The United CPA Association projects that artificial intelligence will become increasingly relevant to the field of accounting. What exactly does this mean, though? With common fears of human workers being made irrelevant, should this be cause for concern?

What AI Looks Like

AI is a very broad term and field of study, and there’s much confusion about what it entails. Terms like “machine learning” and “algorithm”, often used as synonyms, describe parts of AI, but not the whole of it. The end goal of AI research is to create human-like intelligence, which includes abstract thinking, interpretation based on context, anticipating uncertainty and the capacity to learn and apply knowledge in new ways. Even at its best, current AI is specialized, rigid in its ‘thinking’ and unable to operate outside of the box—human accountants aren’t likely to be replaced in the foreseeable future.

What AI Brings to the Table

This isn’t to say that modern AI is useless; rather, it’s a tool that is highly valuable when used in the right way. Machine learning software excels at pattern recognition and extrapolating from given data, and computers beat humans at number-crunching and performing rote tasks quickly and efficiently. Handling finances, especially for large companies, involves massive amounts of data demanding exact accuracy. New AI technology simplifies collecting data from many sources and streamlines the workflow of managing audits, accounts payable and more.

Misunderstandings about AI lead to its misuse or lack of use when instead it could massively aid in accounting. With the right insight, integrating AI into your practice can ease many of the common stresses and difficulties in accounting to let you focus on the bigger picture.