Article: The job most at risk of an AI takeover isn't what you think


The job most at risk of an AI takeover isn't what you think

In an ironic twist, senior leaders appear to lose the most if they fall behind in the AI revolution.
The job most at risk of an AI takeover isn't what you think

If the idea of a robot overlord taking over your job is keeping you up at night, get this – there’s one executive bound to have more sleepless nights than everybody else should they fall behind in AI usage. The CEO. The role most at risk of “being subjugated by AI,” according to a top advisor to senior leaders.

In an exclusive conversation with People Matters’ Mint Kang, Aaron McEwan of Gartner explained the likelihood of having a robot CEO driving the decision-making process. AI will be capable of guiding the board to make the right choices based on hard data.

“It’s about the responsible delivery of shareholder value,” said McEwan, who is Vice President of Research & Advisory at Gartner.

And it’s this pressure to create greater shareholder value which could ultimately spell doom for CEOs who call the wrong shots because of a myopic view of risks and opportunities.

Speaking on the sidelines of Qualtrics X4 Sydney, McEwan said that in the future: “Boards will be uncomfortable with leaving those decisions in the hands of fallible, biased, privileged, human beings driven primarily by self-interest.”

Human leaders tend to ignore data

The debate around the future of work has raised questions about the effectiveness of today’s leadership at addressing the complexities of modern work. Case in point: how some organisations mishandled their response to the COVID crisis.

“In my experience during the pandemic, particularly around the debate of remote and hybrid work versus in-office work, CEOs, boards and executive teams were not making data-driven, evidence-based decisions. They were ignoring the data and relying on their gut feeling and emotion,” he said.

“Everybody knows that’s not how to run a company. And if you’re a publicly listed company, you have lots of responsibility to run the company in the right way.”

This tendency to ignore data can lead to making bad decisions on behalf of stakeholders – be they employees, investors, or their larger community. In turn, it causes distrust in the executive leadership.

“For whatever reason – and this, I think, underpins the massive popularity of generative AI – humans have a tendency to believe robots,” McEwan pointed out.

Robot CEO at the helm: Goodbye, executive team?

The rise of generative AI for executive decision support, a.k.a. the robot CEO, can help top decision-makers become better-informed leaders.

“It’s going to be one of the first areas where we see the genuine committed use of augmented decision-making: at the highest levels of the organisation. That’s where it’s going to really matter and where decisions have the biggest consequences,” McEwan said.

But what exactly does an AI-augmented C-Suite look like?

“There will be an AI in the boardroom as the executive team goes through [decisions] there. But even before that, the strategy will be created in conjunction with AI and humans, so [together] they will develop the strategy and the strategy will then be confirmed and debated on by the executive team,” he said. “The AI in the room will call out cognitive limitations. You know, ‘Excuse me, Mrs. Chairman, but you just succumbed to the halo effect.’”

Humans as ethical oversight for AI

Going by McEwan’s predictions, the role of AI in the boardroom will be to facilitate checks and balances and present data in a comprehensive manner to aid deliberations.

“It’ll be designed to get better and better at decision-making. Eventually, I think, what we’ll end up with is – this is longer and longer, further into the future – the executive teams won’t be running the business,” McEwan forecast.

“As such, what [human leaders will] be doing is overseeing the decisions made by algorithms to ensure that they are in the interest of shareholders and that they are not biased or prone to hallucinations,” he said. “So it’ll be almost like an ethical oversight.”

Today’s leaders a.k.a. human CEOs stand to lose much if they lose touch with the potential of AI to augment their executive decision-making and value creation process.

“In maybe the world’s largest ironic twist,” McEwan said, “it might be the CEO who needs to worry about their job the most.”

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Topics: Leadership, C-Suite, #Future of Work, #Artificial Intelligence

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