In companies, the rise of management by algorithms

By Catherine Quignon

Published on February 20, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. – Updated on February 21, 2022 at 6:04 a.m.

“Okay, 1, 5, 9…” Headset-microphone screwed on the head, employees looking like Lego figurines deliver litanies of figures. In the huge warehouse of this retail brand, located in Béziers (Hérault), the actions and gestures of the order pickers are governed by a voice robot. A supercomputer optimizes their movements through the aisles, depending on the deliveries to be prepared. Like in a video game, you have to avoid any unnecessary movement in this maze of parcels, in order to produce the best possible score. The software gives the preparer the coordinates of the product to be delivered and verifies its identification code, read aloud by the employee.

“If we talk to someone without raising the microphone, the system sends us an error messagedeplores this order picker and CGT representative, who wishes to remain anonymous. Some of my colleagues dream about it at night. In addition, as we tend to turn up the volume to hear well, it makes us deaf. »

Used in the warehouses of Lidl, Aldi, Amazon… voice command software has become the norm in logistics platforms. Their designers promise increased productivity and zero margins of error. But this hyperrationalization of tasks dehumanizes work, vituperates the CGT representative: “You become less sociable, you feel a bit like a robot yourself. »

In old-fashioned Taylorism, caricatured by Chaplin in the film Modern times, the employee is a cog in a machine that goes beyond him and whose functioning he no longer understands. In the XXIand century, the machine takes control. Outside of logistics platforms, algorithms are beginning to impose themselves in all sectors.

The machine has climbed the ladder

He is the manager whose work is being transformed the most by artificial intelligence (AI) today, says a study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), published in December 2021. Second only to the financial professional. The rise of big data in the 2000s, coupled with the use of computer systems capable of processing an unprecedented amount of data, has enabled the development of ultra-sophisticated software, capable of participating in the most strategic decisions in the business. Thus, around 32% of jobs are at risk of being radically changed by technological progress, estimates another OECD study published in 2019. According to the international body, senior management and decision-making functions are next in line. listing.

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In companies, the rise of management by algorithms


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