Siri, HAL, and Management

You know what we haven’t heard a lot about lately? Artificial Intelligence. Or maybe it is just the crowds I run with. Not that long ago, it seemed that everyone was worried that it would take their job. I guess lately people have thought “pshaw, if the machine wants this job, it can have it.” It might be a nice break for me. I for one am not always right, so I would welcome a computer’s perspective for a change, like when a manager wants to fire an employee for insubordination because they refused his request to “pull my finger.” Of course AI could come in handy for a lot of HR requests, like:

Employee: “Hal, I want to add my parrot to my health insurance.”

Hal: “I can’t do that Jim.”

Employee: “Hal, I want to do an early withdrawal on my 401(k) so I can get a head start on my mid-life crisis.”

Hal: “I can’t do that Jim.”

Employee: “Hal, don’t pay this guy for the overtime he worked this week. He’s not a very good employee and I want him to quit.”

Hal: “I can’t do that Jim.”

Of course we use AI now. I, for one, talk to Siri more than I talk to myself, which is to say I talk to her a lot. Every day as I am walking out the door, I say “Hey Siri, text my wife I’m heading home.” And she responds oh so politely with, “OK, I’ll send this: ‘Your head is a bone.’” And I change it and as I am pulling into the driveway, it sends with the proper message. Or I don’t catch it, and end up sleeping on the couch. Of course you can see how much easier this had made my life. I don’t have to think about the arduous task of opening iMessage, typing my message, and hitting send. What a God-send! Now I just spend my 45-minute commute slowly enunciating three words.

These mentally strenuous steps are all actions that I do not have to think about, and that is all Artificial Intelligence is – a computer, machine, or system thinking for us. Which if you rely heavily on policies, congratulations, you are already there! So long as there is a policy for every little thing, you (the manager) don’t have to think. So long as you know your policies, you can just ride. If you see someone not following a policy, you just tell them that this is the policy, and this is the spelled out consequence for not following said policy, and you can go back to whatever you were doing before, which is probably just monitoring your employees to ensure that they are following all the policies. Beats the heck out of other stuff, like actually managing. Of course this has another advantage as well: instead of you being the one who tells them that they are screwing up, you can just blame the policy. At least until HR replaces you with HAL.

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