Technology | OpenAI CEO Emmett Shear says bulk of CEO’s role is ‘very automatable’
A day before all hell broke loose at OpenAI, its new interim CEO Emmett Shear was firing off posts on X, formerly Twitter, pontificating about whether AI could make the CEO role obsolete.
“Most of the CEO job (and the majority of most executive jobs) are very automatable. There are of course the occasional key decisions you can’t replace,” he wrote in response to an article about replacing expensive CEOs with automation.
The article, published by progressive U.K. outlet The New Statesman, argues that CEOs’ steep pay is an unsustainable cost and even unfair when considering the day-to-day slack their executive assistants pick up—a role that could itself be automated.
Beyond those tasks, Shear believes communication, problem and opportunity detection, talent identification, and giving constructive feedback are parts of the CEO job that are ripe for automation.
He continued in the thread on X: “Of course that means you can’t really truly ‘replace’ the CEO, but I think we will see management get widely automated, leading to flatter and more dynamic organizations.”
Shear and OpenAI did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.
It’s a riveting theory if for nothing else than the fact that the third CEO in three days of a company responsible for bringing generative AI to the masses believes that much of the role he’s been asked to fill doesn’t require uniquely human skills. Shear has long been vocal about his broader AI concerns, saying in June that the level of existential risk from AI “should cause you to s—t your pants.”
His cautious outlook is nothing new, of course, nor is his view on AI’s potential to replace jobs. Anton Korinek, an economist and professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, told Fortune in July that “decisions CEOs make will be amenable to machines in the long run,” predicting that in the future, “It will be possible to automate everything CEOs can do.”
Some research has substantiated the idea that CEOs could one day face the same AI risks to their job relevancy. In an April study, researchers from Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and New York University analyzed U.S. Department of Labor data for more than 800 occupations and found that chief executive jobs are in the top 12% of positions that generative AI could significantly change or eliminate.
Other research has found evidence suggesting that knowledge-based, white-collar work is most at risk for AI disruption.
A key question, however, is whether AI will replace jobs entirely or simply automate its more monotonous and rote aspects, allowing workers, whether engineers or CEOs, to be more productive and creative.
Shear, who previously founded the video game streaming platform Twitch, argued that CEOs should spend their time on human-required decisions, adding that those who spend most of their time finding solutions are not good CEOs. “Mostly [CEOs] find problems.”
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