AI poses a leadership test for business
By Knowledge@Wharton staff
Presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article published with permission from Knowledge@Wharton, the online research and business analysis journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
The increasing attention being paid to artificial intelligence (AI) raises questions about its integration with social sciences and humanity, according to David De Cremer, founder and director of the Centre on AI Technology for Humankind at the National University of Singapore Business School.
He recently authored the book, “Leadership by Algorithm: Who Leads and Who Follows in the AI Era?”
While AI today is good at repetitive tasks and can replace many managerial functions, it could over time acquire the “general intelligence” that humans have.
“As we are becoming more aware, we are moving into a society where people are being told by algorithms what their taste is, and, without questioning it too much, most people comply easily,” said Mr. De Cremer in an interview with AI for Business (AIB), a new initiative at Analytics at Wharton. “Given these circumstances, it does not seem to be a wild fantasy anymore that AI may be able to take a leadership position.”
Many business leaders aren’t “tech savvy enough” to make the business case for AI’s use within their company. All managers and leaders, he argues, will have to “understand what an algorithm exactly does,” including its potential and limits to support efficient decision-making.
Training in soft skills will likely become even more important with AI set to replace many tasks involving hard skills, Mr. De Cremer stated.
Indeed, his book is not only a warning that AI could replace leaders, but that humans have certain unique qualities the technology will never have.
AI will never have “a soul” and cannot replace human leadership qualities that let people be creative and have different perspectives. Leadership is required to guide the development and applications of AI in ways that best serve the needs of humans. “The job of the future may well be [that of] a philosopher who understands technology, what it means to our human identity, and what it means for the kind of society we would like to see,” he noted.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What adjustments may retail leadership have to make to capture the benefits and avoid the risks of artificial intelligence? What skill sets will become more and less important for leaders as AI takes on additional tasks?