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Episode 3: CPAs and the double-edged sword of Technology

Technology is creating a world of new opportunities for CPAs, but with these opportunities comes significant risk, challenging CPAs to bring their public interest mandate to the fore to identify and manage these risks.

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Professional Accountants are relied upon to be ethical leaders and have key roles in helping organizations and clients navigate these changes in an ethical manner. What do CPAs need to do to respect the double-edged sword of technology and actively pursue opportunities while safeguarding against challenges?

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In this episode

  • Rachel Kirkham discusses the potential dangers of machine learning algorithms (4:31)
  • Rachel describes steps that need to be taken to remove bias from algorithms (5:42)
  • Rachel describes how AI can improve audits (9:03)
  • How the MindBridge algorithms were audited by University College London (11:40)
  • Rachel speaks to how CPAs can balance the risks and opportunities of AI (14:03)
  • Why the accounting designation came into play when designing and developing the MindBridge AI (16:00)
  • Brian Friedrich on the critical role CPAs play in managing the opportunities and risks of AI (20:00)
  • Why CPAs need to keep their public interest mandate front and centre as these advanced tools evolve (21:38)

Key takeaways

  • As organizations generate larger and larger amounts of data, traditional accounting practices like audits are increasingly difficult to perform effectively without the help of technology like AI. And while AI presents CPAs with the opportunity to expand skillsets and manage massive datasets, it also comes with significant risks.
  • In this episode, David McGuffin speaks with professional accountant Rachel Kirkham about how she navigates a path between the opportunities and risks of AI in her role as Vice President of Analytics and Data Science for the accounting tech firm MindBridge. She says a key risk is the potential for biases to creep into the ways data is collected and interpreted. Rachel tells David, “There are a bunch of different things that you have to think about and there are techniques to mitigate against biases but it's about being aware of them as a data scientist. An awareness that this is something that you actually need to explicitly consider and manage as a risk.”
  • The narrow wedge between the promise and the perils of technology is what Laura and Brian Friedrich call the double-edged sword of technology for accountants. They wrote a paper exploring this issue in collaboration with CPA Canada, the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS), and the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA). Brian tells David that balancing the risks and rewards of technology requires CPAs to bring their public interest mandate to the front of their professional practice. “That's what has to be held above all else… when things start to look like they're crossing the line, or if there's a risk of them crossing the line that you're able to stand back and ask the important questions about what's this tech really going to be doing? And does it seem appropriate for us to do that? Has there been enough testing of those sorts of things?”

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