In August 2022, Hong Kong-based Chinese online games and applications company NetDragon Websoft appointed Tang Yu as CEO of its subsidiary Fujian NetDragon Websoft. Tang Yu was responsible for activities typical of a CEO, including high-level analysis, risk assessments, strategic decisions, and more. Tang Yu worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He didn't sleep and received no compensation. Naturally, this was only possible because Tang Yu is not a human being, but rather a robot equipped with Artificial Intelligence (AI). So far, the change has had no visible negative consequences for the organization. In fact, since being led by AI, the company has improved its performance on the Hong Kong stock exchange.
In a press release, Dejian Liu, chairman of NetDragon, said: "We believe that AI is the future of management and Tang Yu's appointment represents our commitment to AI as a way to transform the management of our business and drive growth." He added: "We will continue to expand the algorithms that underpin Tang Yu to build an open, interactive and highly transparent management model, as we gradually transform ourselves into a metaverse-based working community."
But can Tang Yu be a complete leader? Can AI be the prototype CEO we want for our organizations?
AI algorithms have already made great strides in optimizing factory operations and even replacing many white-collar jobs. We've probably all been served by chatbots, or service robots that simulate human beings, and probably didn't even realize it. And we already knew that AI could replace cashiers at supermarkets or service stations, or construction workers. The recent wave of technological development has shown that even those jobs that are supposed to have the highest added value, from doctors to lawyers and teachers, are going to be affected, and AI is a powerful tool for leveraging management.
It seems inevitable that, in the future, we will coexist surrounded by algorithms, and that we will need to know how to deal with them in order to address many of the ethical issues that their use raises.
It also seems clear that AI will bring about many changes in many areas of organizations, and will destroy many jobs, but that doesn't mean it will take the place of humans. In part, it could free people from more mechanical and less stimulating tasks, as other technologies have done in the past. And while it will certainly reconfigure the entire organization of work, man will certainly continue to be central and have a wide range of activities to carry out.
AI has no sensitivity, no empathy, no compassion, it doesn't care about people and it would never be a complete leader. Ironically, the development of AI can lead us to perfect the human side of managers, because that is the side that will make the difference between a leader and an algorithm.
As the ranks of robots swell, as data and AI combine to achieve extraordinary things, we need to ask ourselves how we can use curiosity, creativity, intuition, and imagination to build a new relationship with this brave new world. I think it will be the most resistant professionals, who, fearful of innovation, don't try to adapt by resisting it, who will have their future most at risk.
How can we leverage human assets and advances in technology to build a better tomorrow? We may not have the answers yet, but fearing AI does nothing to help us. It's much better to embrace it, to use the time previously spent on mundane tasks to reshape our jobs and our futures.
At universities we need to develop an educational ecosystem that discusses and uses AI. At Nova School of Business and Economics, in collaboration with Nova Medical School and as part of the Estoril Conferences, we will continue to promote debate on the implications for the economy, education and health, which the public will be able to follow. And, as the American essayist and poet Diane Ackerman says, "it's poetic to think that, as technology advances, we may become more human."