A new Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) report looking at the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), and its effect on people’s lives, says businesses need to have codes of ethics, or updated governance guidelines, around what their AI programs can and can’t do.
“Ideally these should be shared with customers so they can make informed choices about who they are doing business with,” says the new report, Machines can learn, but what will we teach them?
It also suggests AI algorithms should be designed so they can be reviewed by a third party.
“In our world of fake news and privacy concerns, we are currently at an ethical crossroad where we need to determine the right direction for the development of machine learning and AI,” says Karen McWilliams, Business Reform Leader, CA ANZ.
“By setting the right ethical framework now, we have an opportunity to design a new AI-enabled world, which could create a more inclusive global society and sustainable economy than exists today.”
The CA ANZ report looks at the ethical considerations around AI and machine learning, and possible implications on society, business, regulators, individuals, and the accounting profession.
Machine learning, the most technologically advanced subset of AI, has been described as having the potential to be humankind’s fourth industrial revolution.
Upsides and downsides
The report mentions the upsides and downsides of AI. The former includes more powerful learning and research tools, enabling, for example, medical breakthroughs and for businesses, the ability to predict customer behaviour.
The downsides include risks to privacy, data security and the potential for social reengineering. There is also the “strong possibility that vast numbers of the current workforce, and current graduates, may find themselves made obsolete because AI applications can do their work faster and more accurately”.
All this, the report says is happening while there are no “commonly agreed policies or accountability frameworks”.
The Australian Government has allocated A$30m in this year’s Federal Budget for AI development, including an ethical framework.
Earlier this year the AI Forum of New Zealand launched a paper Artificial Intelligence: Shaping a Future New Zealand which the forum describes as “the first steps towards building a cohesive national strategy to effectively address the mainstream changes AI will bring”.
“The absence of transparency and a full understanding of how [AI] algorithms work creates significant ethical issues,” the CA ANZ report says.
However, it cautions that “over-regulating AI would be a simplistic reaction…
“AI projects and further investments in AI will simply be moved to more relaxed regulatory regimes.”
The CA ANZ report says a “global agreement is essential”.
McWilliams says accountants are in a pivotal position. “As well as using AI to analyse information and data, they can set boundaries on how data is collected and used for both the good of business and society.
“Chartered Accountants are trained to ask the right questions.”