Analytics in 40 years: Machines will kick human managers to the curb

Analytics in 40 years: Machines will kick human managers to the curb

Summary: Machines simply make better decisions than humans. That gap will turn into a rout in 40 years as management tasks will be automated.


In the next 40 years analytics systems will replace much of what the knowledge worker does today. In other words, systems like IBM's Watson will be your boss and humans---especially the species known as middle management---will go extinct.

Hi there. I'm your new CEO. Credit: Gamespot

That's the conclusion of Gartner analysts Nigel Rayner. In a "maverick" presentation, Rayner argued that many of the things executives do today will be automated. A maverick presentation is one that makes a case for an outcome that isn't a sure bet.  Rayner, who described the intersection of analytics, economics and business as "a personal journey," certainly was thought provoking.

Here's gist of what you have to look forward to in 40 years.

We are at a tipping point in the evolution of the "Information Age," but business culture is holding back the use of IT. In the future, decision making will be automated and managed by machine-based models far better than any human could manage. Effectively, most of what the CFO, CEO and managers do today will be done better by machines. This will have profound impacts on business, society and the economy. In the short term, the bonus-maximizing behavior of CEOs and management teams will be replaced by an "enlightened capitalism" in which shareholders tell machines how they want their business to operate.

The other jarring conclusion---at least for all the humans in the room---was that we stink at rational decisions. In addition, compensation packages, peer pressure and other nonsense simply distort good decision-making. Machines simply do a better job. Humans can't process information overflow, short product cycles and the pressure to deliver results. "The way we have evolved means that humans don't make rational decisions," said Rayner. "We're not hardwired to be rational. And even if we were, the current environment and the pace of business would make it hard for executives to balance short-term and long-term needs."

Humans overestimate their abilities and glorify the past and those characteristics result in poor decisions. Machines are better than humans at clinical diagnosis, targeting profitable customers, hiring employees and predicting the wine harvest. "Everywhere I look in behavioral modeling, machines outperform humans," said Rayner.

Enter your friendly neighborhood supercomputer---which will be run-of-the-mill in 40 years.

Rayner added:

In the world of business, profitability modeling and optimization applications are identifying previously unknown sources of profits, while statistically-based validated assessments can be more effective for hiring than human managers.

And it's already happening since predictive models are already maximizing profits throughout business. Machines do talent assessment and predictive modeling better already. Pattern-based analytics is the next arms race for technology giants. Just imagine how swell these systems will be in 40 years.

Our end state will be intelligent operations systems and models that will automate companies and the processes that run them. Machines will be the rational brains of business. Humans will do what we do best: Building new services, pondering risks and innovating. In other words, humans will be more strategic thinkers and think about potential Black Swans and tweak models accordingly.

As one of the lowly humans in the room, I couldn't help but wonder about the unemployment line in 40 years. Yes, I'll be a bit over the hill by then, but if you assume the retirement age goes to 95---the only way Social Security will be solvent---this Gartner argument is downright scary to me. Machines are already automating humans out of the way in many industries.

The kicker is that the collective will be in charge of decision-making. Rayner noted:

Most routine management tasks will be eliminated. Instead, the focus will be on innovation in products, services and business models — activities that are much better suited to the human mind (especially the subconscious one). In the world of IT, skills in economic and social modeling will be highly valued.

Sounds great eh? The "John Connor counterpoint" is that all this leisure time and focus on higher-level tasks---since the machines will do everything---will make humans soft. For instance, airline pilots depend on machines so much that they barely know how to manually fly. In this world, we potentially won't be able to innovate, reason and run a business because we'll lose our edge. Collective intelligence and machines will trump the next Steve Jobs.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Banking, CXO, IT Priorities

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  • Believe it when I see it

    Right now, many people are still control freaks when the thought of running a business comes to mind. Relinquishing that control would have to gain them a certain measure of supremacy in the long run. while I could see some benefits where machine logic is in fact more logical and hopefully less corruptible than human logic, that doesn't mean that some one person won't be in control at some point.
  • Watson "the technology" and Watson the "heart and soul" of The IBM.

    Larry, interesting proposition. I wonder if the question were asked of the Watson "technology" today, "Do you think that the benefits that were put in place by Tom Watson Sr. made a difference in The IBM's long term success?" What its response would be?<br><br>If challenged as Tom Watson Sr. was in 1914 to "manage the stock vs. manage the business," what path would the Watson "technology" have taken? Short term or long term view?<br><br>Tom Watson Sr., the person, was the heart and soul of IBM. I would invite you to read what I am writing now and wonder what the Watson "technology's" response would be to this question:<br><br>Who was the Greatest IBM CEO? But of course today we can't ask it why? Can we? It is in the "why" that we see if this machine has true logic, understands human nature and can adapt to the future through logic vs. looking back on what has been done before, ie gather data from those that have had the courage to experiment.<br><br><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"></a><br><br>Peter E. Greulich<br>Author, Publisher and Speaker<br>The World's Greatest Salesman, An IBM Caretaker's Perspective: Looking Back
    • RE: Analytics in 40 years: Machines will kick human managers to the curb

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  • An interesting read, but every generation has said something like this

    It would be great to see it come true though. Too much corruption and self motivators today. Egalitarian hopes for tomorrow.
  • Hi there. I'm your new CEO.

    Why does that face look so much like Donald Trump??
  • And we'll have flying cars and a 20hr workweek too!

    Stay tuned for more WAG predictions from the 'experts'.
  • Is Rayner a machine?

    Perhaps a clown; what utter stupidity. Did he just finish watching WALL-E?
  • Forget 40 Years

    In less than 25 years, our society as we know it will collapse just like all societies before us for the same reasons all the others collapsed. There will be no computers of any kind because there will be no networks because there will be no electricity when the infrastructure collapses. If you're one of those who need someone else to tell you what to do, you won't survive the ammageddon.
    • Why 25 years?


      Why not 45 years? 20 years? Tomorrow?

      Sounds like another WAG...
  • Totally Useless Stuff

    There is a very essential feature of Management called human skills. Your machines even smarter one can't have this. You can't use machines at each and every corner. You need human intelligence weather you like them or not.<br><br>BTW are your current system intelligent enough to handle Human intelligence. Almost every day so called super intelligent algorithm got cracked. Who is taking guarantee for quality decisions Your past Database <img border="0" src="" alt="grin"> <br><br>In 40 years from now. Human will far better then now. Evolutions continues...
  • It wont replace resource managers...

    It will remove the need for an MBA, and tons of useless senior level execs who make bad decisions. No human employee will accept that they report to a machine.

    The only benefit will be to flatten org structure and reduce mental waste in the upper salary pool. However, it could mean even more separation in rich/poor. But I digress...
  • Erroneous premise leads to errant conclusion

    Data is not all binary. Some is non-discrete. And machines cannot factor in necessary emotional and moral components. E.g., there's no way to predict the precise effect on morale of workers that a decision will have. Human communication involving tone of voice, body language, facial expressions...these are things that machines do not understand, nor can replace. They are, and will remain, created and limited, not creative -- which we are, though still limited.
    • Good response...

      Something that the predictions fail to consider is the human factor, which is a lot more than about numbers and simple emotionless decision making.
  • Read how it worked in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

    The computer "woke up" and pretty much managed the revolution.
    • Excellent novel


      Although, while Mike had his own personality & was able to think for himself, he did have some limitations. For example, although he had access to the warden's "fink" files (reports from the undercover agents), & even knew the password to access the files, his programming prevented him from divulging the data to anyone (not even in hardcopy) unless a person told him the password. And while Mike was their key weapon for the revolution, since the warden had (foolishly) made one AI have control over everything (life support, power, transportation, mail, payroll, etc.), they used him to help develop their strategy & assess the odds, but it was still up to the "troika" (Wyo, Prof & the narrator) -- to make the final decisions.
  • Not gonna happen...

    Because, it would lead to destruction of all economies.<br><br>An economy is about earnings, and when the earnings are simply directed at what the shareholders want, then there would be a lot less people employed to create wealth. Wealth is not created by machines, even if machines can lead to efficient methods in the workplace.<br><br>If machines were to be able to make decisions to be followed by low-level employees, who's to say that even the low-level employees would be needed? If machines were to be able to perform middle-management functions, then they'd be able to perform even higher level functions and lower level functions. Then, a corporation might end up being composed of machines doing the high-level decision-making for the low-level machines which would do all the work. With that, we'd end up with nobody having any earnings, or perhaps just a few people with some earnings. At that point, what would be the use of counting wealth or earnings? <br><br>Furthermore, what would be the incentives to work hard or to start a business? Where would the ambitious have any function in society? If the machines were to do it all, or the most important functions in a business, why would anybody want to go to work for that "robotic" business when there would be no path for future personal growth? <br><br>The biggest problem with a "smart" decision machine, is that, it would be an emotionless decision-maker, and it might as well just be a lawn-mower at that point. A decision-maker must consider the humanity involved, otherwise, it will just be machine vs machine, and may the best machine win.<br><br>However, a good place to put intelligent decision-making computers, would be in congress and perhaps even in the presidency. No more party politics and no more lobbying to politicians and no more huge government spending, and no more high-taxation and no more elections. The programmers would be the most important people on earth, but then, even the programmers might have to be highly-evolved computers.
  • thanks