The Promise and Perils of Technology Driven Decision Making for Business Leaders

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Decision Making in the Digital Age

The Digital Age is well and truly upon us. With it, many changes are happening both in the external landscape in which businesses operate as well as the internal dynamics of decision making. Indeed, it would be an understatement to say that Decision Making in the Digital Age is unlike anything that came before it especially when one considers the benefits of technology driven decision making in high pressure situations.

Unlike humans, machines do not panic and hence, many organizations and the business leaders who head them are realizing the many advantages of using technologies such as AI (Artificial Intelligence) to augment or even replace the humans in the decision making loops.

However, there are some downsides to relying too much on technology for decision making purposes.

For instance, while technology does help in aggregating large amounts of data and aiding the business leaders to make informed decisions, there is also the possibility that the much vaunted Human Touch would be missing which can have adverse societal consequences.

Benefits of Algos Driven Decision Making and the Panic of Manic Crashes

Indeed, how can technology differentiate whether a decision is beneficial from a Social and Environmental Perspective especially when the machines are programmed to think and act according to Dry and Strictly Data Driven methods?

The fact that left to themselves, machines and technologies would lead us to a Future where there is no regard for human values and only profit and a cold and unforgiving profit motives are the sole criterion for decisions.

On the other hand, there are clear benefits to using technology for decision making. First, as mentioned earlier, machines can aggregate large datasets and sift and parse through patterns and models that would led to optimal decision making.

Indeed, this is the premise on which Algorithmic Trading in the Markets is based on.

However, as we saw during the Crash of 2008, Algos gone wild can cause more problems since there is no inbuilt mechanism to correct themselves in times when the human element is much needed.

Algorithms, Industrial Revolution, and Some Prominent Voices Expressing Fears

Moreover, in recent months, there have been reports of Biased Algos in Recruitment for Amazon which raises fears about how Nefarious Humans who program such Algos can use them for bad purposes.

In addition, there have been a series of Mishaps and Accidents in almost all sectors ranging from Aviation to Manufacturing wherein Software Glitches and Machine Failures have led to Catastrophic Consequences.

This is the reason why many prominent figures such as the Very Influential Diplomat, Henry Kissinger, have been calling upon Policymakers to address the threats from Artificial Intelligence.

Having said that, it is also the case that such concerns have been expressed since the times of the Industrial Revolution.

Indeed, when machines and power looms began to appear in Nineteenth Century Britain, there were many who protested against them not only for the job losses but also out of fear of where the machines would lead us into.

Now that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us, such fears have been resurrected and there are both proponents and opponents of relying too much on technology.

For instance, anyone who has rode on an Uber cab would have noticed how the GPS Enabled (Geographical Positioning System) maps for directions and driving often do not let the driver to veer away from the predetermined route even when the alternatives are beneficial. These examples should highlight how vital it is for us to not blindly trust technology.

Further, there have been many studies about how African Americans and the Underprivileged are being discriminated as far as Health Insurance and Social Security benefits are concerned by “Algorithms of Oppression” as one recent book puts it.

The Promise of Digital Utopia and the Fears of a New Dark Age Loom

However, these instances can be isolated examples as well since overall decision making has been made easy when technology is used. Further, in the Age of 24/7 News Cycles and Social Media, it is important to note that machines and Algos bring with them both the promise and perils of outcomes.

For instance, Algos make better decisions when speed is the essence and time is the constraint. As Bill Gates prophesized in his book, Business at the Speed of Thought, machines can really help us in making our world a much more efficient place.

In addition, the upcoming IOT or Internet of Things where everything and everyone are connected in one Gigantic Web promises better everyday living.

For those who have Apple’s Siri on their iPhones or Amazon’s Alexa in their homes, it would be evident that such connectedness can make us feel better.

On the other hand, there are legitimate fears about privacy and security including technology becoming a Pawn to further State Surveillance.

Therefore, we need to take into account such fears as well.

Lastly, it is the argument here that technology should neither lead us to a Techno Utopia where humans are not needed nor to a Dark Age where we no longer matter.

In other words, there is a need to strike a balance between how much technology is optimal and how far humans should let go of their primacy.

Thankfully, we haven’t yet conceded our primacy and therefore, it is not too late to debate about the extent of such balance.

At the same time, we should not discard technology altogether.

Therefore, to conclude, what is needed is a sober and reasoned approach that maximizes the promise of technology driven decision making and minimizes the perils of such scenarios.

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Decision Making