If you let your imagination run wild, it seems like there is no stopping artificial intelligence. But one CPA said accountants should educate themselves on what’s possible.
“You hear a lot of stories about what AI can do. The reality is, that's the long-term vision,” said Patrick Armknecht CPA, CITP, shareholder at Schneider Downs. “What AI is doing today is probably a little bit different than then what some people think its capabilities are.”
Armknecht will present on AI, Robotic Process Automation and machine learning at next week’s Accounting Technology Conference. He said it’s important to demystify some of the buzzwords commonly used around AI. For example, terms used today include “narrow AI,” “strong AI” and “super AI.”
“Today there is narrow AI, which is artificial intelligence that's focused on a specific task with information that is available,” Armknecht said. “That includes things like Siri. But if you try to try to apply intelligence outside of what they know how to do, they don't know how to handle it. Artificial intelligence at its core is the ability for machines and programs to think like humans. And what that really means is not only just the processing data and processing data quicker than humans, but to do things like be able to learn, actually have emotions and expressions and be able to grow.”
Armknecht acknowledged there is hesitation around AI becoming like the “Terminator” from the movies, specifically regarding its potential to take away jobs. But AI will remove the routine, mundane tasks, he said, giving accountants more time to focus on the engaging, strategic part of the business.
He said AI will also matter more depending on the size of your business. Smaller organizations might not know what to do with AI now, but should still stay informed about its capabilities and progress.
“I think it's really forcing firms to think about how they embrace technology and how they use this technology to improve their product,” he said. “But at the same time, there needs to be a human element of someone behind this validating whether the bots are processing things right, or whether the AI is working right or whether the algorithms are working right. That's still going to be humans, at least in the short term.”