PACE of Automation: Can Robots Replace CEOs ?


A couple of weeks ago, I was in a technology university in south Tamil Nadu. They invited me to evaluate innovations of their students. There were about 30 ideas and I should select the top 10. I wanted to be as objective as possible. Hence, I went there with the following six questions:

  1. Is your innovation faster, better or cheaper?
  2. Is it user-friendly?
  3. Does it have market potential?
  4. Is it sustainable or green?
  5. Does it have a big impact on society?
  6. Will it be “owner’s pride and neighbour’s envy’?

I explained the logic behind these 6 evaluation criteria first. I asked the students to present their ideas one by one. As I was listening to them, I realised that almost every innovation was about automation and IoT. There were things like automated lawn mowers, automatic pesticide sprayers, automatic toll gate maintenance.

Nothing path breaking, of course. These students come from traditional engineering streams like civil, mechanical, electrical & electronics, IT, and computer science. Hence, they could think only as far as replacing manual jobs.

But will it not be possible for robots to learn and do a high skilled, white collar job? What innovations would come from the students of machine learning and artificial intelligence?

Related Read: Neil Jacobstein Interview – A Look Into The Mind Of A Robot’s Artificial Intelligence !

The Economist recently published an article about how computers are posing a threat to specialized jobs. It says: “In a test against three expert human radiologists working together, Enlitic’s system [a software] was 50% better at classifying malignant tumours and had a false-negative rate of zero, compared with 7% for the humans. Another of Enlitic’s systems, which examines X-rays to detect wrist fractures, also handily outperformed human experts.”

From the point of job standardization, there are only four kinds of jobs: physical, analytical, creative, and emotional. Call it PACE. No job is 100% this or 100% that. But a job may have any one of the PACE components as dominant. Technically, most high skilled, white collar jobs are about analysis and creativity. Computers can do them better than us.

A neurosurgeon can analyse a few dozen patients. A CEO can analyse the same number of business cases. But computers can analyse millions of cases faster, better, and cheaper. What robots can’t figure out is how to emote. And it is a good news for the emotional workers – the likes of nurses, air hostess, teachers. Ironically, in a hospital environment, a neurosurgeon’s job is at threat but a nurse’s job is not. Similarly, in business, a CEO is at the risk of losing his/her job to automation but a receptionist is not.

Related Read: 10 Best Robots Of The World That Were Present Since Industrial Revolution !

Friends, a robot CEO is not unthinkable. If you are a CEO, there are only two ways that you can save your job. The first way is not to let anybody standardize your job. Once they document what you do, all the PACE components of your job will be out. Anyone can ask why not have computers do some – or all – of your routine tasks.

So make your job sound too complex to standardize. If an automation guy is going to ask you what you do as a CEO in a typical work day, take a deep breath and say something like, “I wish I had known” 🙂

The second way is to make your your jobs more emotional. Turn to ‘care’ competency – which is what is anyway required to understand customers and empathize with people. In the robot economy, your job safety lies so much in your care competency.

(Disclaimer: This is a guest post submitted on Techstory by the mentioned authors.All the contents and images in the article have been provided to Techstory by the authors of the article. Techstory is not responsible or liable for any content in this article.)

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About The Author:

pictureMr. G Sankaranarayanan is a business author and consultant. He runs Younomy, a management consulting firm that offers consulting services in the areas of marketing, innovation, and human resource development.

Before founding Younomy in 2010, he worked as a business journalist for publications and has also authored books on management, innovation, and leadership. He is also the Founder-Director of Forum for Co-creation Excellence (FORCE), and operates from Rajapalayam, Tamil Nadu. He can be reached at