The first artificially intelligent boss.

With the advent of new technologies and industries, a paradigm shift is taking place in the way companies compete and people work.

Artificial intelligence, or AI, is becoming increasingly smart and is widely expected to be a particularly significant game changer.

Ernst & Young Institute, a Tokyo-based think tank, predicts that Japan’s AI-related market will expand 23 times to 86.9 trillion yen ($798 billion) in 2030, compared with 2015.

Artificially intelligent president

AI’s intelligence is now growing at an accelerated pace, as evidenced by the recent defeat of a South Korean Go champion by his computer opponent.

So don’t laugh if your company hires an artificially intelligent president, whether on computer screens or in robot form; it might fire you.

An artificially intelligent entity could start serving as president of a midsize construction machinery producer several years from now, making constructive proposals at board meetings after analyzing reams of data amassed from around the world.

The artificially intelligent president might make specific remarks. Like, “How about setting up an office in Rwanda?” It might explain its proposal by saying it has determined that there is strong medium-term potential for a construction boom in the central African country.

Industrial conglomerate Hitachi is now racking its brains about how to utilize AI in its clients’ management decisions.

The Japanese company is developing a new system that will analyze newspaper articles and in-house data to provide food for thought during management meetings.

Hitachi is aiming to commercialize its brainchild in 2019. Corporate customers are showing strong interest in it. “We have received inquiries from more than 10 companies,” said Kosuke Yanai, a senior Hitachi researcher.

99.5% accuracy

AI is steadily expanding its presence in the real world of business.

NTT Communications has found a reliable ally in AI. At the company’s facility in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, an AI algorithm is involved in protecting more than 4,000 corporate customers from cyberattacks.

Based on data accumulated by 80 employees, the company’s AI program is capable of detecting malignant websites that spread computer viruses with an accuracy of 99.5%.

“We can concentrate on developing more advanced systems” [thanks to the AI program], one of the algorithm’s co-workers, a 43-year-old male, said.

Finding the right humans

Advancements in the technology called “deep learning” have made AI even smarter. AI now can identify patterns in huge volumes of data and make judgments on its own.

Forum Engineering, a big Tokyo-based temp agency for engineers, uses AI to help it find the kind of skilled workers its corporate clients demand.

“AI can make a calm judgment based on a statistical analysis,” said Masahiro Takeuchi, a Forum Engineering director.

Who has final say?

To be sure, there are concerns that AI could eliminate certain kinds of jobs. But Ryutaro Ichise, an associate professor at the National Institute of Informatics, dismissed these concerns.

“AI cannot be held responsible [for anything] in human society,” Ichise said. “Any responsible and difficult judgments will always be made by humans.”

Yoshihiko Miyauchi, senior chairman of Orix, a financial services group, also sees a possible role for AI in decision-making. “It may be possible to use AI’s judgments supplementarily,” he said.

Before assuming his current post, Miyauchi served as Orix’s CEO for a little more than 33 years.

While leaving day-to-day affairs to an artificially intelligent president-cum-chief operating officer, a human chairperson-cum-CEO would make final decisions. It may be only a matter of time before such a corporate governance model emerges.

The artificially intelligent president-cum-COO might greet its flesh-and-bone charges by saying, “Please don’t be afraid of me. I neither have a scary look on my face nor shout angrily. I listen carefully to opposing views and reanalyze situations. It is up to you whether to accept the results of these analyses.”

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