Will robots soon be our bosses? 3 Questions for Jakub Cichor

We know robots that can make work processes more efficient and automate them in factories. We might also be able to get used to robots that help out in the healthcare sector. But a machine serving as a supervisor for humans? Unimaginable. Until now: Jakub Cichor is a research assistant and PhD candidate in the Neurophysiological Leadership Lab at the Technical University of Munich. His research focuses on technologies in leadership, in particular how social robots can take a leadership function.

On March 9, 2022, he will hold a digital workshop on the topic “Robot, manager or both?“ at the Munich Management Colloquium. We asked him three questions in advance.

Probably hardly anyone of us can imagine that our boss suddenly is a robot. But from your point of view, is this the future?

It is difficult to assess to what extent robot managers become part of our everyday life, but every day we see how the technology is continuously improving and thus opens up new possibilities. The first algorithms are able to take on specific management tasks, such as effectively distributing tasks or motivating employees through rewards. In addition, people seem to build trust with robots in a similar way as with other people.

These and other findings of the research indicate that sooner or later robots will be used as managers, which is why it is now important to investigate the related questions and framework conditions. Only in this way can we use robots effectively and above all ethically as managers.

What are the characteristics of these “social robots”, and where are they used so far?

Social robots are developed specifically for social interaction with people, as a result of which special emphasis is placed on a certain human similarity in their design. For example, social robots often have a face with eyes, nose and mouth or, in addition, arms and legs to better convey their resemblance to humans.

At the same time, this type of robot is often used in situations where people can benefit from additional social interaction. Social robots, for example, are already being used effectively in senior care to provide support in everyday life or are being used in lessons with children for interesting and fun teaching learning content.

A brief look at the workshop: What is the greatest opportunity offered to us by “robot guidance” and where should human managers prefer to keep the reins in their hands?

We already know from the ever-advancing digitization how efficient we can be through artificial intelligence and algorithms, as long as information can be broken down to numbers. In this context, it is likely that robot managers can develop their potential where objective and fair decisions can be made based on data.

On the other hand, robots are still very far from interacting with people on an emotional level, which is of great importance in leadership. Although more and more robots are being produced that want to simulate emotions and empathy, they do not seem particularly credible and can thus become almost scary. These abilities will probably remain the domain of humans for a very long time.


Jakub Cichor at the Munich Management Colloquium 2022

The workshop “Robot, leader or both? The opportunities and pitfalls of robot guidance“ will take place on March 9, 2022 from 2 to 3 pm. You can register for the MMK here. Students take part free of charge, participants and alumni of the TUM Institute for Lifelong Learning receive a discount.

And that’s what the workshop is all about: Robots have repeatedly proven their usefulness by increasing the efficiency of work processes in various industries. At the same time, social robots show promising applications in situations that require social interactions, e.g. in elderly care, education and customer service. As social robots continue to evolve and improve, the question arises as to the extent to which people are willing to accept robots in leadership positions. In this workshop Jakub Cichor discusses with the participants what robot guidance is, what opportunities and pitfalls it brings with it and what practical and ethical implications it could have.

The entire program of the colloquium can be found here. The TUM Institute for Lifelong Learning is on site with a booth – we are looking forward to your visit!

Jakub Cichor, research assistant and PhD student in the Neurophysiological Leadership Lab at the Technical University of Munich

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