It’s time to replace your CEO with AI

This week we had the pleasure of speaking with Ed Zitron. In addition to founding his own media relations firm, Zitron has a tech-focused substack (“Where’s Your Aid At”) and is a contributing writer for Insider. This week, Zitron wrote an op-ed jokingly suggesting that companies should replace their CEOs with AI. The authorities did not like it. We spoke to Zitron about AI, labor and the current failures of corporate governance.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

For those who haven’t read Your op-ed, they should publicly do the same. But I wanted to give you a chance to make your case. So, in a nutshell, what argument are you making in this piece?? And why we should replace corporate executives with ChatGPT?

I mainly argue that the role of the CEO has become extremely blurred. It has become one with very little accountability in the sense of a fixed set of responsibilities. Looking at the basic literature surrounding the CEO role, it’s not really clear what they do. There was a Harvard study from 2018 where they looked at what they were doing and it was like “people,” “meetings,” “strategy.” It can mean anything – literally anything! “Strategy”? What does this mean? So, CEOs just go into meetings and say ‘we should do this’ or ‘we shouldn’t do that’. The problem is that if your role in an organization is just to get information and ‘Hey, we should do this’ and you’re not a lawyer or a doctor or somebody with real, actual skills, what’s the point?

What kind of responses have you received from your articles so far?

Everyone on Twitter seemed happy with it, while those on LinkedIn were split 50-50. If you say anything negative about an executive on LinkedIn, a lot of people who aren’t executives get very upset. (And it’s always guys, btw—men seem really sensitive about this topic.) But there are still a lot of people who think, yeah, if there’s a CEO who has a vague role where they don’t actually execute—where they connect with the product. Do things that aren’t but still get paid a ridiculous amount of money—maybe we need to automate that! Or maybe we need to define their role more clearly and hold them accountable for that role and fire them if they perform poorly.

What do you think are the chances of companies taking you up on your suggestions?

Oh, very little. Just to be abundantly clear I don’t think either company does. That’s why I offer an alternative in the piece, which is that we need a working CEO. Me, personally, I do a lot of the groundwork in my own business. I would say I do more than my fair share. But, also, why would you work for me if I didn’t? I have never heard of these CEOs not working. It’s like, I can understand an editor who doesn’t write but an editor who never writes or never writes? An editor who sits there and calls? Or executive editor? Or, I don’t know, some kind of private equity guy who buys a big organization but doesn’t appreciate what’s going on there, and then proceeds to make a bunch of really stupid calls…that’s where you run into problems.

That’s basically what my Insider episode was about. Executives seem disconnected from work-productivity. That is a fundamental point.

I’m curious what you make of generative AI and how it’s weaponizing the executive class against workers?

Generative AI is fun because it has the appearance of intelligence without actually having any. He’s the perfect type of McKinsey-level consultant; It simply reorganizes content based on a specific subset of data. What it does is not bring life experience. It does not create anything new. It is not learning or thinking. It’s basically taking a big box of Legos, trying to build something with a rough idea of ​​what a house looks like, without using any real creativity.

There is a lot of mystique surrounding AI and all this rhetoric about how it will “change the world”. But really, when you get down to it, AI is basically presented as a cost-saver for companies, because it gives them the opportunity to automate a percentage of their workforce..

This is related to what we were talking about earlier. When you have executives and managers who are disconnected from the production tools—or the production process—they’ll make calls based entirely on cost, output, and speed, because they don’t actually understand the production process. They don’t know what is going on in the machine. They only see what goes into the pipeline and what finally comes out, and they pay attention to how fast it’s happening.

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