We don’t need CEOs anymore and AI can easily replace them

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From writers and teachers to bankers and lawyers, most jobs should be replaced by artificial intelligence – with one notable exception. The only job that seems safe from the rise of ChatGPT and other AI tech is, oddly enough, the most expensive and easily automated role: the CEO.

CEOs have spent a lot of time lately threatening to replace their lazy, entitled and unproductive workers with AI, but they never seem to face the same level of scrutiny as other employees. Look a little closer, and it becomes clear that the role of the modern CEO is not only fragmented, as I pointed out earlier, but can easily be done with the technology we now have.

America’s top CEOs earn 300 times more than the average worker, despite their primary duty being to make easily replicable optimization decisions based on input from spreadsheets fed to them by consultants rather than actual understanding of the business. Far from directly contributing to a company’s bottom line, the “superstar CEO” movement of the late 20th century created a generation of executives who served primarily as figureheads with little real responsibility or accountability.

The solution is simple: We either hold CEOs accountable to their employees, or dissolve the role altogether. A chief executive This must be done Contribute in a way that is meaningfully measurable and delivers clear value to the company. Failing that, I would argue that the opaque role of the CEO should be the first to be replaced by artificial intelligence. An AI model will likely provide faster answers, be in a constant state of self-improvement, take immediate feedback, and deliver the same kind of “operational efficiency” for which the current crop of CEOs are paid millions of dollars a year.

As comedian Scott Seis succinctly put it in a TikTok post in late July: “Let’s replace our employees with AI? Let’s replace our CEO with AI. In fact, AI is so advanced for that job, all you need is a Fisher Price tape recorder. With bad ideas.”

If it’s broken, fix it

CEOs like to project an image of invincibility – without them a directionless company will fall apart. “You can’t replace me,” cries the attitude, “I’m too precious.” So what exactly are these executives doing on a daily basis that creates such a price? A 2018 Harvard study of 27 CEOs attempted to answer this question. The final report grouped various executive functions into impressive-sounding buckets such as “people and relationships,” “functional and business unit reviews,” and “strategy.” But looking deeper, it becomes clear that these painfully vague allocations of time mask the fact that executives have a hard time articulating what they do for a living. Most of the time is spent in meetings, talking about “strategy” and making meaningful contributions to the organization, experience or actual implementation.

Even when big CEOs are given the opportunity to articulate the value they bring to the company, the term is as harmful as salad. Former Procter & Gamble CEO AG Lafley wrote a 2009 Harvard Business Review article, “What Only CEOs Can Do.” Once described as “the most successful CEO in P&G history,” Lafley earned as much as $19.5 million a year in his role. Here’s how he describes the CEO role:

“A single CEO takes meaningful outside experience at the enterprise level and is responsible for understanding, interpreting, supporting, and presenting it so that the company can respond in a way that enables sustainable sales, profitability, and total shareholder return (TSR) growth. ”

He also incorrectly states that “CEOs can see opportunities that others don’t” and that “judgments and tough calls cannot be made by others” thanks to “the person whose boss is not an employee of another company”. Can you imagine any Procter and Gamble employee giving their manager such a vague and general answer? Can you tell your boss that what you did today was “external interpretation”? Lafley seems to summarize his place and value in the company as someone who has more authority than anyone else in the organization despite not actually doing anything or having any responsibilities. Alternatively, imagine asking any old AI model to describe the CEO’s job. It probably throws up something much better than “balancing adequate income in the present with necessary investment in the future.”

It’s not that executives can’t be useful to a company. A chief financial officer focuses on cash flow, ensures that taxes are paid, and ensures that a company’s financial statements are properly prepared. A chief security officer ensures that employees are not hacked or ensures the physical safety of workers. In contrast, a CEO has become a figurehead who occasionally calls meetings or press hits based on vibes.

Will AI replace our workforce? Let’s replace our CEO with AI.

Don’t get me wrong — a company, in general, needs a person, and you need someone with a company-wide perspective who can guide an organization and make decisions. You need someone who will define the mission and then hold the company to that mission. But the role loses much of its value when the executive’s only role is to make decisions, with no contribution or responsibility for results. CEOs have become the ultimate managers—disconnected “ideas” like Elon Musk who aren’t fired for every major success attributed to one major failure. Unless their sizeable pay is tied to the results of their decisions, there is no reason to be a CEO. If the chief executive’s job is simply to take data and regurgitate extrapolations that provide “efficiency,” then I can think of no role better suited to replacing AI.

Stars in their eyes

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has been one of the main reasons why Hollywood has been on strike for months. Zaslav — who earned $39 million last year — as well as other members of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have driven $5 billion from the California economy (and entertainment industry). And it’s not like business decisions at his own company are giving investors high marks: Since Warner Bros. and Discovery merged in 2022, the company’s combined market capitalization has fallen by $20 billion.

An executive who doesn’t have to contribute directly to a revenue-generating product to pay his… salary is the most easily automated job ever.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about his leadership of one of Hollywood’s flagship studios is that he never seems to be involved in the ground-level process of a movie, TV show, podcast, or any other creative endeavor. Zaslav began his career as a lawyer and worked in various “strategic” capacities in the media for decades, but his complete disconnection from the creative process helped prolong this costly, painful strike. He and other studio heads believe that entertainment is a commodity that can be automated and created at will. Since the merger, the CEO’s most notable creative decisions have been to cancel shows, remove content from the company’s streaming services and shelve already completed films in the name of saving money. These aren’t passionate executive moves to create high-quality entertainment that will win the public’s dollar; This is the type of eye-glazing number crunching that can be done by feeding an Excel spreadsheet into an AI model.

An executive who doesn’t have to directly contribute to a revenue-generating product to pay his (he’s almost always a man) salary is by far the most easily automated job. Executives who simply “make calls,” sign contracts, or grant vague media interviews aren’t working — they’re quality productivity software, a highly relevant restructuring machine built from the core of privilege and exploitation. These CEOs don’t do the work, they just query databases of other executives and real workers and make calls without any practical experience or real conviction behind the decision – like ChatGPT. The difference is that when CEOs “mislead” it costs thousands their jobs. And almost every one of those announcements refers to efficiencies or “necessary changes,” yet never mentions the biggest, most absurd expense of them all—a vacuum-defined public servant who earns more than anyone else in the company.

CEOs have become part of the managerial-industrial complex, an entire segment of the economy for people who contribute nothing more than demanding that others do their jobs. “Managing” isn’t work unless you have enough experience of what you’re managing that you can do it yourself. A CEO of a tech company should be able to code, or build, or design. The CEO of an entertainment company should be directly involved in the production of a successful movie or television show. I’d say an airline CEO should either be able to fly a plane or handle multiple shifts a year as a steward on a train. What better way can we put it than to ensure that CEOs actually implement it?

The CEO should be someone who has an active role in the profit generation of the business, either by actively building the company or closing deals and partnerships that will generate revenue. As stated CEOs should also be directly accountable for real metrics and their pay should be directly tied to the success of the business, the happiness of the business’ customers and the happiness of their employees. From my own experience, companies thrive (and great workers stay) when they feel their boss works as hard as they do and can articulate what they actually do on a daily basis. In my own life running a tech PR agency, I’m responsible for new business, pitching, writing and media training – the same jobs that the people who work for me do, because no job at a company is less than its CEO.

Define what a CEO is, set the conditions for their success, and then hold them accountable. If you can’t do that, you don’t need a CEO. Or maybe your CEO needs to earn a more modest income. Or maybe CEOs need to fear losing their jobs to equally capable robots.

Ed Zitron is the CEO of EZPR, a national technology and business public relations agency. He is also the author of the tech and culture newsletter Where’s Your Aid At and the host of the “15 Minutes in Hell” podcast.

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