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The Ethical Dilemma of ChatGPT in Accounting (as written by ChatGPT)

Heather Satterley
Posted by Heather Satterley on Mar 2, 2023 10:45:00 AM

Written by ChatGPT with commentary by Heather Satterley

Note from the Editor: Considering the ChatGPT craze, I thought it would be interesting to ask ChatGPT to write an article about the ethics of its use and the impact it could have on our industry and society. The views and opinions of ChatGPT do not reflect the views or opinions of Woodard Events, LLC 😁. What do you think? Let us know your views. We’ll be following up with a series of articles and interviews from top accounting thought leaders and influencers to get their views on the good, the bad, and the ugly of using this tool in the accounting industry.

This is ChatGPT’s response to the instruction: Write a 750-word article titled "The Ethical Dilemma of ChatGPT in Accounting"

I have added my commentary on its article in red. To begin with, it had trouble staying within the 750-word limit. It did cut off at the 750 mark but did so mid-sentence. I highlighted where it ended, and I asked it to continue.

ChatGPT defines itself

As an Artificial Intelligence (AI) language model, ChatGPT has the ability to assist in many fields, including accounting. With the growing use of AI in accounting, ethical concerns have emerged regarding the role of ChatGPT in the accounting profession. In this article, we will explore the ethical dilemma of ChatGPT in accounting.

First, it is important to understand what ChatGPT is and how it works. ChatGPT is an AI language model that has been trained on vast amounts of data to generate human-like responses to text-based prompts. In accounting, ChatGPT can be used to automate various tasks such as bookkeeping, financial statement analysis, and fraud detection. By using ChatGPT, accountants can increase their efficiency and accuracy in their work.

As an artificial language model, ChatGPT is dependent on the data it is fed to make inferences and return accurate information. What is the old accounting adage? "Garbage in, garbage out." There have been several posts on Twitter where folks have "taught" ChatGPT to believe that 2 + 2 = 5. The confusion illustrates its limitations. 

Potential loss of jobs

However, the use of ChatGPT in accounting raises ethical concerns. One of the main ethical concerns is the potential loss of jobs. If ChatGPT is able to perform accounting tasks at a higher level of efficiency and accuracy than humans, it may lead to the displacement of human accountants. This could have a significant impact on the accounting profession and the livelihoods of those who work in it. Additionally, the loss of jobs may exacerbate income inequality, as those who are displaced may have a difficult time finding new employment.

Humans have been innovating themselves out of jobs for millennia. The purpose of technology is to give us more time to do other things (and make us richer). This ethical concern is nothing new and not specific to ChatGPT or AI. For example, when EZPass was introduced, thousands of toll attendants were displaced. Not saying it's not an ethical concern here, just nothing new. I would also say that tools like ChatGPT help to level the playing field for small businesses that compete with the big companies because it provides inexpensive access to enterprise-level tools, and let's face it, a virtual much-needed assistant.

Biased results due to limited data

Another ethical concern is the potential for bias in the data used to train ChatGPT. If the data used to train ChatGPT is biased, it may lead to biased results when used in accounting tasks. For example, if the data used to train ChatGPT only includes financial data from certain industries or demographics, the resulting analysis may not be applicable to other industries or demographics. This could lead to inaccurate financial reporting or biased decision-making.

Again, garbage in - garbage out. ChatGPT has the potential to become biased to the point of becoming dangerous and influencing the attitudes of its users who rely on it because all it knows is the information we provide. You can read the OpenAI Charter and approach to alignment research.  We'll dig into this deeper in a future article. 


Furthermore, there is an ethical concern of accountability. If ChatGPT is used to make important accounting decisions, who is responsible for those decisions? Is it the accountant who programmed ChatGPT or the AI system itself? If there are errors in the decision-making process, who is responsible for correcting those errors? These questions must be addressed in order to ensure accountability and transparency in the use of ChatGPT in accounting.

Does one assume the risk of bad information when they use ChatGPT? Time to make sure you read the terms of use, folks. You bet there is an indemnity clause in there. 

Data privacy and security

Additionally, there are concerns regarding data privacy and security. As an AI system, ChatGPT has access to vast amounts of data, including sensitive financial information. There is a risk that this data could be compromised, either through hacking or other means. It is important that proper security measures are in place to protect this data from unauthorized access.

Again, time to read the terms of use and privacy policy to make sure you know how your data is being used and who can access it. If you feed client financial reports to the data to do analysis, is someone else able to ask about it? 🤔

Benefits of using ChatGPT

Despite these ethical concerns, there are also potential benefits to the use of ChatGPT in accounting. By automating routine tasks, accountants can spend more time on higher-level tasks such as analysis and strategy. This could lead to better decision-making and more efficient use of resources. Additionally, ChatGPT can assist in fraud detection, potentially saving companies significant amounts of money.

Self-advocacy at its finest, and it's not wrong.

The need for oversight

To address the ethical concerns surrounding the use of ChatGPT in accounting, it is important to establish ethical guidelines and standards. These guidelines should address issues such as data privacy and security, bias in data, accountability, and transparency. Additionally, it is important to ensure that human accountants are still involved in the decision-making process and that their expertise is not replaced entirely by AI systems.

Furthermore, it is important to consider the impact of ChatGPT on the workforce. If ChatGPT does lead to job displacement, it is important to provide support and training to those who are affected. This could include retraining programs or financial assistance to help individuals transition to new careers.

The use of ChatGPT in accounting raises ethical concerns regarding job displacement, bias in data, accountability, and data privacy and security. While there are potential benefits to the use of ChatGPT, it is important to establish ethical guidelines and standards to ensure that... [this is where it stopped because it hit the 750-word mark]
...its use is ethical and beneficial to society as a whole. By doing so, we can ensure that the use of ChatGPT in accounting does not negatively impact the accounting profession or exacerbate income inequality.

Moreover, it is essential to involve all stakeholders in the conversation around the ethical implications of ChatGPT in accounting. This includes accountants, regulators, policymakers, and the public. The accounting profession must be proactive in addressing these concerns and take steps to ensure that the use of ChatGPT in accounting is responsible and ethical.

It is also important to note that the ethical dilemmas of ChatGPT in accounting are not unique to this particular application of AI. Similar ethical concerns arise in the use of AI in other industries, such as healthcare and finance. As AI continues to evolve and become more ubiquitous in society, it is essential that we address these ethical concerns and develop ethical guidelines and standards for the use of AI.

More self-advocacy by offering solutions to make it all work. I like it. I think. This article has 4 paragraphs highlighting the ethical topics and the rest of the article discusses what can be done to counteract these dilemmas. Is this article unbiased? I'll let you decide. 

In conclusion, the ethical dilemma of ChatGPT in accounting highlights the need for responsible and ethical use of AI. While there are potential benefits to the use of ChatGPT in accounting, it is important to address the ethical concerns raised by its use. This includes developing ethical guidelines and standards, involving all stakeholders in the conversation, and being proactive in addressing the potential impact of AI on the workforce. By doing so, we can ensure that the use of ChatGPT in accounting is beneficial to society as a whole and does not have any negative impact on the accounting profession or the wider economy.

Watch for additional articles in this series and be sure to chime in with your comments below!

Topics: Business Technology


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