A Walk on AI’s Wild Side

  • March 27, 2018

If you’re intrigued by the astounding rise of artificial intelligence in our personal and professional lives, you’ll enjoy this article in the MIT Technology Review: “The Great AI Paradox” by Brian Bergstein. It’s a topic we’ve been tracking in Tax Matters from the point of view of corporate tax – see the list of related posts at the end of this blog. Bergstein offers a broader, more speculative view of where AI is taking us.

The paradox in Bergstein’s title is that pundits overestimate the potentially negative impacts of AI – worrying that it will absorb dangerously large numbers of jobs and perhaps even eliminate humans completely someday – but underestimate the very real problems we face with today’s “relatively dumb” computers. “Think of ... hoaxes that take flight on Google and Facebook … or automated cyberattacks.”

Worries about AI turning into some kind of malevolent superintelligence are not entirely unfounded, he concedes, “but that’s like saying an asteroid could hit Earth and destroy civilization. That’s true too. It’s good that NASA is on the lookout. But since we know of no asteroids on course to hit us, we have more pressing problems to deal with.”

While the article provides a wild, and very entertaining, ride through the furthest speculative reaches of the debate, it’s important to note that AI and machine learning are already affecting tax functions in useful ways, and this trend is just beginning. John Viglione points to one example, from robotic process automation (RPA), in an article in FEI: Harnessing the Strategic Potential of Tax Data with Machine Learning. “RPA augments routine and time-sensitive processes associated with the tax calculation-to-compliance process, while freeing up time for the tax professional to focus on planning … while logics embedded in RPA processes automate quality assurance, they can also build analysis statements that compare current tax outcomes to previous compliance activity, highlighting potential anomalies and reconciliation opportunities.”

You can learn more about RPA, machine learning and other forms of AI in the following posts from my colleagues and I:

John Viglione: The Robots are Not Coming for You: Separating AI fact from Fiction

Tricia Schafer-Petrecz: RPA: Robots Apply to Back-Office Functions, Including Tax

John Wilson: Fear Not the AI

Jen Kurtz: Machine Learning Enables “Level 5” Tax Analytics

John Viglione: Robot Tax Proponents are Pushing Buttons

Please remember that the Tax Matters provides information for educational purposes, not specific tax or legal advice. Always consult a qualified tax or legal advisor before taking any action based on this information.

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