AI FOR HUMANKIND COVER STORY:
A job is, of course, more than simply doing one task, just like running a company is also more than simply calculating a strategy. So, AI becoming your boss will not quickly happen and, if it does, then the lower-paid jobs will be hit first.
I start with this idea, yes, but I do not conclude the book with it. This idea has become popular among thinkers who focus on AI as a serious existential threat – as can be seen in Hollywood movies like “Terminator”. In that perspective, AI will develop into a supernatural force that will have the power to eliminate humans. But, as I make clear in my book, we need to be more realistic about what it is that AI can do and what it cannot do. And, if we engage in that thinking exercise, then it becomes clear that the AI we know today will outperform us when it comes down to routine tasks, which will lead to the earlier-mentioned management by algorithm (MBA) effect. But, a job is, of course, more than simply doing one task, just like running a company is also more than simply calculating a strategy. So, AI becoming your boss will not quickly happen and, if it does, then the lower-paid jobs will be hit first. As a case in point, assembly line workers at Amazon are facing such a situation, as some of them were fired by an algorithm, without necessarily having a human supervisor being involved. So, here you see the real MBA already happening, because these jobs are easy to bring back to executing one task that can easily be monitored and measured. The end result, of course, will then also be that humans are reduced to numbers that are evaluated by machine. In that case, we will be on a path to creating a world that is more suitable for machines than humans. After all, humans will be required to start acting like a machine and that is not really the reason why we want and should apply AI technologies.
For humans to feel any kind of allegiance to an organisation, it’s important that they feel appreciated. Even if an AI system were able to give a perfect imitation of appreciative behaviour, it would be obvious that, in fact, the system had no understanding of the concept of appreciation. Of course, it may be argued that many human managers also synthesise their feelings of appreciation of their subordinates. Nevertheless, even such feigned appreciation might have more credibility than that apparently shown by a machine. Will it ever be possible for an AI system to replicate appreciation in any meaningful way?
As I mentioned earlier, when information is provided that is relevant to how people look at and define themselves then they are very sensitive to the credibility of the source. In those situations, having a machine communicate this information, no matter how nice the voice may be and how respectful the text is construed by the computer (based on, for example, natural language processing abilities), the information will always be seen as not that relevant, because it comes from an entity that does not know what it means to be human. Will AI ever reach that stage? Well, in a way it depends on whether people will ever construe a belief that they will think that the computer has achieved a stage where it has some consciousness to understand humans’ concerns, needs and emotions.
But, to give you a more precise answer, let’s take a look at the synthetic life form with AI, called Data, in the Star Trek franchise. In several episodes, Data shows remarkable intelligence and does things no human can do, but, at the end of the day, Data does not
16 The European Business Review January - February 2021