Meet your new boss: An algorithm

There is evidence computers may be better suited to some managerial tasks than people are. Humans are susceptible to cognitive traps like confirmation bias. People using intuition tend to make poor decisions but rate their performance more highly, according to a 2015 University of New England analysis of psychological studies. And in an increasingly quantitative business world, managers are asked to deliver more data-driven decisions—precisely the sort at which machines excel.

“What managers do mostly is identify potential, build teams, assign tasks, measure performance and provide feedback. Generally speaking, humans aren’t very good at these tasks,” said Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at University College London. “Someday, we might not need managers anymore.”

Other researchers suggest AI, too, can fall prey to traps when making decisions. AI systems are often trained to make decisions by finding similarities to historical data. But that can make them bad at predicting rare events, such as when employees would excel at a task they haven’t encountered before, said Michael Veale, a researcher in responsible machine learning at University College London. “What makes a great salesman this year might not make a great salesman next year,” Mr. Veale said.

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