Wow….2018! Hard to believe that we are almost two decades into the 21st century. In recent speeches and columns I have been discussing the rapid changes in technology, and how the accounting profession will be impacted by these ever-increasing advances, and how we must be prepared for them as regulators. In our personal lives we readily accept asking ALEXA for an update on the weather, letting our cars autonomously drive us down busy freeways, or having our televisions changing channels by simply saying, “Turn to ESPN.” Yet in our professional lives there is somewhat of a reluctance to prepare for what is inevitable. This year, terminology that has not yet become a part of standard accounting and regulatory jargon will be frequently heard and continue to gain in importance. In 2018, bots, cognitive API, advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning will be a part of our vocabulary and, more importantly, a part of the accounting profession’s operational environment.

So that we are all on the same page, let me provide some generally accepted definitions for the terms mentioned above:

  • “Bots” or “Internet robots” are software applications running automated, repetitive structural steps at a pace and accuracy level much higher than the capability of a human being.
  • “Cognitive API” or “cognitive computing application programming interface” is essentially an application tool that can learn and enhance itself on its own. It develops artificial intelligence and powerful cognitive computer applications without the need for an expert software developer.
  • “Advanced Artificial Intelligence” (AAI) is computer-based intelligence, surpassing the brightest and most gifted human minds, that continuously monitors and perceives its environment to maximize success.
  • “Machine Learning” is a computer-application-driven process that provides systems with the ability to continuously analyze information and improve automatically.

    There are several more terms and definitions that I could list, but those shown above should give you enough to think about. They are not from a script of a science fiction movie, nor part of some soothsayer’s prediction. They are, in fact, very much a part of our current existence. As we consider the rapid transition to reliance on data analytics, it is important to know that these processes provide much of the underlying mechanics that allow data analytics to work and evolve.

    In recent months, I have opined that it is important that State Boards and the regulatory community quickly get up-to-speed as to their knowledge of how data analytics and artificial intelligence are being utilized in accounting and auditing. NASBA is preparing to provide education and support to State Boards in that endeavor. We are, and have been, in discussions with fellow regulators, large firms and universities to ascertain the use of technology and to begin developing strategies for how to best regulate work that is, by definition, performed by machines.

    I give credit to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and their leadership for the work they are doing in this area. They, and others, are developing new technology resources that will provide artificial intelligence tools to firms of all sizes. NASBA volunteers and staff are dedicated to ensuring that State Boards are prepared and have what they need to protect the public. In 2018 that includes understanding bots, cognitive API, advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning.

    I wish each of you a happy, safe and prosperous New Year.

    Semper ad meliora (Always toward better things).

    Ken L. Bishop
    President & CEO

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