The rate of artificial intelligence (AI) development is quickening across a range of typologies and an expanding range of applications now includes even management. McKinsey has already noted that between ‘…25-30 percent of current activities (at the C-suite level) can already be automated using currently developed technologies,’ let alone the rapidly evolving suite that is threatening to take over further.
Increasingly, with AI influencing management decisions via provision of evidence-based models, the idea of such AI generated insight being fed to workers via fully AI mediums will become science fact rather than science fiction in coming years. Corporate visions are already appearing; Bridgewater Associates, a $160 billion hedge fund, has suggested that it would like artificial intelligence software to make 75 percent of all management decisions by 2022[i].
The idea of AI bosses may seem implausible to some, but once you disassociate the notion of jobs from their constituent tasks, it makes more sense. A job will continue to evolve in what it does and how it does things after automation. Bank tellers still exist (although at reduced numbers) in 2017, decades after the introduction of the ATM IN 1969, but bank tellers now have a different skillset and purpose than they used to.
Looking at the chokepoints of business productivity is also instructive. Office workers are estimated to spend a third of their time in the workplace collecting and processing data but AI could streamline and even eliminate the need to spend time on this[ii]. If management is thought of as, in part, the diffusion of tasks designed to help the company meet its objectives, arrived at via the gathering and processing of data and then acting upon it then it becomes clear that AI could have a role. The role, scope and skillset of management would need to evolve as a result, as would greater organisational structures. Flatter structures may be inherently more agile but the transformation of many legacy organisations into such a structure would inevitably place change management and organisation design at a premium.
Ultimately, as we suggest in our free What’s Hot in Technology 2017 paper, the move to robo-bosses would require the creation of a robust and flexible data infrastructure. AI relies on data and could, in some circumstances, accentuate and spread the negative impacts of low quality data. Strategically implemented however, robo-bosses could usher in new work forms, new forms of value and a boom in productivity.