Peter Graham: Is AI another millennium bug that will come to nothing?

Peter Graham: Is AI another millennium bug that will come to nothing?

Peter Graham

Forensic accountancy specialist Peter Graham discusses the concerns surrounding AI’s potential to radically change society and replace entire professions, drawing a parallel with the overhyped fears about the Y2K bug that ultimately amounted to little disruption.

I am of a vintage to be able to remember eminent IT experts and IT professionals urging us to prepare for the millennium bug or Y2k problem. Without remedial action, this was not only to going to stop computers working but almost all machinery that used electricity and relied upon integrated circuits (microchips). Not only would I not be able to use a train to get to work; my car, my fridge, television and toaster would all be unable to operate when I woke up on the 1 January 2000.

In the last few years and months of the 20th century, many institutions, organisations and businesses spent vast sums of money ensuring that IT systems would be able to function when we returned to work after new year in the year 2000. There were other institutions and organisations that spent very little.

Nothing happened and life continued as before and there were no widespread computer wipe outs on 1 January 2000. Furthermore, I was able to take cold milk from a functional fridge, travel to work using the train and continue to enjoy my favoured television programmes as before.

I do remember the odd amusing problem such as very old pensioners in certain local authorities who were born in 1896, being issued letters confirming their place for starting at primary school.

Fast forward a quarter of a century or so and eminent IT experts and IT professionals are again shouting from the roof tops and speaking to anybody who will listen but this time it is about AI. AI is going to change society and how we do things. Furthermore, certain knowledge based professions and industries will be swept away and gone for good. It will all be in the computer.

I do not advocate doing nothing or indeed predict that AI will all come to very little, and that life will essentially be the same as before with little change. AI is here. In certain instances, it works very well. Indeed, my own limited experiments with ChatGPT show me that it can work at certain levels albeit with high levels of miss within the hits.

I do question the need to rush to fully embed it within businesses and organisations and therefore simply sweep away all we do now. Replacing every professional or decision maker with a computer will only create a different raft of problems.

Businesses and organisations will continue to face evolving challenges and problems, (big and small). AI is another tool that now exists to help us solve and overcome these challenges and problems. In many instances, the solution to the problem could be AI based and that could, in turn, provide these businesses and organisations with a cost advantage or ability to do things quicker and more accurately thus leading to productivity and efficiency gains.

I intend to try to be aware of what computers and AI can achieve and recognise that this will be a moving feast. No doubt I will achieve this with increasing levels of help from my children and younger colleagues. With a sensible application of proven AI, maybe some things we find difficult now will improve in the future.

I wait to see, and will no doubt be doing certain things differently in the years ahead.

Peter Graham is a director at Henderson Loggie

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