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Can Siri Become a Great Leader? – The Coming Out of Synthetic Psychology

Siri has moved from being party trick to a useful and for some an invaluable digital assistant. Now there’s even a movie (“Her”) about a guy falling in love with Siri’s “sister”.  But can Siri become a great leader as well as a great lover?

I don’t see why not. The results from the latest Turing test (the test to see if a computer can fool people into thinking it’s human) showed that 59% of observers thought that the computer was really a human. It won’t be long before passing the Turing test will be routine. That means Siri will soon pass it too.

But there’s a big step between seeming human and being able to lead them, especially to great achievements. That seems to me to be another big leap beyond the Turing test, let’s call it Turing Take 2. So why would I think that that is even remotely possible?

Well I am the developer of a set of leadership assessments so I am at least familiar with the approaches you need to develop them. Assessments merely analyze personality and thinking. There are numerous types around including personality and competency tests and my own which assesses business acumen. The common denominator of all of them is that they dissect thinking into granular psychological categories which can be measured and compared with others. So we have a pretty good idea about the psychological differences between people. That includes leaders.

In principle it should be easy enough to construct a synthetic personality by reverse-engineering these assessments. I could certainly do that with our assessments. As long as there’s a piece of software to pour my reverse-engineered data into, it’s a piece of cake. If we use the Myers-Briggs for example, it would be easy enough to construct, say, an INTJ from the ground up by using the right answers to the questions and then feeding this into our software. Voila! Siri will always answer exactly like an INTJ.

As some of you know, many (some claim that its most) CEOs are INTJs. So now we can reverse engineer Siri into a CEO to lead people, rather than a “Her” to fall in love with. The point is that we can reverse engineer into a synthetic personality any combination of characteristics that we have psychometric tests for. That includes personality, competency, creativity, emotional intelligence and so on. Someday, probably not in the too-far distant future, we will be mass producing synthetic digital leaders too. “Hims”?

OK then we start getting into the really deep stuff. Like projecting authority, but quietly. Being passionate and stirring passions. The possession of empathy. Spirituality. Intuition. Obstinacy. Selfless courage. And so on.

But what I am saying is that we are getting there and there is a clear path for a lot of it. That means that in some of our lifetimes we’re are going to be working with – and for – synthetic leaders with synthetic personalities. Let’s call them Siri-San’s to distinguish them from the garden variety Siri’s or Hers. It will be the Siri-San’s who will be competing in the Turing Take 2s.

You know about that age-old problem, that so many leaders fail? And when they don’t, many of them are narcissistic bullies, maybe weak and venal? So why not lease a Siri-San from a professional synthetic-leader leasing company instead of doing a hit-or-miss hiring of an overpaid MBA? Satisfaction guaranteed! And if the plebs don’t like her personality, we can always provide you with a softer and more caring leader. Want an ENTJ, creative but spiritual? Done!

So maybe that means we are going to outsource leaders, even if not leadership. The new breed of synthetic leaders will offer both advantages of cost and flexibility. Next time things change we don’t have to do a messy firing of the CEO; we can just switch to a new leased synthetic leader with a more appropriate leadership style for the new situation. Maybe we can even lease a leader with multiple, benign personalities who can switch between them as circumstances warrant.

If we can have synthetic oil, synthetic DNA and synthetic biology, we can have synthetic psychology and synthetic leaders. Actually we are three-quarters of the way there already with that smartphone in your pocket. Before you know it, Siri-San will be leading you by the nose, not vice versa. Better get used to it.

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Saturday, 16 December 2017

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