The rise of the machines? Machine learning and the audit

Machine learning (sometimes known as cognitive automation) and deep learning (or artificial intelligence) are two of the three forms of what is sometimes termed ‘digital labour’, with the third being robotic process automation (RPA).

On a spectrum of technological advancement, RPA is the most basic, machine learning is more sophisticated and deep learning is the most sophisticated. 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.[1]

Whereas RPA uses technology to automate a process such as collecting data, machine learning uses algorithms to analyse data and make correlations and predictions (with human oversight). It is a more ‘intelligent’ form of technology than RPA.

Deep learning is where the technology appears truly intelligent as the machine may learn from its own experience, teach itself how to perform a task or analyse it, and so improve its own performance or effectiveness. It is as though the technology has a brain.