerry” Rao was one of the first people I met in Bangalore, and I hadn’t been with him for more than a few minutes at the Leela Palace Hotel before he told me he could handle my tax returns and any other accounting needs I had – from Bangalore. No thanks, I demurred, I already have an accountant in Chicago. Jerry just smiled. He was too polite to say it – that he may already be my accountant, or rather my accountant’s accountant, thanks to the explosion in the outsourcing in tax return.

And now they are talking about taking a photo of the tax form, which will be sent to a light version of a software called Turbotax, and…

The tax filers then correct any mistakes, enter additional data not on the W2 (such as interest income), answers a few more questions, and they are done. They can even file electronically from their iPhone.

Goodbye India, welcome back Silicon Valley, although there is no one to greet you (or be greeted). The world is flattening once again, this time it’s no more The West vs. The East. It’s Software vs. Us (or you can keep hating the millionaire nerds). A handful developers just eliminated a portion of, or even a whole, industry.

If this “softwarelizing” trend goes on, we are forced to invent new types of industries that will never be done without software or robots. Jobs that only humans can do. Which are…