AI to be a force for good

The House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence has today released a report of its findings into Artificial Intelligence, together with a series of recommendations. The committee was appointed in June last year to consider the economic, ethical and social implications of advances in AI.

A number of key themes emerge, centred around the UK being in a strong position to lead the world in the development of AI, based on its existing AI companies, depth of research, popularity with start-ups, and its legal and ethical strengths. The committee recommends putting ethics at the centre of the development and use of AI, and proposes an AI code is established that embeds the ethical use of AI at its heart. Topmost is the recommendation that ‘Artificial intelligence should be developed for the common good and benefit of humanity’.

The report includes a number of other recommendations. It notes many jobs will be enhanced by AI, but retraining will become a life-long necessity. Individuals will need to be able to have greater personal control over their data and the way in which it is used. The committee also has a swipe as some of the larger technology companies, noting greater competition is required.

The extended report includes the written evidence the faculty provided last year and mirrors a number of our comments and recommendations. We suggested AI is potentially a powerful tool for society and that the accountancy sector will be able to deliver more value to organisations and the economy as a result. We highlighted the impact on jobs and the need for life-long learning. We also did not believe it would be possible to regulate a technology such as AI in isolation.

The potential for the accountancy sector is encouraging. First, our profession is underpinned by a code of ethics that engenders trust; we will be in a prime position to help in the development and implementation of the recommended AI code. Second, the profession is well placed to respond to the committee’s suggestion that the government should incentivise the development of new approaches to the auditing of datasets used in AI. Our work with member firms suggests that this line of thinking has already begun.

We are currently developing our thinking around ethics, decision-making and accountability in a digital world; this could potentially include a review and refresh of the existing code of ethics to take account of the impact of new technology. If you have any thoughts on the subject, we would welcome your views below or direct to us at itfac@icaew.com

Anonymous
  • You comment that "our profession is underpinned by a code of ethics that engenders trust". Why then is there is persistent drumbeat of accounting scandals which the auditors don't prevent; and why too are accountants working so hard to help people avoid tax?