On the Symphony of AI and Humans in the Work Context

Huawei unveiled the unique version of Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 with a live performance at the iconic Cadogan Hall in London on Monday 4th February.

By David De Cremer

“AI and human employees will form the teams of the future and will have to be led in such ways that both actors can bring their best abilities to the table to create outcomes that cannot be achieved outside the context of this new diversity.”

We all know that our current work settings are being transformed by technology at a rapid pace. One important transformation that is happening concerns the use and implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into the practice of managing organisations. AI runs on algorithms that make calculations based on a rational set of rules that can produce output relevant to a wide variety of decisions and problem-solving operations. Research has convincingly demonstrated that judgments, advice and decisions emerging from algorithmic operations reveals superior outcomes relevant to human experts and judges (Kleinmuntz & Schkade, 1993). Based on these insights it has become apparent to organisations that the employment of algorithms in the context of managerial decision-making can reduce costs and promote efficiency significantly. In fact, the cost saving potential of managing organisations is so enormous that in 2016 a report from the World Economic Forum predicted that AI is expected to replace 5.1 million human jobs by 2020.

These developments have put the question whether AI will replace people’s jobs center-stage. This challenge is taken serious as exemplified, for example, by the existence of a BBC website where one can find out what the likelihood is that your job will be automated – and thus likely disappear – in the next 20 years. The hype of replacing employees (at all levels) by AI has spurred fear among the ranks of the working crowd. This rather pessimistic view is endorsed further by claims of so-called tech gurus saying that the rapid development we are witnessing today in the AI-field will for sure make that everything is going to change. At the moment, we seem to be heading towards a business environment where algorithms will be implemented with such ease that we will have to decide how and where humans can still play a role. In other words, AI is supposed to lead and humans will have to see how and where they can follow. 

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David De Cremer is Provost Chair, Professor of Management and Organisation at National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School, a fellow at the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, and a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Before moving to NUS he was the KPMG endowed Professor in Management Studies at Cambridge Judge Business School. He has published over more than 250 academic articles and book chapters and is the author of the book Pro-active Leadership: How to overcome procrastination and be a bold decision-maker and co-author of “Huawei: Leadership, culture and connectivity”.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.