Nearly half of CEOs believe AI could, and should, replace them
10/20/2023 // Olivia Cook // Views

A survey to gain insight into how professionals are preparing for the age of artificial intelligence (AI) has found that 49 percent of CEOs believe AI not only could – but should – replace them.

Conducted by edX, the online leading education platform for upskilling workers, and the research firm Workplace Intelligence, the survey also revealed that only 20 percent of workers believe their roles could be replaced by AI. (Related: CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED: Humanoid robots claim they could run the world better than humans.)

From across the United States, edX surveyed the following:

  • More than 500 CEOs – Accountable to the firm's board of directors or stakeholders and often the public face of the company, CEOs are responsible for making major corporate decisions, managing overall operations and setting the entity’s strategic direction.
  • 800 C-suite (also referred to as C-level) executives – The term is used to describe top-tier executives in a company with "chief" in their job titles. Often highly paid and influential, these high-ranking senior executives are responsible for particular areas within a company’s hierarchy.
  • 800 knowledge workers – They are high-level workers who are paid to think for a living, unlike manual laborers who are paid to perform physical tasks. They apply theoretical and analytical knowledge acquired through formal training, such as architects, design thinkers, engineers, financial analysts, lawyers, physicians, scientists, etc.

Titled "Navigating the Workplace in the Age of AI," some of the report findings are as follows:

  • 49 percent of CEOs believed that AI could – and should – completely automate "most" or "all" of their job functions or be replaced by AI – viewing it as a desirable development. (Related: Rise of the robots: 8 Professions that will be taken over by AI technology.)
  • 79 percent of executives were concerned about falling behind and worry that if they don't learn how to use AI, they'll be unprepared for the future of work with AI tools and technologies – and their worries extend to the company workforce as well.
  • 49 percent of the skills that currently exist in their workforce won’t be relevant in 2025, according to CEOs and other C-suite executives in the survey – with 47 percent of their workforce being "unprepared for the future of work" and only 24 percent of the workforce using their company’s programs to learn, develop or upgrade their AI skills.
  • 87 percent of the C-suite executives in most companies are finding it difficult to get ahead of the AI trend and are struggling to find talent with AI acumen or skills; 77 percent say AI is "disrupting" their business strategies.

CEOs aren't going anywhere

Anant Agarwal, founder and former CEO of edX, doesn't believe that there will be some mass exodus of CEOs. He argued that CEOs could stand to gain if they are well-prepared to work comfortably with AI tools and technologies.

Agarwal said that if perspectives were changed, C-suite executives could help replace the more mundane tasks of their job responsibility with AI to maximize the more meaningful ones (e.g., communication, critical thinking, decision-making, emotional intelligence, leadership, management and problem-solving skills) to create sustainable revenue streams, introduce new products, inspire employees and more.

This will be particularly helpful for CEOs of smaller companies. "Small teams can begin looking much bigger, provided they're upskilled in the use of A.I. tools and technologies," said Agarwal.

Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Workplace Intelligence, said: "The solution, is more learning and training. Executives who take steps to become proficient with A.I. will be better equipped to make decisions that will position their companies for success in today's ever-evolving business landscape."

He added that some leaders have already taken steps to amend this:

  • 41 percent increased their training budgets for AI technologies and AI tool proficiency.
  • 39 percent are now requiring their employees to learn AI tools, develop skills and be proficient at using them.

Executives are also willing to sweeten the deal for skilled employees and their AI proficiency could provide a considerable career boost:

  • 72 percent of executives believe that their company should double down on A.I. learning and development programs over the next two years.
  • 82 percent believe AI-skilled workers should be compensated based on their level of proficiency using AI – the more skilled workers should be paid more.
  • 74 percent believe technology-savvy workers should be promoted more often.
  • 82 percent of these C-suite executives believe that employees should be allowed to use A.I. to work multiple jobs.

"I see this as a massive opportunity for CEOs of small businesses," Agarwal said. "If they don't see the opportunity, but all the other CEOs do and jump on it and upskill their employees on this, they will lose."

Andy Morgan, head of edX for business, told Fortune: "For top executives, including prospective and current CEOs, understanding and leveraging AI will be paramount to future success. It's not about humans versus AI, but rather about how we incorporate these developments into the workplace to ensure long-term relevance."

Watch this video that examines whether generative AI can replace CEOs.

This video is from the Daily Videos channel on

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