For ACCA (The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), ethics is an area where people must take the lead when it comes to machine intelligence. The ethical side is largely human-driven today, and ACCA shares the High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence (HLEG on AI)’s view that AI systems need to be human-centric, committed to the service of humanity and the common good, with the goal of improving human welfare and freedom.
Being ethical is a core attribute for the professional accountant, and the Master’s level ACCA Qualification includes an Ethics and Professional Skills module that has to be taken to become a member of ACCA.
The Group’s Guidelines advocate a joined-up approach to AI ethics based on the fundamental rights enshrined in the EU Treaties, the EU Charter and international human rights law. ACCA welcomes this approach, believing that respect for fundamental rights and of the existing Code of Ethics for the profession provides the right foundations to identify the ethical principles and values that need to be adapted for AI.
Narayanan Vaidyanathan, head of business insights at ACCA says: ‘According to 94 per cent of respondents to an ACCA survey on Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age, technology may have an impact on the details one needs to understand in order to be ethical, but it does not change the importance of being ethical.
‘The fundamental principles for accountants, established by the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA), still apply and remain relevant in the digital age. AI is not designed to discover its own ethics, and it is our job to draw the ethical lines from a regulatory perspective to decide how to use the information in the right way. The Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI are therefore a right step in this direction.
‘When considering the potential of AI and machine Learning (ML), professional accountants need to think not only of the potential benefits and long-term sustainable advantages, but also of the risks posed by AI systems, which may have a negative impact and unintended consequences. Managing the risks depends in no small way on ensuring that ethical considerations are given sufficient emphasis when exploring AI and ML adoption. ACCA welcomes the recommendation to adopt adequate measures to mitigate these risks when appropriate,’ Narayanan Vaidyanathan adds.
ACCA also shares the HLEG on AI’s seven key requirements for trustworthy AI, namely human agency and oversight; technical robustness and safety; privacy and data governance; transparency; diversity, non-discrimination and fairness; environmental and societal well-being; and accountability.
‘These guidelines are very timely; they come just as ACCA us about to publish a new report on 10 April called Machine learning: more science than fiction, which highlights how new tech developments have a massive potential for the accountancy profession.
‘This report shows that an important principle cited by many experts for ethically sound ML solutions is that these should be designed in a way that does not alter the patterns of accountability that have been established by society, culture and law. As with any technology, with power comes responsibility. Accountants also need to consider and manage potential ethical compromise from decision-making by algorithm, such as the risk of bias in the data set that feeds them and the issue of accountability for decisions made’, Narayanan Vaidyanathan explains.
In addition, ACCA also supports the Group’s proposals to involve stakeholders throughout the AI system’s life cycle, fostering training and education so that all stakeholders are aware of and trained in trustworthy AI. In addition to technical capabilities, the professional accountant of the future will need a rounded skill-set that demonstrates key quotients for success in areas such as experience, intelligence, creativity, digital skills, emotional intelligence and vision – and at the heart of these lies the ethical quotient. ACCA believes that Emotional Intelligence and AI are a winning and necessary combination. This is a point clearly made in its report Emotional quotient (EQ) in a digital age*, where ACCA points out that EQ helps professionals prepare for rapid changes and improve human-machine interaction.
Narayanan Vaidyanathan concludes: ‘These Guidelines are a much-needed starting point for discussions about an ethical framework for AI systems, for Europe, and beyond. Some countries like Singapore have already released a set of principles to promote fairness, ethics, accountability and transparency in the use of AI and data analytics. For ACCA, to be successful, this must be done at a global level, and we are ready to embark on that journey, looking forward to contributing to the debate through our forthcoming publications and also public debates on building trust and ethics in AI.’
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Notes to Editors
* Emotional quotient (EQ), one of the seven skill areas ACCA sees as key skills for the future of the profession, comprises a range of competencies relevant to improving emotional intelligence, such as a growth mindset, self-knowledge, perspective-taking, empathy and influence
See more about ACCA’s Technology and Ethics work
ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants, offering business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.
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