Professionalism & AI:
asking the ethical and normative questions

Disrupting the work of professionals

It is broadly acknowledged that technology will continue to disrupt accounting practice but it could be hard for individual firms to imagine the specific implications and how they can harness or counter this innovation. Technology is ever changing and firms must embrace it, but the current wave of change appears to herald a new chapter that will significantly change the way we work. Also, since technology is impacting all professions, this means that there is an opportunity for collaboration across industries, so we stay abreast of key developments and understand the changes our clients and communities are facing.

The most talked about technologies in professional services firms are big data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). These could dramatically change the way we work, but also the nature of professionalism broadly. Intelligent software and automated systems will mean the professions needs to rethink everything from how they design services to the pyramid structure of the firm itself.

The latest thought-leadership report from ICAEW’s IT Faculty argues that although AI techniques such as machine learning are not new, and the pace of change is fast, widespread adoption in business and accounting is still in early stages. In order to build a positive vision of the future, we need to develop a deep understanding of how AI can solve accounting and business problems, the practical challenges and the skills accountants need to work alongside intelligent systems.

Who should be asking the ethical and normative questions?

In this backdrop of constant technological change and a dominating ‘technological solutionism’ narrative, we also need to engage in critical discussions about the value of technology. Do professions need to provide training to up-skill existing employees to improve retention and morale? Is there a need to engage leadership into strategic planning and discussion on the long-term impact of technology, beyond short-term ‘solutionism’?

If AI is changing our society, should we teach computer scientist basic understanding of ethics? How should we eliminate AI bias and how do we guard against AI ‘mistakes’? How do we keep AI safe from competitors and adversaries?

And, above all: what does it mean to be professional in a world of AI? How do we educate and foster human intelligence?

Futures Salon on professionalism and AI

We invite you to an interactive and thought provoking session about the changing role of professions in a world of artificial intelligence, the opportunities and challenges we face and threats this may bring for the future.

The session will be facilitated by Martin Martinoff, Audit Futures Programme Manager, ICAEW.


Andrew Bone

Andrew is the CEO & Co-founder of Airts, a software company that creates A.I. based resource planning solutions specifically for professional services, and counts two of the Big 4 as customers. Airts was born of the frustration that powerful academic research into operational planning was not crossing over into real-world usage, so Airts seeks to bridge that gap. Andrew was previously at PwC and RBS and holds a 1st class degree in Computer Science from St Andrews.



Dr Ewa Luger

Ewa Luger is a Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Edinburgh (Digital Arts and Humanities), and a consultant research at Microsoft Research, where her research explores applied ethics within the sphere of machine intelligence.  This encompasses practical considerations such as data governance, consent, privacy, transparency, and how intelligent networked systems might be made intelligible to the user, through design.




Stephen Mills

Stephen Mills is leading the analytics and data capability for PwC in the North of England across all industries to help bring new and innovative solutions to market. Stephen joins from IBM where he spent 12 years as an Associate Partner in their Data, Analytics and Cognitive consulting group. Stephen has spent a number of years working with clients on complex data and consulting projects ranging from data-warehouse programmes through to Data and Analytics strategies. More recently Stephen has been focused upon the Cognitive subject area advising clients on where to start with Cognitive and Artificial Intelligence.


Professor Paolo Quattrone

Paolo Quattrone is Professor and Chair of Accounting, Governance and Social innovation at the University of Edinburgh Business School and Dean of Special Projects for the College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences. A truly international scholar, he has conducted research and taught at the Universities of Catania, Kyoto, Madrid Carlos III, Manchester, Oxford, Palermo, Siena, Stanford and Luigi Bocconi of Milan. His work addresses questions related to the emergence and diffusion of accounting and managerial practices in historical and contemporary settings. In his role of Dean of Special Projects, he is coordinating the efforts to develop the Edinburgh Futures Institute, a major interdisciplinary institute aimed at rethinking the economy, education and societies in collaboration with relevant external partners.


Dr Michael Rovatsos

Michael Rovatsos is a Reader at the School Informatics of the University of Edinburgh, where he has been leading the Agents Research Group since 2004. His research is in multiagent systems with a particular focus on methods to avoid and mitigate conflict among (human and artificial) agents with divergent objectives or beliefs. Over the past few years, he has increasingly focused on human-oriented AI, both in terms of building intelligent systems that support human collaboration, and in developing fair, accountable, and transparent AI algorithms. He received his PhD in Informatics from the Technical University of Munich in 2004, has published over over 85 papers on these topics, and has been involved in externally funded research projects worth over €10m.


Professor Burkhard Schafer

Burkhard Schafer is a Professor at Edinburgh Law School, The University of Edinburgh. He studied Theory of Science, Logic, Theoretical Linguistics, Philosophy and Law at the Universities of Mainz, Munich, Florence and Lancaster. His main field of interest is the interaction between law, science and computer technology, especially computer linguistics.

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