Episode 5: How can CPAs protect public interest in the AI era?

There are many ethical dimensions to new technologies. The future of the accounting profession will continue to entail the protection of public interest and making morally justifiable decisions while accessing and maintaining data. (French only)

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As AI becomes more integrated into the accounting profession, CPAs will need to maintain control over access to data and data quality to protect the public interest and ensure that intelligent machines will make decisions that are morally justifiable and consistent with our society's current values.

Marc-André Paquette, director, Profession Transformation and Special Projects, Ordre des CPA du Québec, is back, this time followed by a new guest, Michel Girard, Senior Fellow, Centre for International Governance Innovation. Following the last episode on the importance of artificial intelligence in the accounting profession, the guests elaborate on the ethics related to new technologies, as well as on the importance of CPAs role in the training and configuration of upcoming technology.

View transcript

In this episode

  • For artificial intelligence (AI) to make ethical decisions that are justifiable in today’s environment, AI systems have to be carefully trained and configured. For the time being, AI can’t tell the difference between right and wrong. (1:26)
  • When it comes to AI, close to 80% of time should be spent preparing and cleaning data. Before data can be transferred to the AI system, we have to ensure the database is error free and represents both historical decisions and decisions we want the system to make in the future. (3:24)
  • The pandemic has accelerated the pace of digital transformation, forcing directors and CPAs to rethink pressing issues. (5:55)
  • CPAs are not there to replace or compete with other players in the data management chain, such as mathematicians or engineers, but rather to provide them with value added by intervening in business and governance matters. (10:15)
  • 95% of businesses in Canada are small businesses. Most small to medium sized businesses don’t have a Chief Data Officer in charge of making data decisions. CPAs will be able to add value to these businesses by taking on this role in addition to their usual financial statement management role. (16:48)

Key takeaways

  • CPAs will have a key role to play in the three-link data value chain:
    1. Data collection
    2. Data access and sharing
    3. Data analytics
  • As business slowly returns to normal in the wake of the pandemic, the priority for CPAs should be to implement a framework for digital transformation strategy and data management policy development. CPAs should also factor in integration issues, such as how to assert intellectual property rights over data.
  • Regulation of AI tools may be in the early stages of development, but this doesn’t mean CPAs shouldn’t start taking action. CPAs have the tools and a charter that could make the difference between a world we fear and a world we trust.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the guest and do not necessarily reflect those of CPA Canada.

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