White-collar workers are worried about artificial intelligence (AI) taking over low-level jobs, but the new tech could be coming for higher-paid employees first.
- Low-level employees are typically the ones worried about automation and technology replacing their work, but a Hong Kong gaming company replaced its CEO with an AI just last year.
- The new AI CEO monitored the company’s analytics, made leadership decisions, assessed risks, and promoted a more efficient work environment.
- Unlike other CEOs who are often paid hefty salaries, NetDragon’s AI CEO required no salary at all.
- Since switching to an AI CEO, NetDragon has performed increasingly well on Hong Kong’s stock market, The Hustle reports.
Why it’s news
When considering what jobs are threatened by AI, blue-collar and low-level white-collar jobs are generally the ones discussed. A report from McKinsey Global Institute projects that by 2030, around 45 million workers could be out of work due to automation.
While truckers, accountants, warehouse workers, and journalists are certainly threatened by automation, CEOs are not out of danger either. Top executives often highlight the cost-saving features of automation, but those same cost-saving benefits could also apply to their jobs.
At Fortune 500 companies, the average CEO is now paid around $16 million per year. Cutting that expense with AI could be a big win for companies. Compared to the average worker’s pay, which has increased 18% in the last 45 years, the average CEO’s pay has increased 1,460%, The Hustle reports.
While CEOs have gotten more expensive, they can also be less effective and guided by personal motives. AI, on the other hand, is less expensive and has no motives of its own. The ability to make decisions without personal preferences weighing in could help companies make better decisions.
However, despite the cost-saving benefits, CEOs being lost to automation seems unlikely. In a 2022 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report, researchers found that CEOs were considered least likely to be replaced by automation.
The one thing AI cannot replicate is the human element—an important part of the CEO’s role. CEOs often serve as a face to an otherwise anonymous company. That ability to interact with the public and motivate and inspire workers is something only a human can accomplish.
Even with the need for a human touch, large portions of a CEO’s duties are already automated. A McKinsey estimate suggests that CEOs spend about 25% of their time on tasks that could be automated, such as sending emails, budgeting, forecasting trends, tracking company performance, or reviewing financial performances.