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Machine-Based Decision-Making Is Coming

There may come a day when computers take over the business decision-making process.

Machines' unbiased assessments of data will replace managers' gut instincts and the knowledge they gain from experience and professional relationships -- not to mention the financial incentive they have for making the right call, according to Gartner analyst Nigel Rayner. His opinion isn't officially sanctioned by the research firm.

In Rayner's "maverick" view, we'd be better off if machines made more decisions. He cited a U.K. study of 350 large companies that found executives' pay rose 700% from 2002 to 2011 while the value of those businesses rose just 21% and workers' pay rose 27%.

"There has to be something questionable about that," he said. "Humans are very bad at making decisions."

"Everywhere I look, predictive modeling, machine-based algorithmic systems and computer-based simulations outperform humans," he added, noting that machines will play an expanding role in decision-making over the next 40 years or so.

Building those systems, though, requires humans with a mix of statistical, database and computer science skills, said Kevin Connor, an enterprise architect at Urban Science, which makes analytical systems.

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on Computerworld.com.

Read more about management and careers in Computerworld's Management and Careers Topic Center.


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