AI will replace middle management before robots replace hourly workers
Artificial Intelligence is now capable of beating the best humans at chess 100% of the time no questions asked. The Roomba in the corner of my room still gets stuck on things and runs out of power. Which of these two technologies do you think will impact corporate America the most; robots that must be built by robots to perform a specific task once done by a person, or a program capable of making the best possible business decision given historic and currently available data?
If you said the latter you're correct. The "robot revolution" is not coming first; the AI decision making paradigm shift will and it is going to save corporations billions of dollars in salary costs per year as middle management disappears.
Legacy businesses will have to rely on retail and hourly support staff to be able to reduce management head count as a means of freeing up money for implementing automation. In order to do that, they will need to implement AI management tools; chat bots, scheduling, negotiating, training, data collection, diagnostic analysis, etc., before hand.
Otherwise, they will be left to rely on an overly bureaucratic and entrenched middle management layer to do so and that solution is likely to come from outsourcing or consultants. All the while, the retail environment deteriorates as workers are tasked to replace themselves without any additional benefits; service declines, implementation falters, costs go up, more consulting required.
Union formation across the retail landscape will force corporations to reduce management head count and implement AI management solutions which focus on labor relations. The once fungible and disposable retail worker will be transformed into a highly sought after professional who will be relied upon specifically for automation implementation.
The vast majority of these large corporations have cash flow problems and are overly leveraged which means they can't simply buy their way out anymore. Retail workers in these stores have the power to force their hand and negotiate for higher wages while they do it. Wages these corporations should be glad to pay. The transient nature of the work won't be a deterrent but a motivating factor as retail workers vie for top dollar positions in once derided slacker roles.
AI managers are the missing link between the when and how of implementing retail level automation. Reducing middle management, freeing up cash flow, incentivizing hourly workers and implementing automations will all depend on the fecundity and vision of senior leadership. Or maybe just which blogs they decide to read.