Home' A Plus Magazine : May 2017 Contents The dark side of finance mixed with technology
is too much for Hong Kong’s humorist
56 May 2017
Let’s get fiscal
.... with Nury Vittachi
The MTR carriage was so
crowded that when I used a
phone-banking app to look
up my current account balance,
four people breathed in sharply and
offered sympathetic smiles.
Maybe next time I’ll bring the
kids and they can press money into
Money and technology are an
interesting mix, but I don’t think
humanity has really worked out all
For example, articles about
robots invading the accounting
sector always say that computers,
unlike humans, don’t make mis-
takes with numbers.
This is rubbish. Humans do
ridiculous things with numbers
and their computers multiply them
to huge scales.
Proof: I once covered an inci-
dent in India when people received
monthly phone bills for the equiva-
lent of US$20 million each.
This columnist has two daugh-
ters, so that seemed pretty reason-
able to me.
But it’s a lot in India, so recipi-
ents complained. Telecom com-
pany MTNL Dolphin generously
sent out texts saying customers
need not pay the mega-millions.
But whoever typed the SMS
added – and I am not making this up
– “If paid, please ignore.” Someone
in the accounts department was
apparently hoping that a few people
would have handed over US$20
million without wanting it back.
Where finance and technology
meet, ethical issues often arise.
Case in point: Reader Ricky
Chou sent me a report about a man
who paid big bucks for a high-
speed broadband connection and
then found that someone in his
apartment block was hijacking it to
download massive files.
So he put an impenetrable
password on it and changed the
name of the signal to “GET YOUR
OWN INTERNET.” The thief,
having no choice, paid for his own
Wi-Fi connection, and called his
hotspot: “LOOK I DID.” The first
guy then changed the name of his
Wi-Fi signal to: “GOOD I’M PROUD
I like that story, as it shows tech-
nology being used to boost financial
ethics rather than cheat people.
In contrast, a colleague for-
warded a recent news report from
Northern Ireland also involving
accounting, technology and ethics.
A crooked accountant named
David Goodwin got away with the
perfect crime 100 times in a row.
It started when he volunteered to
bring in his laptop and check the
accounts at a busy, charity-minded
church. Since the members donat-
ing cash and the needy spending it
were very trusting, he found it easy
to divert big chunks of money to his
After two years, he’d com-
mitted his 100th crime and felt
And that’s when the church
had a guest speaker: a reformed
criminal who talked about how his
life had changed since he had seen
the error of his ways.
Everything the man said hit
Goodwin like a thunderbolt.
Goodwin spent hours creat-
ing spreadsheets showing exactly
how he had committed each of his
100 crimes, and then walked to
the local police station, where he
opened his laptop and said: “Look
what I’ve done.”
Doesn’t that story leave you
with a warm fuzzy feeling?
No? Me neither. Because I saw it
at the same time that I saw a scary
report, which said that the amount
of inv isible, intangible money
being spent every day (clicking to
buy stuff on Minecraft, etc.) had
overtaken the amount of actual
physical money being spent every
day. Coins and bank notes will
disappear, pundits say.
This is bad news.
My main tool for impressing on
my children the value of money is
the extreeeeeemely slooooooow
way I count out their pocket money
every week, an expression of deep-
est agony on my face.
A cash transfer click fails to
convey the pain that should be
associated with any act of money
moving away from my pocket.
I’m going back to the MTR. At
least I get a bit of sympathy there.
is a bestselling author,
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
causes me ethical upsets
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