Accountants, have you accounted for AI?

artificial-intelligenceLook out lawyers and accountants. It’s not just chauffeurs and taxi drivers that could be looking for new avenues of employment as machine learning moves forward. According to Gartner, aspects of the legal, financial and even medical professions could be turned into utilities with companies and individuals paying for what they use — just like heating and electricity bills.

The economics of AI and machine learning will lead to many tasks performed by professionals today becoming low-cost utilities,” said Stephen Prentice, vice president and Gartner Fellow.

In a new report on the topic, published this week, the research and advisory company singles out the legal and financial services industries as prime areas where machine learning could have a significant impact.

For example, just like a human lawyer, an AI-backed system designed to replicate the same tasks would take years to train and program, but once ready for service, could be left to run without further expense and of course could be “cloned” an infinite number of times and would never charge for its time or require perks or share options to remain at the company.

“Many competitive, high-margin industries will become more like utilities as AI turns complex work into a metered service that the enterprise pays for, like electricity,” said Prentice.

As for finance, individual complex, but repetitive tasks could be automated via AI — from loan applications, insurance claims adjustments and processing, to collating and validating expenses.

The report arrives as a new cancer diagnosis tool supported by machine learning comes out of stealth mode and into the open. Developed by a Chinese startup called Infervision, the tool uses 50 different algorithms plus over a decade’s worth of existing medical records to help it make sense of x-rays and CT scans and analyze them for signs of cancers. It has already been tested in 20 hospitals in China and can crunch through 100 images a second and of course, being AI backed, it is getting smarter with every image it processes.

However, Infervision wants to make medical professionals’ jobs easier and less stressful rather than consign traditional roles to the history books. And Gartner too believes that although many roles could be at risk, that AI will offer us the opportunity to better deploy our talents and capabilities in other areas.

“Ultimately, AI and humans will differentiate themselves from each other,” said Prentice. “AI is most successful in addressing problems that are reasonably well-defined and narrow in scope, whereas humans excel at defining problems that need to be solved and at solving complex problems. They bring a wide range of knowledge and skill to bear and can work through problems in various ways. They can collaborate with one another, and when situations change significantly, humans can adjust.”