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审计中的机器学习Machine Learning in Auditing

来源:本站原创 浏览量: 发布日期:2020/9/17 10:24:58

Current and Future Applications


 审计中的机器学习Machine Learning in Auditing

Machine learning is a key subset of artificial intelligence (AI), which originated with the idea that machines could be taught to learn in ways similar to how humans learn. While humans are just beginning to comprehend the dynamic capabilities of machine learning, the concept has been around for decades. The proliferation of data, primarily due to the rise of the Internet and advances in computer processing speed and data storage, has now made machine learning a significant component of modern life. Common examples of machine learning can be found in e-mail spam filters and credit monitoring software, as well as the news feed and targeted advertising functions of technology companies such as Facebook and Google.

机器学习是人工智能(AI)的一个重要分支,人工智能起源于这样一个理念:机器可以通过类似于人类学习的方式来学习。当人类刚刚开始理解机器学习的动态能力时,这个概念已经存在了几十年。数据的激增,主要是由于互联网的兴起以及计算机处理速度和数据存储的进步,现在已经使机器学习成为现代生活的一个重要组成部分。机器学习的常见例子可以在电子邮件垃圾邮件过滤器和信用监控软件中找到,也可以在FacebookGoogle等科技公司的新闻提要News Feed和目标广告功能中找到。

Machine learning has the potential to disrupt nearly every industry during the next several years, and the auditing profession is no exception. Rather than relying primarily on representative sampling techniques, machine learning algorithms can provide firms with opportunities to review an entire population for anomalies. When audit teams can work on the entire data population, they can perform their tests in a more directed and intentional manner. In addition, machine learning algorithms can “learn” from auditors’ conclusions on specific items and apply the same logic to other items with similar characteristics.


What is Machine Learning?


Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence that automates analytical model building. Machine learning uses these models to perform data analysis in order to understand patterns and make predictions. The machines are programmed to use an iterative approach to learn from the analyzed data, making the learning automated and continuous; as the machine is exposed to increasing amounts of data, robust patterns are recognized, and the feedback is used to alter actions. Machine learning and traditional statistical analysis are similar in many regards, but different in execution. While statistical analysis is based on probability theory and probability distributions, machine learning is designed to find the combination of mathematical equations that best predict an outcome. Thus, machine learning is well suited for a broad range of problems that involve classification, linear regression, and cluster analysis.


审计中的机器学习Machine Learning in Auditing

Supervised learning is used in situations where historical data can be used to predict future outcomes, such as determining which customers are most likely to default on their debt. Unsupervised learning is used where there are no labels on the output variables; the system is not “told” what the assumed answer is, but instead figures out the data patterns on its own. Unsupervised learning contains different techniques that can be used on transactional data (e.g., cluster analysis) and may be beneficial if used as part of the risk assessment process to discover previously unforeseen risks. There is also semi-supervised learning, which contains a combination of labeled and unlabeled output data.


The predictive reliability of machine learning is dependent on the quality of the historical data that has been input. New and unforeseen events may create invalid results if left unidentified or inappropriately weighted. As a result, human biases can play an important role in the use of machine learning. Such biases can affect which data sets are chosen for training the AI, the methods chosen for the process, and the interpretation of the output. Finally, although machine learning has great potential, its models are still currently limited by many factors, including data storage and retrieval, processing power, algorithmic modeling assumptions, and human understanding and judgment.


Current and Potential Future Uses


Although there are limitations to the current capabilities of machine learning, it excels at performing repetitive tasks. Because an audit requires a vast amount of data and has a significant number of task-related components, machine learning has the potential to increase both the speed and quality of audits. The machine-based performance of redundant tasks should allow auditors more time for review and analysis, which would give them a greater ability to focus on the areas of greatest risk, as well as a better understanding of the larger picture.


审计中的机器学习Machine Learning in Auditing

In the future, machine learning technology could allow CPA firms to detect patterns that currently might otherwise go unnoticed. For example, a restaurant might use historical financial data related to satellite imagery of parking lots, guest count information obtained from point of sale systems, and restaurant employee schedules to demonstrate a strong correlation between high revenues and the number of cars in parking lots during peak hours, high customer guest counts, and high employee wages. By recognizing these patterns, the system could identify locations with revenues inconsistent with vehicle counts, guest counts, or wages. This would allow the auditors to focus on restaurants with inconsistencies rather than selecting restaurants on a random basis.


Challenges for Auditors


Audit firms and regulators must overcome several barriers in order for machine learning technologies to reach their full capabilities. Obtaining relevant and useful data (particularly nonfinancial data) from clients and external sources may be difficult. Due to statutory and regulatory limitations, auditors do not typically have access to vast amounts of information from data stores like Google or Facebook. Auditors are also bound by certain ethical and client confidentiality requirements, which may limit their ability to access the quality and quantity of data needed to build their training datasets.


When relevant and useful data is available for use, auditors must understand and test the internal controls over data integrity and validate the completeness and accuracy of the input data in order to rely on the output. Data security and information integrity will be critically important in determining the reliability of the input data used in machine learning. Auditors will need to work with cybersecurity experts to determine that the client data is secure; otherwise, unauthorized access to financial and nonfinancial data may allow for inappropriate data manipulation that could skew the results.


审计中的机器学习Machine Learning in Auditing

Because of the inherent limitations of machine pattern-finding, auditors will continue to need an understanding of the individual business and its industry, as well as the external business environment and societal forces. For example, user accounts might be the best predictor of revenues for companies such as Facebook and therefore should be given the appropriate weighting in the internal algorithm. Without judgment as to what to specifically look for, the authenticity of accounts and the presence of “bots” may not be detectable by machines and could lead auditors to reach incorrect conclusions. Auditors will need to understand and validate the completeness and accuracy of the input data in order to reach an appropriate conclusion on the output. Furthermore, there will always be potential blind spots when evaluating empirical evidence; therefore, an auditor’s intuition will likely continue to be an important source of knowledge.


Future auditors will need to become more versatile and have a solid understanding of information systems, data science, and general business, in addition to an increasingly complex set of accounting and auditing rules and regulations. Whereas in the past audits have had a largely transactional focus, future audits will become increasingly interconnected. Audit firms need to be aware of changing auditor skillsets in order to help manage the disruption risks associated with machine learning technologies.


While machine learning technology affords auditors a greater ability to consider internal systematic relationships and external environmental forces, auditors must also exhibit a solid understanding of the input, processing, and output of data from a broader range of sources. In addition, while machine learning technology can provide significantly improved opportunities for auditors to explore their intuition, auditors must change their mode of thinking in order for these insights to be effective. Although it is impossible to foretell exactly how machine learning will ultimately change the audit process, now is the time to begin contemplating its current impact and future implications.







 审计中的机器学习Machine Learning in Auditing