MBAs Get Ready for the Robot Revolution |

MBAs Get Ready for the Robot Revolution

By Seb Murray

Updated Updated

The Missouri University of Science and Technology has launched an MBA course on artificial intelligence (AI) in the latest sign that educators are ramping up efforts to prepare managers for the machine age.

AI and robotics are set to cause mass economic disruption as traditional roles are replaced by algorithms, but new technologies will also help fuel global growth as productivity and consumption soar. One recent report from PwC found that AI will contribute as much as $15.7 trillion to the world economy by 2030. 

Dr Keng Siau of Missouri University of Science and Technology introduced AI and machine learning into his business curriculum during the spring 2017 semester to help the world’s future leaders investigate these issues.

Half of US jobs at risk of automation

“The advancement in artificial intelligence is going to create an economic tsunami,” Siau says. “Some reports are predicting that half of US jobs are at risk of automation. Business managers and executives need to understand and comprehend the impending artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning and automation revolution and its devastating impacts.”

The course looks at the latest developments in robotics, automation and advanced information technology, and “their effect on our current ways of life and work as well as on economic and business models,” says Siau, professor and chair of the business and information technology department. 

Each student will be asked to present on a new AI or machine learning technology. As a core MBA class, assignments mainly revolve around readings and classroom discussions. The class is offered both online and on-campus.

Kellog School working with IBM’s Deep Blue and Google’s AlphaGo

Missouri is far from the only business school getting MBA students ready for the robot revolution. The Kellogg School of Management last year introduced a Human and Machine Intelligence course into its MBA program. Using sophisticated AI programs like IBM’s Deep Blue and Google’s AlphaGo, the course develops students’ data science skills and teaches them to apply “human and machine thought partnerships” to grow businesses.

“While there are many examples of machines outperforming humans at some tasks, its less clear when machines can augment human decision-making and creativity,” said Adam Pah, assistant professor of management. “We focus on how students can leverage machine intelligence, while discussing the possibility and limitations of machine-learning to enhance their output and performance beyond a human or machine alone.”

30% of MBAs say a robot could steal their job

A study by Emolument, the salary bench-marking website, found that 30% of MBA and master in management graduates, and 40% of master in finance graduates, think their jobs are at risk of being taken over by robots. 

“While some functions still require a human touch none are unscathed, with even sales jobs being obliterated by efficient machines,” says Alice Leguay, founder and COO of Emolument. 

It cuts two ways, with many MBAs potentially entering tech roles which will see them creating workforce efficiencies through automation. This will undoubtedly have a human cost, as jobs come under threat. Gavin Newsom, lieutenant governor of California and frontrunner to win next year’s gubernatorial election spoke at this year’s UC Berkeley commencement to warn graduates to be alive to the consequences of their actions. Speaking to The Guardian, he said, “There’s an empathy gap. I really feel intensely that the tech community needs to begin not just to solve these business problems but to begin to solve societal problems with the same kind of disruptive energy that they put behind developing the latest app.”

These matters will concern MBAs in the near future, but the younger generation has also voiced concerns. A recent survey of high-school age entrepreneurs by Young Enterprise in the UK found that 76% believed there will be fewer jobs in the near future due to automation, with 47% expressing concern about this state of affairs. Perhaps the most interesting finding, however, was that 45% were comfortable about the prospect of reporting to a robot. MBAs perhaps need to watch their backs after all… 


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