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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Working for the Machine

#orgintelligence The recent appointment of an algorithm to a Board of Directors raises the spectre of science fiction becoming fact. Although many commentators regarded the appointment as a publicity stunt, there has always been an undercurrent of fear about machine intelligence. Even the BBC (following Betteridge's Law of Headlines) succumbed to the alarmist headline Could a big data-crunching machine be your boss one day?

There are several useful ways that an algorithm might contribute to the collective intelligence of a Board of Directors. One is to provide an automated judgement on some topic, which can be put into the pot together with a number of human judgements. This is what seems to be planned by the company Deep Knowledge Ventures, whose Board of Directors is faced with a series of important investment decisions. Although each decision is unique, there are some basic similarities in the decision process that may be amenable to automation and machine learning.

Another possible contribution is to evaluate other board members. According to the BBC article, IBM Watson could be programmed to analyse the contributions made by each board member for usefulness and accuracy. There are several ways such a feedback loop could enhance the collective intelligence of the Board.

  • Retrain individuals to improve their contributions in specific contexts.
  • Identify and eliminate individuals whose contribution is weak.
  • Identify and eliminate individuals whose contribution is similar to other members. In other words, promote greater diversity.
  • Enable trial membership of individuals from a wider range of backgrounds, to see whether they can make a valuable contribution.

Organizational Intelligence is about an effective combination of human/social intelligence and machine intelligence. Remember this when people try to develop an either-us-or-them narrative.


Jamie Bartlett, Will Artificial Intelligence put my job at risk? (Spectator 6 June 2014)

Adrian Chen, Can an Algorithm Solve Twitter’s Credibility Problem? (New Yorker 5 May 2014)

John Rentoul, Will Artificial Intelligence put my job at risk? (Independent 6 June 2014)

Richard Veryard, Does Cameron's Dashboard App Improve the OrgIntelligence of Government? (23 January 2013)

Matthew Wall, Could a big data-crunching machine be your boss one day? (BBC News 9 October 2014)

Other Sources

Algorithm appointed board director (BBC News 16 May 2014)

Bud Caddell, Your boss might be better as an algorithm (Quartz, 16 November 2017)

Related Posts

Intelligence and Governance (Feb 2013)

Link added 11 December 2017

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