A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Handbook of Robotics, 56th Edition, 2058 A.D.
Most of us heard about the three laws of robotics. Some know that they were first published in the March 1942 issue of "Astounding Science" in a story "Runaround" by Isaac Asimov.
As the story goes in 2015, Powell, Donovan, and Robot SPD-13 "Speedy" are tasked with restarting a mining operation on Mercury. Long story short, since Speedy was super expensive to manufacture, the third law (that protected its existence) was strengthened to protect the investment by stakeholders. When things move from the drawing board to reality, the robot cannot decide between a casual order given by a human (law 2) to collect selenium and a strengthened imperative to stay out of danger (law 3). So he runs around in circles.
Simple story. Written long ago.
I can't help but recall my earlier posts on the increasing role of artificial intelligence in our lives. One mused about the future, where in 10 years it is forecasted that 30% of corporate audits will be performed by AI. The other reflected on the genius words of Professor Hawking about the competency of AI.
In particular: The real risk with AI isn’t malice but competence. A superintelligent AI will be extremely good at accomplishing its goals, and if those goals aren’t aligned with ours, we’re in trouble. You’re probably not an evil ant-hater who steps on ants out of malice, but if you’re in charge of a hydroelectric green energy project, and there’s an anthill in the region to be flooded, too bad for the ants.
There are several things that happened in the past few days that should make us all think about the words of the Professor.
On November 9, 2015, Google made their AI engine available as an open source software, meaning anyone can access and edit the code. Tensor Flow, as it is known now is being put into the hands of not just experts and academics but everyone who is passionate about coding. As Google says: Machine learning is still in its infancy—computers today still can’t do what a 4-year-old can do effortlessly, like knowing the name of a dinosaur after seeing only a couple examples, or understanding that “I saw the Grand Canyon flying to Chicago” doesn’t mean the canyon is hurtling over the city. We have a lot of work ahead of us. But with TensorFlow we’ve got a good start, and we can all be in it together.
Just a day later, on November 10, 2015, NVIDIA unveiled a credit-card sized module that harnesses the power of machine learning to enable a new generation of smart, autonomous machines that can learn. According to NVIDIA Jetson TX1 is the first embedded computer designed to process deep neural networks -- computer software that can learn to recognize objects or interpret information. This new approach to program computers is called machine learning and can be used to perform complex tasks such as recognizing images, processing conversational speech, or analyzing a room full of furniture and finding a path to navigate across it. Machine learning is a groundbreaking technology that will give autonomous devices a giant leap in capability.
While Jetson TX1 is not free, it is not super expensive either. Any enthusiast can get one of those.
AI and the Accountancy Profession
It doesn't require that much of an imagination stretch to connect some headlines from the accountancy profession. Merely a week before the Google and NVIDIA announcements, IFAC, the global tent for the accountancy profession, published a thought paper on integrated thinking. Around the same time, ACCA announced it Accounting for the Future conference, AICPA posed a question of where the profession wants to be by 2020 on the technology adoption curve (innovator, early adopter, early majority, late adopter, late majority), CPA Australia muses about braving the digital world, and the European profession is debating the future of corporate reporting...
So where all of this is going?
Let's challenge ourselves. Especially the youngest and geeky. Code. Dear accountants. Code. Fra Luca Pacioli disrupted by being the first to publish on double-entry accounting. Who is going to make it into the future Wikipedia on accounting as the parent (mother or father) of AI accounting?
The tools are here. The talent is plenty. Let the games begin!
Spread the fire. Use #accountantsThatCode to keep the discussion together.