Soon, You'll Be Taking Orders From Your PC

from the Life-Emulating-Dilbert dept

It seems that as long as computers have been able to perform human tasks, there have been debates about what jobs will never be done by computers, because they rely on human judgment and intuition. But as computers advance, they have been able to take on an increasing number of roles. Now a researcher claims that much of middle management could be done by a computer, as algorithms perform better at budgeting, purchasing and personnel decisions. It’s the consistency and lack of emotions displayed by the machines that cause them to be superior. Embedding knowledge into a computer is also advantageous, in that the knowledge can’t just walk away when a top manager takes an offer from an opposing firm. Of course, there are those who dispute all this with their own research that shows the opposite, that human intelligence and intuition is extremely important in the business setting. In reality, it shouldn’t be an either/or debate. Automation frees up humans to do things that computers can’t begin to tackle. When computers start to do those things, it will create a new set of challenges and opportunities for humans, in an ongoing, beneficial cycle.

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Comments on “Soon, You'll Be Taking Orders From Your PC”

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MissingFrame (user link) says:

Already there ...

In the morning, someone has a computer wake them up. On the drive to work, a computer shows them which direction to go. Computers control the stoplights they are sitting at, and the music selection they listen to. Their computer at work shows them a task list, the schedule it needs to be done, what time they can take lunch, and when they can return home.

Chances are, if middle management was a computer, I’d probably trust it’s decision more.

Anonymous Coward says:


I wonder how long before our country is run by a computer.

Never you say?

One day computers will be able to predict outcomes of various policies and judge whether or not the benefits outweign the costs.

Computers will make better leaders. Military, socially, and politically.

Countries that take a moral high-ground and don’t have a computer rule them will be left in the dust.

I just hope the programmers leave a back door so we can turn it off in case of a malfunction.

Javelin says:

Isn't unemployment high enough

Make me a computer that can work a fast-food window, then we can talk. Creating white-collar robots is the stupiest thing I have ever heard. What self-respecting human is going to take orders from a stinkin’ machine? Besides, where is the accountability? Humans barely have it. How is a computer [robot] going to be answerable for a mistake? Do we just take it out of the programmer’s hide?

Javelin says:

Re: Klattu

Speaking of the Army of Darkness, perhaps a few dozen badly animated skeletons would make good managers?

They are heartless, whatever you tell them goes in one ear and out the other, and you dont have to pay them C.O.L.A. every year because they aren’t living.

Now that I say that I’m thinking it must be some Republican conspiracy to rape the last vestiges of the middle-class for a sweeter plumper bottom-line.

You Bastards!

Hmmm. says:

So many pessemists

Or, on the flip side to what everyone is freaking out about, imagine being able to relax and go on vacation without having to worry about whether or not the person you left in charge in is doing a good job. Imagine not bringing your work with you every where you go. Imagine being able to enjoy the subtleties of life that right now because you do *everything* you’re missing out on living. True, it’s somewhat scary to progress as a society, but then again people said similar things when the cotten gin was invented, or the automated loom, or even calculators. I say let Excel run the office!

Norm says:


When was the last time you played a game where you couldn’t destroy the AI by your second or third attempt?

Computers are great for keeping statistics and trend data but are completely incapable of involving intangible data in their AI. A good manager is effective BECAUSE of their interpersonal and networking skills not in spite of them. When was the last time you felt like you owed a computer a favor?? ;o)

Man in Black says:

So many pessemists

The reality, like so many other new tools this one isn’t going to take over anything. It is more likely to be that there are simply fewer middle managers with greater headcount beneath them and the ‘middle manager software’ will be a tool at their side to carry out their intent without them having to do all of the minutiae of the job. There will still be managers for the workers to talk to, (when they aren’t in meetings), those managers would still tweak the budget numbers that the program gave to favor their pet projects and hide the overruns, and managers would still make the strategic decisions. The program may even be able to hand out assignments and handle routine activities so that their managers can go on vacation without Jabras in their ears 24/7 while soaking up the sun on Maui. It will be another tool to reduce headcount; managers this time, and have the remaining managers get more done with less.

The objective of this really will be to save money and raise profits… profits which will of course go to shareholders and not be passed to employees or as savings to customers.

Insaniac says:

Learn from the past...

If one were to take a look at the way technology has progressed, it should be easy to recognize a trend. When a person’s job is replaced by a machine, we don’t usually have a Jetson’s style nanny scootering around doing the jobs that a human once did.

Instead, the technology is used by humans to improve efficiency or capability. For instance, when the vacuum cleaner was invented, it didn’t just vacuum the house on its own. The janitor was still required to operate it. And if similar advancements were made so that the vacuum was autonomous, the janitor’s role would be modified so that he would perhaps run multiple cleaning machines at once.

Another example is the agricultural industry. With the introduction of technology, the number of workers required to harvest an acre of crop significantly dropped. But, the machines still require operators to function.

All of this is simply to say that humans will never be obsolete. And, more specifically, elimination of middle management doesn’t mean that everyone will be taking orders from robots. It just means that the responsibility of the middle management will be passed up or down the line….most likely in the form of software that performs certain tasks or functions depending on the nature of the business in question.

And as far as the viability of computers running the country? Can’t happen and won’t happen. Even if we assume that computers will have the advanced capability to “predict outcomes of various policies and judge whether or not the benefits outweigh the costs,” they will still need someone to tell them what is bad and good. They will need someone to tell them what to calculate and predict.

Ultimately, computers can only do what they are designed to do: compute. This means that a human will always be the one collecting the information at the end of the day to decide what to do with it, or at the very least, we will be directing what the computer perceives to be the desired outcome of a certain problem that it is trying to solve.

Bottom line: Humans > Machines

mroonie (user link) says:

Re: Learn from the past...

Well said….even at high levels of problem solving and reasoning, it seems at best that computers and robots will always still have to be run and controlled by their creators = humans.

You will also notice that in most technological trends, a lot of gadgets are designed to make our lives more convenient, when in reality, it’s just added more stress because now everybody is expected to perform faster. For example, email, fax machines, and phones. After faster ways to communicate were developed, there was no excuse for not being able to give immediate responses. A machine that would supposedly allow us to be more lazy, actually made MORE work for us to do because we were expected to be able to do it faster…..

I feel that robots/computers will just add more hustle-bustle, and continue to suck us dry of all interpersonal communication and emotion that makes life meaningful.

Mockingbird (profile) says:

the middle class

middle management is kindof like the middle class.

if it is replaced by computers, the lower class will still have to program, uipdate those computers etc.

this will create an upper class (executives) and lower class (workers – programmers, IT guys, secretaries, etc etc)

but.. executives usually come FROM middle management.

they learn skills and work their way up.

with computers in this middle role, how can a worker ever achieve the insight needed to be a long term thinking executive?

seems like a system that would collapse. there needs to be 2 things.

1> a way of breeding executives.

2> incentive for a worker to work harder and “work his way up” in a company…

no answers, just observations.

LiLWiP says:

Re: the middle class

“seems like a system that would collapse. there needs to be 2 things.

1> a way of breeding executives.

2> incentive for a worker to work harder and “work his way up” in a company… ”

Nope. Those things were solved in Gattaca. We bioengineer our management. If you are born “au naturale” then you’re a worker bee. Only way to get a managment position or high paying position is to have been cloned. The future is here!

Lazy Dude says:

Just Management?

Why have computers replace some jobs? Once machines are running electrical generators, hydrogen production, food production, and production of everything else on this planet, including each other, I can just sit back, relax, and not pay a dime for anything.

Of course that will unfortunately never happen, because most humans want to feel better than other humans and they tipically do that through wealth and personal possesions.

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