The Rise of AI CEOs: Is the Future of C-Suite Leaders Threatened?


The epoch of the 60s heralded a new dawn in artificial intelligence. With the proof of principle of computers becoming more accessible, cheaper, and better at storing information, critics were intrigued by the possibility of a machine that could translate and transcribe spoken language, with high data processing. 

“In three to eight years, the world will know of a machine with the general intelligence of an average human being.”

– Marvin Minsky in 1970

The fog of optimism was breached when the end goals of abstract thinking, self-recognition and natural language processing seemed too advanced to achieve. Computers could not process substantial information fast enough, making them millions of times weaker to exhibit intelligence. The well of patience was drying up alongside the friction of funds, putting the research on the backseat for nearly a decade.

What used to be a disillusion once, was now an imminent reality.

The latter of 2022 saw the imperceptible ingress of Artificial intelligence to the radical forefront of daily lives with the emancipation of OpenAI’s ChatGPT and DALL-E. The success of these intuitive fundamentals brought friction-less autonomous computing to the world, making the future of what AI and computers couldn’t do, quite daunting. 

Automization, be it industrial automation, marketing automation, cognitive automation or process automation, has become one of the core aspects of every IT strategy. The growth in the use of every type of automation technology available has spurred to extreme levels. Robotic Process Automation (RPA), is one such automation concept.  According to McKinsey, from executive speeches, realistic art, and lines of code, to the probability of replacing 45 million workers ~ 28 percent of the American workforce by 2030, the democratization of AI has perturbed the likes of Google, Microsoft, and others competing against ChatGPT to develop similar, or more intuitive AI technologies. 

Where Is AI Going In The Future?

An entrepreneur is always exploring the potential of business automation to refine and enhance efficiencies whilst also maximizing the benefits of technology and hybrid workforces. While AI can undoubtedly dispense value to an organization, the reality is more nuanced. A McKinsey prediction states that less than 5 percent of occupations could be automated entirely by AI and only 60 percent of professions have at least 30 percent of pursuits that can be automated. 

As a CEO, one is always looking at insights that influence and attribute to decision-making, be it business strategy, supply chain resilience managing people, productivity hacks, or automation. If the recent gargantuan tech layoffs are to be observed, it’s evident that companies are trying to eliminate lower-tier and mid-tier jobs as a way to create efficiencies and cut down budgets. AI has threatened blue-collar jobs as well as white-collar roles. But has the cost-cutting virtue ever been about the highest-paid individual? 

Seldom do the CEOs ever think of being replaced by AI, as much as other professions/positions are fearful.

Picture a world where there’s an impartial, unbiased, and uncompromised CEO – perfectly impassable to emotional baggage, human error or manipulation, acting in the best interests of the employees, shareholders, and the growing balance sheet. It is a quite realistic imagination as there have been arguments about AI impacting the role of the senior business leader. 

If cost-cutting efficiencies are beheld, the highest-paid position in an organization is the CEO. What if the lucrative role is anointed to RPA (Robotic Process Automation)?

The nascence of the AI CEO: A CEO’s average pay today is equivalent to 399 median workers, in comparison to 1965’s ratio of 20:1. Image Courtesy – Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko:

Will AI Dominate The Future?

In an economy where data keeps evolving around how a company creates values and competes, many believe that AI is a game-changer. Analysts predict that using artificial intelligence at a wider scale could bring an additional augmentation of $15.7 trillion to the global market by 2030.

Intelligent systems have begun to displace human employees within the manufacturing, recruitment, delivery, and service industry, proving that humans might land in swaths of unemployment, while our workforce may be unrecognizable by 2040.

According to Fortune, the average pay of a CEO has soared by 1460 percent, in drastic contrast to a worker’s wage increase by 18 percent, over the past 45 years. Could CEO’s be overpaid? The remuneration shrouded to the CEO, if liberated, could ascertain newer opportunities which could be successful and profitable to the company. 

CEOs have become more expensive and less effective; technology has gotten reliable and somewhat cheaper even.

With millions of cost-saving virtues, CEOs don’t even match the pedestal of decision-making geniuses, we’ve made them be. By their own admission, 72 percent of Chief executives agree to making bad decisions – at an S&P 500, this ineptitude could dwindle $250 million per year in wasted opportunities.

Under the concept of RPA, as technology advances, AI tools and automation have become more robust paving the path for a high possibility, and even a few case studies of witnessing an AI CEO.

Case Studies:

  1. In September 2022, a global spirits company, Dictador announced the face of their company, the world’s first senior-most leader position – a human-like AI robot named Mika. This bold move cemented the luxury rum producer’s name in history as a positive disruptive organization using advanced, thought-leading technology. 
  2. Another instance of a company creating history was when last August, a Hong Kong based online gaming firm, NetDragon Websoft appointed an AI CEO at the helm of their $2.1 billion flagship subsidiary. Tang Yu makes leadership decisions, fosters an efficient workspace, and assesses market risks with the aid of high-level analytics and marketing automation, without getting a blink of sleep or even a $ worth compensation. So far, NetDragon Websoft has not reported any disastrous consequences, better yet, the organization is outperforming the Hong Kong stock market.
  3. A third organization ready to take the groundbreaking decision of replacing their human CEO with intelligent automation is CS India.

The Perils Of An AI CEO:

A few years ago, Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, co-founder of the Alibaba group, had hypothesized that in 30 years, the emotionless logic and efficiency of an AI CEO, powered by RPA, could find a place in the chambers of C-Suite. 

“A robot could very likely be on the cover of Time Magazine as the Best CEO.”

Although, many industry experts are skeptical and wary of whether AI is fit to become a CEO, with the multitude of responsibilities that a human CEO shoulders. Artificial intelligence and Robotic process automation (RPA), are by no means perfect – like all tech, it is only as good as human inputs. AI can’t replicate a job that is less repetitive and more contextual, because for it to work, it needs to feed and train on data. Most components of a CEO’s role are rooted in humans and every business decision is based on contextual awareness, different inputs and considerations which can’t make a predictive framework or a definitive rule book for the AI to follow. 

Being a representative of accountability, communicating with the emotions of the public, negotiating deals, or selling an idea – an AI can’t duplicate these possibly unless it’s sentient. The value ascribed to any CEO exceeds anything that technology can do.

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