Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are dramatically reshaping nearly every sector of the economy and every job. A recent report from digital thought leader McKinsey & Co. indicates that as many as 45 percent of activities performed for pay could be automated right now with current technologies.
Nowhere is this trend more evident than in the accounting profession where even in smaller firms, software and subscription services can now automatically collect and organize data on everything from payroll and inventory to audits and contract language, and, according to Xero, even perform analysis – once the sole province of human intervention – on tedious tasks like bank reconciliation.
But while the “rise of the machines” may invoke fear in some reactionaries, more visionary accounting professionals are asking themselves how human advisors can sustain their relevance and value among emerging supercomputers and automated applications.
How can they win, they wonder, in this new AI landscape?
As the accounting profession moves into the AI age, Roman Yampolskiy, PhD, a professor of computer engineering and computer science at the University of Louisville and a leading researcher on AI, emphasizes the importance of not fully relying on today’s software because of the one thing that AI currently lacks: common sense.
“Certain functions should not be passed on from our hands to machines, which, I remind you, have no common sense,” Yampolskiy said.
Maureen Schwartz, executive director of global public accounting association BKR International, concurs: “Even in the age of supercomputers, data will always remain most valuable when interpreted through the common sense of knowledgeable advisors.”
Here, according to BKR International, are three ways firms can employ common sense as they explore the potential for automation and AI in the accounting industry: