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NOTEBOOK – One Good Read: A machine as your boss?


I shared some advice recently with a batch of interns about always trying to make your boss’s life easier. This New York Times story about artificial intelligence suggests it might be your artificial boss soon optimizing the way you make its life easier and the business more productive. From the piece: “When Conor Sprouls, a customer service representative in the call center of the insurance giant MetLife, talks to a customer over the phone, he keeps one eye on the bottom-right corner of his screen. There, in a little blue box, A.I. tells him how he’s doing. Talking too fast? The program flashes an icon of a speedometer, indicating that he should slow down. Sound sleepy? The software displays an “energy cue,” with a picture of a coffee cup. Not empathetic enough? A heart icon pops up. For decades, people have fearfully imagined armies of hyper-efficient robots invading offices and factories, gobbling up jobs once done by humans. But in all of the worry about the potential of artificial intelligence to replace rank-and-file workers, we may have overlooked the possibility it will replace the bosses, too.” Worried about Big Brother Boss yet? The story continues: “Mr. Sprouls and the other call center workers at his office in Warwick, R.I., still have plenty of human supervisors. But the software on their screens — made by Cogito, an A.I. company in Boston — has become a kind of adjunct manager, always watching them. At the end of every call, Mr. Sprouls’s Cogito notifications are tallied and added to a statistics dashboard that his supervisor can view. If he hides the Cogito window by minimizing it, the program notifies his supervisor. Cogito is one of several A.I. programs used in call centers and other workplaces. The goal, according to Joshua Feast, Cogito’s chief executive, is to make workers more effective by giving them real-time feedback.”

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