Institute of Certified Bookkeepers

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is not human intelligence.

AI can be thought of as:

  • Quicker thinking
  • Quicker processing
  • More competent processing
  • More consistent processing
  • Recognising changes in behaviour within the processing
  • Recognising consistent data and recommending the appropriate processing

Why is Artificial Intelligence Good for Us?

“Electronic circuits function about a million times faster than biochemical ones, so machines should think about a million times faster than the minds that built it”.

There remains a large amount of bookkeeping that is the creation of records based on written or electronic data. A significant amount of this record creation is identification of what that data is and applying a consistent behaviour to its recording and its allocation. In effect a mechanical process.

The proposition is that by using artificial intelligence techniques that “function about 1 million times faster than biochemical ones” with consistency, we will be far more efficient in providing the data processing parts of what we do.

What Does A.I. Give Us?

The development of computerised processing has been improving our ability to process (perform mechanical tasks) quicker.

More recent developments enable the machine to learn behaviour that has been repeated.

For example, I recently upgraded my GPS driving system. Now when I get into the car and turn the machine on it recognises where I am. It knows the time day and it suggested I might want to drive home. I use my voice, the machine recognises the words and sets the route to drive home. In the morning it suggests I might be going to work. When I have parked the car and then look at my iPhone I notice the iPhone has recorded the location where I parked the car. All these are examples of ways that the machine is processing in ways that we may have previously processed ourselves. Arguably, the machine is now doing thinking for us that we’re too lazy or time poor to do ourselves.

I am actually preparing this note using dictation software. The machine is processing recognising my voice and turning it into text with a scary amount of accuracy.

What does A.I. give us? Using these simple examples we see that the computer has been programmed to receive data and recognise trends in that data and behaviour and suggest the next action or an appropriate process to put in place.

AI in the World Bookkeepers

We’re in a world where more and more data can be received in in electronic form, and the machine can recognise what that data is and either process or recommend a process.

As the machine recognises trends in the data it may continue to process that data but it then highlights to you the user anomalies in the trends.

We, bookkeepers, should not be scared of the development of machines being able to process more rapidly and with greater consistency. We should not be scared of machines being able to recognise data and what to do with it based on precedents or programmed behaviour. We the bookkeeper will be integral in the future implementation of more intelligent programs into more and more businesses in our digital age.

This development of machine learning and artificial intelligence, assists us as bookkeepers to do the mechanical work more efficiently.

Computers are catching up

Previously bookkeepers spent extraordinary amounts of time manually turning information into written records and then, as computers and spreadsheets developed, bookkeepers turned written information into electronic information. We then processed that electronic information to turn the data into reports. We now have machines that are able to capture the data, even manually written data, decrypt it and turn it into electronic data. The machine can then recognise what that data is and suggest a processing. In some systems, the processing happens and our role would be to check that processing.

We are not there yet.

What are we Hearing?

At the recent Xerocon, Rod Drury presented to us the concept of “no code accounting”. This isn’t a process of removing bookkeeping and accounting functions from the software, it is a process of the software recognising the behaviour of a business and applying (or recommending) a coding of that transaction behind the scenes. We are well aware that business owners want to do business, not bookkeeping. This “no code accounting” technique is allowing the business owner to use their natural thinking to do the business and we would then review how software has captured that natural business transaction and recorded it. Hopefully the software will provide us with the enhanced tools and techniques for us to review and correct the data that has been captured by that natural business process.

Conclusion

Artificial intelligence will help improve the efficiency of bookkeepers assisting businesses.

Bookkeepers should embrace any new computer-assisted process and embrace the efficiency gains and techniques being made available to us.

This article is the first in a series of thought pieces to assist us as bookkeepers to understand the concept of artificial intelligence and how to apply it both for our benefit and the benefit of the businesses we work with.

References

  • Updated: 20th October, 2016
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