Machines and algorithms in the workplace are expected to create 133 million new roles, but cause 75 million jobs to be displaced by 2022, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) called “The Future of Jobs 2018.” This means that the growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics could create 58 million net new jobs in the next few years. Due to this transformation, it will have a major impact on the global workforce, which clearly must include the Caribbean.
This report is intended to provide a perspective on how AI and Robotics can shape the future of business in the Caribbean. And it is based on a survey of chief human resources officers and strategy executives from more than 300 global companies across 12 industries and 20 emerging economies. In a WEF report it was determined that AI, Robotics and smart automation technology will bring greater economic benefits. And this could contribute up to US$15 trillion to the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2030.
AI has been in the public’s consciousness for a long time, since 1956. AI itself is an all-encompassing term that embraces a number of technological advances.
There are various terms that are sometimes used to describe AI and advanced computing capabilities — things such as machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing, data analytics, and robotic process automation. Some, but not all of these may qualify as being Artificial Intelligence.
One way to describe AI is the ability of machines to exhibit human-like capabilities — thinking, understanding, reasoning, or perception.
According to Google Dictionary, Robotics is defined as the branch of technology that deals with the design, construction, operation and application of robots.
Embracing the capabilities of AI and Robotics may not just be about competitive advantage; it could be about necessity.
And this matter, because AI especially, and Robotics can add value to the work accountants do. It can help generate valuable insights to help with business decision-making, it can detect fraud, assess risks, understand complexities in taxation, and create more effective non-financial reporting.
The capabilities that AI offers could assist the work of professional accountants in various ways, especially with interpreting and communicating data.
The profession needs to understand how AI works, as it also influences the trust that people have in the decisions of these systems and the contexts within which they operate.
It also matters to the profession because with AI, ethical considerations are never far away.
Professional accountants need to consider and manage the potential risks that come from making decisions by algorithm.
With AI, there is a risk of unintended consequences. But there are also opportunities ahead when professional accountants develop a core understanding of these types of emerging technologies. For example, the profession can truly benefit from the ability of AI to support them with intelligent analysis of vast amounts of data.
Technical and ethical skills will always matter for the accountancy profession, but now there are prospects for the profession to use their strategic advice and guidance alongside technology to truly leverage the power of digital.
Accountants have many tools at hand to do this, such as; accounting software, Automation, Robotics, AI, and Big Data. However, even sophisticated technology like AI cannot replicate the full understanding and integrated thinking of which people are capable. Technology cannot build client relationships nor lead successful teams. Technology does not have emotional intelligence nor ethical judgment.
Business professionals have the opportunity to shine in the digital age, showcasing their human skills and their capacity to make ethical decisions.
There are ethical dilemmas that the Caribbean society faces with the advent of technology and its role in accounting and finance. Questions like “Who is accountable?” will require the professionals to face technology and embrace the role of the accountant in ensuring that algorithms and AI are not subject to bias or confusing causation with correlation.
Businesses across the Caribbean will need to ensure that good, sound decisions are being made and that there is a strategic method of managing data so that an organization can use it in a sustainable way. How do they prepare for this future? They do this through education, skills, and training. Jamaica’s Technology Minister, Miss Fayval Williams is reported to have told a business forum that very soon 30 per cent of all day-to-day businesses will implement Artificial Intelligence (AI) as part of their digital transformation strategy. The minister added that, business leaders will have to be agile to deal with the changing world.
Said she: “We are in the digital era where the only constant is change … The technological revolution and transformation, which are characteristics of the digital age, have significantly changed and reshaped the way we operate on a daily basis, and how we operate in business.”
Clearly the implications for the labour market are extreme.
Below is a graph of the United States of America nationwide online survey conducted in 2019 April. It includes responses from 1001 currently employed adults. The graph contains Genesys employees’ opinions of job positions in danger of being replaced by Artificial Intelligence. There is a common saying among Caribbean locals that if the United States of America coughs, the Caribbean catches a cold.
The influence of AI and robotics could contribute up to US$15 trillion to the global economy. Accountants in the Caribbean could use the technology in such a way that there is greater accountability in businesses. Jamaica’s technology minister indicated that very soon 30 percent of day to day businesses will implement AI as part of their digital transformation strategy. Finally, a US nationwide online survey indicated that 1001 workers thought that manufacturing, telemarketing and clerical jobs are projected to be the hardest hit by the influence of AI and Robotics in the work space. Therefore, it is safe to say that AI and Robotics can have both negative and positive impacts on the future of businesses in the Caribbean.
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