Introducing the Algorithmic Boss

All managerial functions are now entrusted to algorithm-powered tools, creating high expectations and new risks, and no economic sector is immune to the adoption of such systems. How can this AI-driven management be regulated?

Facial recognition and real-time scheduling, smart badges and QR codes, GPS tracking and wristbands, job applicants’ assessment and health self-reporting have all ballooned in the last year. The labor market is experiencing a bewildering dystopia and, to a certain extent, we are docilely enjoying it. Given the potential to open up a myriad of new opportunities, authentic digital innovation is to be welcomed, especially when it facilitates discretion, promotes inclusiveness, and alleviates hurdles (during the pandemic, it has enabled several offsite activities despite the awful circumstances). However, when intrusive forms of workplace governance are given too much leeway, they may undermine human agency, erode labor rights, and thwart productivity. Indeed, if left ungoverned, evidence-based management is likely to perpetuate bias, disseminate unfair treatment, and exacerbate inequality, thus paving the way to social unrest. Reassuringly, there are several instruments that can be mobilized to counterbalance this unrestrained techno-managerial dominance. While regulation can play a crucial role in taming algorithmic bosses, collective negotiation, digital literacy, and workers’ empowerment must be strengthened in order to unleash a sustainable and prosperous world of work, rather than indulging data-centric obsessions.

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