Love love love the idea of replacing CEOs with AI instead of the rank and file workers. Eliminate one worthless person and fund 400 other employment opportunities. Amazing! It’ll be interesting to see if any Corporate Boards would be willing to take that plunge in the future.

Expand full comment

Thank you for writing this post and being honest about how tiring it is to be thinking about AI and Elon Musk all the time.

Expand full comment
May 18, 2023Liked by Hamilton Nolan

AI systems work by extracting expertise from humans. Today, those humans are mostly poorly paid data annotators is in the developing world — but it’s easy (and quite fun!) to imagine CEOs spending 12 hours a day completing specialized captchas (“select every box that contains an opportunity for shareholders”) to train their robot replacements.

Anything less would be a breach of fiduciary duty.

Expand full comment

"Sure, AI can write a quiz, but we can’t expect it to be up to the task of cratering a business’s value by 90% in a short period of time. For that, you need a real CEO.". Perfect

Expand full comment

We have been doing this for a few years. Well - not the AI bit, but the "not letting the CEO fiddle with stuff that's working" thing.

On paper, I still run the company I founded - but it takes me about 6 hours a week.

8 other people - 7 programmers, and a copy-writer - do all the work (we're a boutique software development shop)... and it's a lot easier for me to ask them to make pretty much all the decisions relating to anything client-related.

I just get rolled out for an average of two hours per week for:

- client-facing Zoom / Teams calls (clients love feeling that they get to talk to the CEO)

- sign-off and writing client quotations (my programmers tell me how long it's going to take)

... and a 30 minute standup with the team each morning keeps me up to date on where everyone is on projects.

... and I'm involved in all hiring, though typically, as part of a team of 3, with all of us having a veto.

Now, as a small company, I could ask "am I a real CEO?"

Maybe not, but I'm all the CEO we need...

Could I be automated? Probably not the "clients like to feel they are talking to the CEO" bit...

... but the rest... it'd be a very simple AI :-)

Expand full comment

"It’s nice to imagine a world in which algorithms replace CEOs and you could program them with the precise relative importance of each stakeholder"

An enterprising tech-savvy individual could do just that with any publicly traded corporation ...Just pick a company, say UPS, then feed the AI all the relevant data points and RUN that algorithm Hoss! Then compare the results with those of the actual corporation...It would probably be better to find a company like Buzzfeed that is tanking, but the upcoming end-of-contract between UPS and the Teamsters Union on Aug 1 would make for an interesting test run...

Expand full comment

Spot on for everything you had stated. Kudos for the once and for all, someone in the media is standing up like Mark Cuban ready to turn the US Media upside down! I don't read the media from the big media comapanies I am no interested in celebreties or stupid drama showing who wears the least amount of cloths who gives a f&%*! I use yours and others like yours... and they are few and far between! Musk, is a typical rich smuck that cares nothing for humanity. When AI takes over who is going to have money to buy product when all are out of a job?

Expand full comment

Hamilton it's time to make some posts only available to subscribers!

Expand full comment

Was reading a review of the New Yorker's AI issue, and decided to come back to this piece. ITS STILL HEXKIN GOOD. Perhaps a republish for the upcoming holiday season, when people may be getting paltry bonuses or facing pay freezes whole the c suite still gets their bonuses?

Expand full comment

Help me with a potential endgame question here: If bosses can leverage tech to reduce operating costs (fire people) with the idea that they'll rake in more money as a result, who ultimately will have the money to spend on their offerings? A displaced/reduced workforce means fewer people have the discretionary money to add to a company's revenue count. Less jobs means fewer customers, right?

Expand full comment

If that were all CEOs were doing, then sure, fire them and automate their job with AI. But would AI come up with the iPhone? Would AI have the guts (and social capital) to pivot the identity of an entire company, as Intel did when moving on from memories to CPUs? Great CEOs develop vision, unconventional strategies and inspire people – AI can help them focus on these tasks by automating lots of tedious tasks, but automating the entire job seems far-fetched.

Expand full comment

CEOs play crucial roles that AI currently cannot replicate:

- making complex decisions that involve ethics and company culture

- inspiring and motivating employees, representing the company to stakeholders

- adapting and innovating in response to new challenges, and

- holding legal and ethical responsibility for the company's actions.

While AI can augment certain tasks, the full spectrum of a CEO's role requires human intuition, understanding, and accountability.

Expand full comment

This post is rad as hell.

Expand full comment

An AI-managed co-op: brilliant!! Love your writing, every time I see a new post I open it to read right then and there. I also can’t stop thinking/writing about AI...maybe just ONE more.

Expand full comment

I know. I have just promoted myself to Hamiltons chief executive marketing position. Even though I am just a fan, I will take the position very seriously

Expand full comment