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Is ChatGPT coming for your Accountancy job?

A team of academics recently tried to answer that question. We asked for a second opinion.
 

For those of us who consider we live in the ‘real world’, rather than the depths of IT and academia, the rise of ChatGPT passed me by initially. I saw more and more references to it appearing in my news feeds, but it didn’t seem relevant to me. By the time I started to pay attention, it had already been handed the title of “the fastest growing technology platform ever”.

The launch of ChatGPT will go down as the day AI stepped out of the shadows and made a full-frontal assault on mainstream consciousness.

What has since ensued is a form of moral panic. Much of the early noise was about the implications for student cheating. That has morphed into debates about how many knowledge workers, from journalists to doctors, should be worried about their job security.

Should Accountants be Worried?

Accountants aren’t immune to these fears. If it’s true that “Video Killed the Radio Star”, is AI about to kill the accountancy profession?

David Wood, a professor of accounting at Brigham Young University (BYU) decided to see how ChatGPT would go when it came to accounting exams. He recruited 327 co-authors from 186 educational institutions in 14 countries, and they fed over 27,000 accounting exam questions into ChatGPT.

The result was a peer-reviewed publication, described in this EurekaAlert article. Here are a few of their findings:

  • ChatGPT’s performance was impressive, but real students performed much better.
  • It did well on multiple choice and true/false questions, but not so well with higher-order ones.
  • It can sound authoritative while providing incorrect or even nonsensical answers.
  • It sometimes generates a real-looking reference that is completely fabricated!

The focus of the research team wasn’t actually about whether ChatGPT could replace a human accountant. They were primarily interested in the academic side – how it could improve the teaching and learning processes. Some of their conclusions?

  • They fully expect ChatGPT to get exponentially better.
  • It will change the way everyone teaches and learns — for the better.
  • ChatGPT is still no match for humans when it comes to accounting.

I let ChatGPT have the Last Word

But why take the word of 327 so-called experts, when you can “do your own research”?

I decided to get a second opinion, and who better to ask than ChatGPT itself?

I asked it a simple question, and here is the verbatim response that came back within seconds. As well as being super-fast I though the reply was well crafted, and even showed a touch of artificial humility.

Question: Can ChatGPT replace a human accountant?

Answer: While ChatGPT can provide guidance and support with various accounting tasks, it cannot fully replace a human accountant. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Expertise and Experience: Human accountants possess specialized knowledge and expertise acquired through education, training, and experience. They stay updated with changing accounting regulations and industry best practices, which enables them to provide tailored advice and solutions to complex accounting issues.
  2. Interpretation and Judgment: Accounting involves more than just following predefined rules and procedures. It requires professional judgment in interpreting financial information, identifying potential risks or opportunities, and making strategic recommendations. Human accountants can apply their experience and critical thinking skills to provide valuable insights.
  3. Contextual Understanding: Human accountants can gain a deep understanding of your specific business or personal financial situation, goals, and challenges. They can consider your unique circumstances and offer customized solutions that align with your objectives.
  4. Relationship and Communication: Human accountants can establish a personal relationship with their clients or employers, fostering trust and effective communication. They can actively listen to your concerns, address specific questions, and provide personalized advice based on a holistic understanding of your financial needs.
  5. Legal and Compliance Matters: Certain accounting tasks, such as tax preparation, require adherence to specific legal and regulatory requirements. Human accountants have the knowledge and responsibility to ensure compliance and avoid potential penalties or legal issues.

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