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How small businesses can use AI ethically

A man on a throne sitting on a slab of stone is directing a robot to pull him along

Hi there accounting fans!

With the advent of text based AI like Chat GPT, AI seems to be making its presence felt in bigger ways than before. Of course, none of this is actually new technology, rather it is a culmination of almost half a century of research into artificial intelligence and automation.

The human desire to automate tasks and make them simpler has led to where we are today. With AI becoming more prevalent and ‘human-like’ in its output, some ethical questions arise. Questions like:

Is it ethical to have AI generate content?

In the written word and artisitic out put, AI generated content is controversial. Is the content truly original if all the AI does is produce works based on samples it scours the internet for? Is it any different from a human artist/writer getting inspiration from different sources?

More importantly, as a consumer of content, how would you feel about your content being AI generated?

Does Automation mean that work isn’t done?

When we hire a person or organistion to do work for us, we pay for their hours of work done. What if they have automated their processes to a level where they are spending very little hours doing the job? Would you still pay them the market rate for that output?

At our business, which is one part small business resource and another part compliance and taxation service, we have grappled with some of these ethical questions. Over time, we have developed some internal procedures over what we feel is an ethical use of AI and automation processes:

Transparency is the key to ethical AI use

It’s important for businesses to be transparent about their use of AI and how it is impacting their decisions. This includes the type of AI and automation processes they are using and how it impacts their customers and other stakeholders.

For example, in our accounting firm, SH Advisory we clearly state our use of accounting software in our processes. This means that the financial reports and returns generated by our firm are the result of automation. Our team of accountants reviews the reports and returns before filing them. This saves time and allows our accounting team to focus their attention on responding to client queries.

If you’ve visited our website, The Comic Accountant you should know that we use AI assistance to generate some portions of our articles. Content creation can be a lengthy process. We use AI to generate the rough draft, then we get writers to ensure that it is stylistically coherent with our website and original. This cuts down content generation time by a lot.

Being fair in AI usage

With AI being able to do so much more, there is a tendency from business owners to sideline the humans whose jobs AI can ‘replace’. We disagree with this. Human input is still important for delivering content or services to your clients. AI is a tool which your team can use to make their job easier.

However that also comes with a caveat: Don’t underpay your team just because AI can help them do their job more efficiently. Instead, think about ways they can contribute to the organisation now that AI is lightening their burden.

For example: Your marketing team can use AI generated copywrite and content for small marketing campaigns. This frees up their time to develop quarterly marketing strategies for the business.

Being ethical means being responsible

Businesses have a responsibility to ensure that the use of AI is aligned with their values and ethical principles. This includes considering the potential consequences of using AI and taking steps to mitigate any negative impacts.

If you are using AI to generate content for your business. Care must be taken that you are not infringing upon the copyright of others. You should also take care to shield yourself from plagiarism by ensuring that your AI has not simply grabbed content from another person’s published work. A quick Google seach will usually help resolve this.

Consider the values of your business. Does your current use of AI violate any of your core principles? If they do, then you need to review how your organisation uses AI.

Develop AI use standards for your business

You should have a set of guidelines that dictates how your business uses AI in a way that aligns with your values. Examples include:

  1. No final output by AI – This means that any work produced by your organisation requires human review and/or polish before being sent out to the client.
  2. Constant review of AI usage – The regular review of AI and automation processes ensures that they are working correctly instead of producing wrong outcomes.
  3. No decision making by AI – AI should be used as a tool to facilitate decision making. It should not be used for final decision making. The responsibility and accountability should always lie with a human

AI and automation are just tools

Remember that by the end of the day, these are just tools that you can use to grow your business. Not using AI is foolish but you must use them wisely and ethically. We wish you all the best in navigating this brave new world we are entering!

As always,

Stay positive!

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