Why Great Managers Will Never Be Replaced By Computers

Max Nisen

As computers get smarter, they'll take over many of today's most common jobs, says economist Tyler Cowen in his book, "Average Is Over." But one thing they can't replace is good management.

In an interview with James Pethokoukis of the the American Enterprise Institute, Cowen argues that the rise of computers is not the end of prosperity or employment. Around 15% of the population, those with high tech skills who can enhance their productivity by taking advantage of computers, will do better than ever, he says.

But the winners of the future are not just the usual suspects: programmers and engineers. Managers will also be very valuable. In fact, Cowen argues, great managers are going to earn more than great technologists and programmers:

"Computers are very far from being able to be good managers: sit down, set expectations, measure performance. You need humans to do that. I’ve found most human beings are not good managers. Those who are I think will earn much, much more. It’s already the case. Salaries for managers as a category have been rising. I think managers, motivators, marketers — when you’ve higher inequality, whoever can do things to get the attention of rich people, that becomes much more valuable. And that’s a very psychological skill. It’s not really about being a great programmer.

I think the best managers and marketers will earn more than a lot of the best tech people because some of those tech jobs, of course, can be and are outsourced."

Managing is a high-value, high-skill job that's going to be extremely hard to automate, so people looking to the future should make it one of their top priorities. Technical skills can and do become obsolete. As computers get smarter and smarter, they're going to require less human input to do what we need them to. 

But good management is so much about interaction, emotional intelligence, and empathy that it's hard to imagine it being replaced any time soon. 

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