Harvard Business Review (HBR) is at it again.

That’s right. It gives me no pleasure to report that its esteemed editors saw fit to run a piece of banal baloney called, “Robo-Advisers Are Coming to Consulting and Corporate Strategy“. It resisted all attempts at charity and precluded the benefits of any doubts by saying this, in part:

Corporate strategy is complex, and the advice is expensive. However, the approaches advisors take are usually data-driven and guided by previous experiences. This is just the sort of problem that can benefit from machine intelligence. This makes corporate strategy an enormous and untapped prize for “robos” and “AI-enabled” expert advice across the entire enterprise; this market is ripe for disruption.

How do we know this? Two of the three authors of the article work for Open Matters, a machine learning company. The third is terminally confused, having authored the book, Only Humans Need Apply: Winners and Losers in the Age of Smart Machines. Okay. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Ah, Scusa …

Aside from the fact that the article is a flimsy exercise in self-reference, I’d love to point out that it’s rife with assumptions and contradictions. I’d love to ask — since the advice [for corporate strategy] is expensive  if the “robos” and “AI-enabled” expert advice harvested from across the entire enterprise would be more or less expensive. I’d also love to explain that advice that is data-driven and guided by previous experiences hardly makes the untapped prize of corporate strategy ripe for disruption. Rather, it makes it ripe for programmatic repetition of the same old same old. Neither coincidentally nor accidentally, it also makes it ripe for the fleecing of the corporate coffers by robo and AI-enabled carpetbaggers.

I’d love to do all that stuff. But I won’t. What I will do is send the HBR editorial staff (comprising AI-enabled robos, no doubt), copies of Richard Brautigan’s book, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, which contains the poem of the same name. And because I’m feeling particularly magnanimous, I’ll also throw in “Science Friction” at no extra charge.

Where’s the Middle?

Why do we seem content to live, simultaneously, in two opposing states? We’re either in euphoric dreams of Utopian splendor (see Brautigan, Richard) or dystopian nightmares of human obsolescence. I wonder if primitive people wondered if guns would put them out of business because they’d no longer have to throw rocks and spears or pull back the strings on their arrow-propelling bows. Has the species always been this afraid of its impotence and irrelevance? Or was my pool lucky enough to have been absent the paranoia gene? I don’t know.

What I do know is that we have an insatiable appetite for bags. Carpetbagged. Sandbagged. It doesn’t matter. We’re always ready and willing to be left holding some bag, any bag, for the next windbag or gasbag who comes down the pike. And if whatever they’re peddling is good enough or horrible enough, we’re going for it.

As the AI-enabled robo-merchants love to say, “Come quietly, or there will be … trouble.”

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