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BCAS President CA Mihir Sheth’s Message for the Month of April 2023

While you may be in the mood for relaxing after the financial year-end pressures of March, I thought let me lighten it further with some hilarious piece of ‘knowledgeable’ writing.

“The profession of Chartered Accountancy is represented by the accountants who have passed the examination conducted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants. This body was established under the Statute by the Parliament in 1949 and regulates the profession of accountancy with policies and guidelines for the Chartered Accountants. It will enter its 75th year in 2023-24. Bombay Chartered Accountants’ Society is a separate voluntary body of Chartered Accountants whose main objective is to disseminate knowledge and impart quality education to its members, students and accounting community at large” It will also be entering its 75 the year”.

If you are wondering why have I written these obvious facts known to everyone, let me clarify that this is the piece of writing you may end up with if you query ChatGpt about ‘75 years of ICAI and the BCAS’. What seems obvious and may be hilarious today has become a challenge to many professions and is causing a lot of heartburn due to insecurity about the future of their profession. Because what seems a possibility may soon become a reality. ChatGpt is continuously refining itself and has the capability of taking over a lot of tasks which are currently handled by skilled human beings.

The challenge posed by the technology to any existing norms, methodology and value system is not new. It has been happening since the dawn of civilization. This is how mankind has progressed. Every innovation has posed existential threats to a certain section of society, which then has been forced to adapt and evolve to more efficient ways to stay relevant. History will testify that every innovation or technology in its initial avatar only attempted to resolve a single challenge. The one which the innovator was obsessed with. However, the thinking faculty of human beings adapted it to various other uses over a period. A classic example is an airplane. What started the fascination for flying was just to feel like a bird, to view the world from the ground above. It was never thought to be for the transportation of passengers and cargo across the globe. Look at the scenario today. How it has changed its role and context. If we look back, we will realize that similar things have happened in the case of most technologies… be it the telephone, car, computer or even the mobile. It is the supremacy of the human mind which has shaped and improved the technology to put them to varied use because humans have a gift of this unique ability viz. thinking.

Unfortunately, the advent of new technology in the form of Artificial Intelligence (AI) embedded in the ChatGpt poses a threat to this very innate ability of the human being. The way it has been configured is that it quickly assimilates entire related data on the web and reproduces it in a summarized manner. So it becomes ready to cook and eat meal with some scope for dressing and seasoning. No thinking skills are required to be put to use and we may start living on a borrowed intelligence from the existing domain without stretching thinking beyond the limits, which is necessary to invent newer ways. And now a newer version has been launched viz. ChatGPT-4 – a more powerful version with advanced reasoning capabilities that enables it to crack difficult problems with greater accuracy. Responses are now more factual as it has access to greater data and training. Is the threat real? I think it is.

In an interview with ABC, Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI and creator of ChatGPT, recently admitted that the AI chatbot could eliminate many jobs. He also mentioned this technology itself was incredibly potent and potentially hazardous and expressed support for regulating it. One of the top concerns is that ChatGPT could be extensively used by cybercriminals to further their game. It has been able to expertly generate phishing emails to implant malicious code to steal online data. ChatGPT is also well-equipped to build scam websites, create spam content and spread fake news. Scary? I think so.

While ChatGPT has proven to be a great boon in the sphere of education – becoming a powerful tool for both educators and students, its capabilities are already a nightmare as students are using it to do their assignments. Fortunately, the software is already available to detect AI-written text. ChatGPT’s responses are influenced and ‘taught’ by the numerous interactions with its users, which has resulted in pronounced racial and gender biases. And though the chatbot has access to humungous amounts of data, it still has accuracy issues that colour the truth. So, let us pledge to use ChatGPT as a good ‘servant’ without making it a ‘master’! Let us not sacrifice our ability to ‘think’. Let us not forget the famous saying of Rene Descartes “I think therefore I am”.

Mid-March witnessed the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank – America’s 16th largest commercial bank. The dizzying speed with which it got wiped out, spooked the banking world and the markets which feared a broader meltdown. The government stepped in and guaranteed customer deposits, but the repercussions had spread far and wide and lingered on. In a move to boost confidence, the government shut down Signature Bank, a regional bank that was already teetering on the verge of collapse, and guaranteed its deposits, too.

March also saw the much-revered, but crisis-hit Credit Suisse Bank falter and get swallowed by UBS – Switzerland’s largest banking group. In a swift government-brokered deal, UBS paid $2 billion to acquire its rival in an all-share deal that priced Credit Suisse at around one-fourth of its closing value of $8 billion. The 167-year-old Credit Suisse is the biggest name that was caught in the devastating wake unleashed by the collapse of US lenders Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. The rapid action of the US and Swiss banking authorities have contained the situation and the fallout is not expected to adversely impact India.

However, these collapses occurring at regular interval poses a fundamental question. Is the concept of capitalism a failure? I believe this is a larger issue and I will perhaps discuss this in my next communique.

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Ind AS RSC held at scenic valley view hotel at Khandala was successfully concluded with the active participation of BCAS members as well as non-members. Power Summit held by the Internal Audit committee got an overwhelming response prompting the need to shift the venue to a bigger hall to accommodate a larger number of participants. Much awaited ITF will be held in April at Gandhinagar for which the response has been very encouraging. There are interesting events on the anvil. Please keep a tab on the events announcements.

April is the month of examination of children. It is also a month of bank audits and a deadline for audit reports. It is the month to celebrate Baisakhi and remember the teachings of Mahavir Swami on the occasion of Mahavir Jayanti. I wish you all success in whichever pursuit you will be busy with in this important month.

Goodbye till we meet again next month!

Thank You!

With Best Regards,

CA Mihir Sheth

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