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Would You Work for an AI Boss?

a woman learning the pros and cons of robot managers

The rapid inclusion of generative AI into society over the past 18 months has raised some alarms. Its capacity to perform a variety of tasks suggests that many will be displaced in coming years from their existing positions. This is especially true for content creators, publishers, and analysts whose jobs could easily be managed by a computer. But what’s not been highly considered is how generative AI might also replace many company executives. Gradually, AI robot bosses are appearing at some companies guiding the organization. And while pros and cons of robot managers and bosses must be weighed, some companies have little to lose. If successful for these businesses, the experiment may lead to progressive trends throughout the C-suite globally.

a robot hand playing with blocks
The pros and cons of robot managers are numerous, and include worrying if your boss has enough battery.

(It’s perilous to program AI with biases–read why in this Bold story.)

In many ways, generative AI can be seen as a more rational and unemotional leader for a company. It may also be more effective in communicating and examining best strategies to compete. At the same time, there are questions about whether AI systems can be held accountable in the same way a CEO might. These reflect key pros and cons of robot managers that must be weighed. Should the benefits exceed the negative effects, then the emergence of AI robot bosses will grow. Not only might lower-level employees be looking for new positions, but longstanding executives might be as well. And believe it or not, many employees as well as executives are ok with these trends.

“The change delivered by A.I. in corporations will be as great or greater at the higher strategic levels of management as the lower ranks.” – Saul J. Berman, Former Senior Consulting Partner, IBM

The Good and Bad of AI Robot Bosses

In thinking about the emergence of AI robot bosses, the notion seems a bit unsettling. Though sci-fi and pop culture have portrayed robots as company leaders for decades, in reality this seems far-fetched. However, there could be a number of advantages with an AI executive. For example, generative AI is already becoming adept at voice and image generation. This means high-level communications to employees could be improved. AI also is dispassionate and costs much less that paying a corporate executive or manager. And its decisions are rational in nature without emotional overlays and hopefully without internal bias. Each of these demonstrate a favorable shift toward AI when weighing the pros and cons of robot managers.

Of course, there is also some potential for bad if replacing company executives with AI systems. A major issue could be where to place blame with market performance of a company run by AI is poor. In a prior case involving Air Canada, the court ruled a chatbot could not be held liable for poor advice given to a customer. However, this doesn’t mean that some companies may not try to shirk responsibility by hiding behind their AI decision-makers. The emergence of AI robot bosses will therefore usher in new legal challenges related to accountability. This is a disadvantage when assessing the pros and cons of robot managers. But it’s not likely enough to table the idea altogether.

“Someone who is already quite advanced in their career and is already fairly self-motivated may not need a human boss anymore.” – Phoebe V. Moore, Professor of Business Management, University of Essex Business School

Employees Prepped for an AI Change

a robot interviewing for a job
The emergence of AI robot bosses means less embarrassing moments at the office holiday party… maybe.

Whether they knew it or not, the recent pandemic may have actually prepared workers for the emergence of AI robot bosses. During the months that followed the initial outbreak, remote work became the norm. Virtual meetings, digital communications, and increased reliance on technology were essential in order for employees to function. Since that time, hybrid work models and remote work have persisted due to worker preferences and company savings. Given this new norm, it’s perhaps a small step toward having an AI boss. Workers are less likely to analyze the pros and cons of robot managers as negatively as before.

In exploring the question of the pros and cons of robot managers further, some surveys have been rather enlightening. One survey involving hundreds of British workers suggested the emergence of AI robot bosses wasn’t so bad. In fact, 42% stated they would feel perfectly comfortable in this situation. On the flip side, executives were surprising receptive as well. In another survey, nearly half of the executives sampled expected AI to replace many C-level positions. Executives tend to synthesize data, develop strategy, and communicate with workers. These are all tasks that AI could potential do well, and as a result, could displace many company leaders. This would simply be another way to effectively outsource company needs but at a higher level.

“We’ve always outsourced effort. Now we’re outsourcing intelligence.” – Vinay Menon, Consultant, Korn Ferry

Early Adopters of AI Leadership

Despite being fairly new to the corporate landscape, some companies are already experimenting with the AI bosses. For example, NetDragon Websoft, a company with 5,000 employees introduced AI leadership in 2022. Named Tang Yu, this AI-driven rotating CEO guides company decisions and strategies. In Poland, the rum-producing company, Dictador, also has an AI humanoid CEO. Named Mike, it too makes executive-level decisions to aid the company. Certainly, there are pros and cons of these robot managers or executives, but so far, the experiment has been fruitful. This could lead to further emergence of AI robot bosses in time. It’s still difficult to predict when or if the emergence of AI robot bosses will take place.

 

Copyright law and generative AI are fighting a pitched battle–find out why in this Bold story.

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