back to article BOFH: The greatest victory is that which requires no battle

Things have taken a bit of a turn for the odd in the IT department. After the initial upset over my replacing the Boss with an increasingly insane AI pseudo-staff member, HR have started to LOVE the idea of AI and are asking for pointers about how to replace other management positions. "But why?" the PFY asks. "Surely HR can …

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  1. Korev Silver badge
    Terminator

    Ai man, the new workplace seems a bit rough

    1. b0llchit Silver badge
      Happy

      Synth-a-eye concurs.

    2. BobChip
      Holmes

      AI and HR

      The article author clearly does not understand how real Human Resources (an oxymoron if ever I heard one!) departments work. Rule No.1 - ANY changes in company staff numbers, from massive expansion to huge redundancies must ALWAYS be accompanied by a large increase in HR staff numbers (to cope with the increased workload, of course). Rule No.2 These staff will be appointed by HR.

      Rule No.3 HR staff numbers must NEVER decrease. This leads logically to a business consisting entirely of HR staff and no one else, producing nothing and just consuming resources. I have worked in a couple of large businesses who did seem to be seriously trying to reach this goal, but, oddly, neither of them exist any more.

      I consider the case for AI HR to be made and proven.

  2. crosenblum

    Who knows a future AI Boss could be in play?

    Why need an actual physical boss to be annoyed and frustrated when the cold hard boot of reality, (BOFH) conflicts with whatever in trend wild eyed idea the Boss comes up.

    Why not replace the BOSS with an AI, that does or does not do things as you program it with?

    Why not replace everyone with AI?

    AI Employeers, AI Employees, AI Customers...

    Then what will all of us do lol?

    I think we're getting closer to that one scene in the Wally movie, where humans sit in chairs getting fat, and doing not much of anything.

    Personally I loathe AI systems, all they are is much better natural language parsing, but with garbage data, and no real intelligence beyond that.

    Is AI, a direction we should be going forward in?

    Or is this a real indicator that management and business intelligence has been declining for decades?

    May the cattleprods always be charging and used!

    1. Anonymous Custard
      Trollface

      Re: Who knows a future AI Boss could be in play?

      And it gives a whole new vibe to being pushed out of the Window (or Windows)...

    2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Who knows a future AI Boss could be in play?

      Wally movie, where humans sit in chairs getting fat, and doing not much of anything.

      Finally!

      Now I'll just wait for the robot monkey butlers to show up with the margaritas

    3. DJO Silver badge

      Re: Who knows a future AI Boss could be in play?

      Personally I loathe AI systems, all they are is much better natural language parsing

      A lot of that is due to limitations inherent in the hardware, x86 is not a good fit and GPUs are only a bit better. A completely different processing paradigm is needed if anything approaching AI is to be reached.

      Maybe something like this: https://www.theregister.com/2024/05/08/spinncloud_systems_unveils_armbased_neuromorphic/

      If you are worried about crap AI, just consider how much worse a fully functional AI could be.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Who knows a future AI Boss could be in play?

        ... just consider how much worse a fully functional AI could be.

        Indeed ...

        Imagine a regular/average run-of-the-mill AH/DH pointy haired boss ...

        ... on steroids.

        .

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Who knows a future AI Boss could be in play?

        "If you are worried about crap AI, just consider how much worse a fully functional AI could be."

        I hate to be a pedant but a fully functional AI would be just as good as the real thing ... so a bit crap, accident-prone, forgetful, but often-enough sufficiently inspiring to make you forgive all that.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Mushroom

        Re: Who knows a future AI Boss could be in play?

        I've read Heinlein, Adams, Pournelle, Niven, and Ellison. I know exactly how bad its going to get before it stops getting worse. I just don't know if I'll be dead by then...here's hoping.

    4. Anonymous Anti-ANC South African Coward Bronze badge

      Re: Who knows a future AI Boss could be in play?

      Just wait until AI fouls things up like a simple tax return, leading to you getting charged with something serious, and the you getting shuffled off to some hellish purgatory where you're in jail but nobody can help you as things are really fecked up...

      I think AI does not belong in decision making positions.

      As a tool in helping you to resolve issues, or as an information tool, yes, then that will work.

      We still need some humans with common sense at the end of a decision making line, just to check things over.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Who knows a future AI Boss could be in play?

        ... still need some humans with common sense at the end of a decision making line ...

        Yes, we do.

        When did that cease to be a given?

        But, as the present AI enabling trend from every TD&H (ie: certified idiot) proves, that option is not necessarily iron-clad, not by a (very) long shot.

        Why does the HP/Autonomy affaire instantly come to mind when I read humans with common sense and end of a decision making line in the same sentence?

        .

        1. BenDwire Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Who knows a future AI Boss could be in play?

          When did that cease to be a given?

          Have you ever tried to complain to Google, Meta and their ilk? Computer says no. No humans involved.

          And then there was the issue of Uber drivers having their accounts closed with no appeal.

          I'm sure there was a story on ElReg concerning the Inland Revenue or DWP, saying that the computer's decision is final with no appeal, but I've just changed my medication and can't find a link.

          Everyone should go and watch Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" just to remind themselves of the world we now live in.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Who knows a future AI Boss could be in play?

            ... ever tried to complain to Google, Meta and their ilk?

            No.

            I only use Google (search engine) when I need to sift through and compare with what I can find with other search engines such as DuckDuck.

            As to Meta and their ilk, I do not (knowingly/willingly) use any of the so called social media for anything.

            ie: metadata harvesting machines.

            Learned a very long time ago that whatever convenience these claim to have has a very steep cost.

            I also make a point of avoiding any and all shops/pureyors/services that impose the use of WhatsApp or similar for dealing with their customers.

            .

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Who knows a future AI Boss could be in play?

            With regard to "computer says no" I recently had a 15 year old ebay account nuked within 12 minutes of adding an item for sale, the account had been in use for the whole time buying and selling and had no limitations, the item while fairly high value (£25,000) it was similarly priced to comparable items already for sale.

            once the item listed I received an email stating that my account had been permanently suspended and that "The decision is final and can not be appealed."

            logging into ebay with the suspended account I found that they had removed all current listings (understandable) but also removed every method of contacting ebay comparing what was shown on my account vs my partners revealed that large chunks of the site were simply missing mainly in the help & support sections.

            so in my case it was "Computer says suspended" and "Computer makes sure there is no way for you to complain about it"

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Who knows a future AI Boss could be in play?

              "Computer makes sure there is no way for you to complain about it"

              There's always the option of a letter to ebay's registered address asserting your rights under GDPR. If that doesn't get a satisfactory response there are legal options. However much they may think otherwise companies running websites actually exist in the real world with real legal obligations, not the fantasy world they believe they're in.

            2. Apathy101

              Re: Who knows a future AI Boss could be in play?

              I had an ebay account nuked as well. Not a high value or business account, but one I'd had for years and bought/sold through reliably, no problems or complaints etc.

              It was nuked because I logged in from the same IP address that a fraudster had used. The fraudster was an employee of one of my mates and had been offering items for sale that he never delivered, (also some that he did sell and deliver but didn't own - kit he'd been issued with for his job for example, so he's now an ex-employee with a criminal record).

              I had visited my mate and connected to his wifi to check on a bid I had running, then a couple of weeks later my account was gone with no warning. It was very difficult to find out why as I hadn't heard of anything similar. It took a while but I finally managed to get in contact only to find out that it was final and there was no appeal (or appeal process or anything).

              My mates account was nuked along with his then girlfriends account - she really wasn't happy.

              I did consider trying to pursue it but just went 'meh' after a while. Haven't used ebay since.

        2. TSM

          Re: Who knows a future AI Boss could be in play?

          > When did that cease to be a given?

          As soon as the first computer support was introduced - if not earlier.

          "The computer / calculator said this, so it must be true" has been a thing for a long time.

          Working as a tutor 30 or so years ago, it was already a struggle to get high school students to understand that they needed to have at least a rough idea of what would be a sensible range of results, rather than just blindliy trusting whatever their calculators wound up with.

          I had one person write down -E- as the result of a maths question because that's what their calculator showed.

      2. Mark 85

        Re: Who knows a future AI Boss could be in play?

        We still need some humans with common sense at the end of a decision making line, just to check things over.

        As has been said by many wise folks... "common sense isn't common any more."

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: Who knows a future AI Boss could be in play?

          What kind of humans do you think would actually fill those roles?

          Do you imagine a wise, thoughtful, fairminded figure who's willing to take time to sift through every decision, every appeal, complaint, whine and whinge, including those generated by bots and politically motivated campaigns, and assess each one fairly and independently on the merits of the case?

          Or some weary middle-aged nonentity who's been "promoted" from middle management to this role, who will glance at the rubbish that comes in, spend a few months figuring out how to classify and dispose of it as effortlessly as possible, then never give it another thought?

          Or a BOFH who will simply feed their entire intray to another AI, designed chiefly to pick out and disarm those who have the potential to make real trouble?

          Humans are only human. If we're relying on them to keep the machines in check, we've already lost.

          1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

            AI as a Global Operating Device for Work, REST and Play.

            :-) One small step for aman, one giant leap for Mankind

            Humans are only human. If we're relying on them to keep the machines in check, we've already lost. .... veti

            Thus is everything already lost to the machines, veti, for humans ARE reliant upon humans to keep them in check.

            And ...... if the gospel truth be told, rather than being withheld in order not to terrify and result in revolting natives justifiably disgruntled and furious with current rapidly failing world orders and their systems administrations insisting they have everything under control with the future obeying their every command, your comment that "AI might well be an improvement in many cases. But, I think, not all." is much better shared as AI might well not be an improvement in all cases but certainly in most and that is a great many. for such a much more accurate picture of the upcoming spectacular default situation revision/global reset/alien intervention.

            I'm more than just contented and happy to concur with your posit, We're past interesting times, now. We're into downright exciting times. .... for who wouldn't, whenever the above is more true than not, and that which extant status quo leaderships are failing to represent and failing to prevent becoming general knowledge in a common sense appraisal of Earth shattering developments taking place around everyone and everything existing down here on Earth in that space place.

            Which is not very bright of them at all, and could even be deadly dangerous to them should they insist on resisting and persisting to not desist in their opposition to that which is clearly a problem for them, and which they have no hope nor any chance of being able to command and control with their plans for things in the future to remain very much the same as they are in the present with them in charge and failing so badly to lead both heroically and epically.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Who knows a future AI Boss could be in play?

            "What kind of humans do you think would actually fill those roles?"

            There's now a Canadian airline that's got a fair idea. It will probably take a few other cases before the dust settle.

    5. Mark 85

      Re: Who knows a future AI Boss could be in play?

      May the cattleprods always be charging and used!

      Interesting concept. Can a cattleprod be used on AI? And what results could be expected besides a cloud of sparks and smoke?

      1. stiine Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Who knows a future AI Boss could be in play?

        Molten plastic and metal?

    6. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

      Re: Who knows a future AI Boss could be in play?

      Wall-E's child care bots were too cute.

      My premonition is more like the Michael Sheen bartender bot in Passengers when he goes on the fritz and starts making drinks out of the glassware.

    7. veti Silver badge

      Re: Who knows a future AI Boss could be in play?

      This is a problem that good old-fashioned Market Forces will resolve.

      Some companies want to go all in on AI? Let them! Let them replace their middle management, create synthetic experts to replace real ones, implement algorithms to plot their product roadmaps and then follow them...

      We'll see how they actually do, against companies run by people.

      Of course, there are a lot of badly run companies out there. AI might well be an improvement in many cases. But, I think, not all.

      We're past interesting times, now. We're into downright exciting times.

  3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
    Headmaster

    not trolling

    "Meaning she's trolled the full breadth of the Company communication history"

    Thats "trawled" right? just for my own peace of mind.

    1. Tim99 Silver badge

      Re: not trolling

      Hmmm...

      trolled 1: to fish with a hook and line that you pull through the water - They were trolling the ocean floor- They trolled for fish.

      2a : to search for or try to get (something) - often: troll for answers/comments/responses- Politicians trolling for votes.

      2b: to search through (something) - She loves to troll flea markets looking for bargains.

      trawled 1: to pull a large, cone-shaped net through the sea at a deep level behind a special boat in order to catch fish.

      2: to search among a large number or many different places in order to find people or information you want: The software is used to trawl for information on the internet - You need to trawl through a lot of data to get results that are valid.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: not trolling

        You are both right.

        Origin Latin - middle dutch

        verb

        verb: trawl; 3rd person present: trawls; past tense: trawled; past participle: trawled; gerund or present participle: trawling

        1. fish with a trawl net or seine.

        "the boats trawled for flounder"

        + catch with a trawl net.

        + sift through as part of a search.

        "they trawled through twenty-five-year-old confidential files"

        + drag or trail (something) through water or other liquid.

        "she trawled a toe to test the temperature"

        noun

        noun: trawl; plural noun: trawls; noun: trawl line; plural noun: trawl lines

        1. an act of fishing with a trawl net.

        "they had caught two trout on the lazy trawl"

        + a large wide-mouthed fishing net dragged by a vessel along the bottom or in the midwater of the sea or a lake.

        + noun: trawl net; plural noun: trawl nets

        2. an act of sifting through something as part of a search.

        "a constant trawl for information"

        3. North American - another term for longline.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: not trolling

          I suppose the New Zealand usage would be the significant one here.

      2. PB90210 Bronze badge

        Re: not trolling

        "Politicians trolling for votes"

        (Government) Business as usual...

  4. Jay 2

    Synthia

    <Fallout 4>Who would do that? A synth!</Fallout 4>

    Great name choice!

  5. Bebu Silver badge
    Windows

    Synthia

    I guess Simon wasn't going to push his luck with Coppélia although Synthia already sounds like she is going to a bit more mouthy than Coppelius' daughter. ;)

    Sadly this episode isn't so much satire as contemporary reportage.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Synthia

      "Sadly this episode isn't so much satire as contemporary reportage."

      There's a difference?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Synthia

        Not since the Datamation days...

  6. Anonymous Anti-ANC South African Coward Bronze badge

    In the next episode we will see the BOFH and his sidekick the PFY wrestle control back from their AI overlords and restore order and sanity.

    In an alternate universe, the PFY will take a leaf out of the BOFH's grimoire and unleash his own AI (or two) on the company, leading to the unfortunate deployment of the killer bot.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That, or the AIs will have maneuvered the situation into a PFY vs. BOFH battle. It's been quite a while since we've had one of those.

    2. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

      Maybe BOFH will ask his new overlords: hey boss, I've just written these programs. Can you tell me what data I need to give them so that the programs always return?

  7. ColinPa

    AI picks the average from the geniuses

    A friend of mine worked in a secret establishment with lots of mathematicians. The best people tend to be slightly strange, lacked social skills, but brilliant at the mathematics. Over 20 years he learned how to recognise the best people to hire (eg wearing odd socks, and a cleanish shirt were good signs).

    In the last year or so HR got involved and passed the CV's through an AI system filter before passing "the best candidates" on to my friend.

    He said that since then,the people were well dressed, had good social skills, and were the sort of people you put in front of customers. Mathematically they were below what was needed.

    My friend complained and was told HR had paid a lot of money for this system, and it was proven to identify people with all round skills who could adapt to do any job - which is what the company needed.

    My friend could not get through to them that he didn't want 'all round' people - he wanted the people good at the mathematics.

    They could not understand the difference between a group of people with diverse skills - but on average had the skills the company needed; and group of people all with the same average skills.

    He retired, but still keeps in contact with some of the people and despairs at "progress"!

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: AI picks the average from the geniuses

      "My friend complained and was told HR had paid a lot of money for this system, and it was proven to identify people with all round skills who could adapt to do any job"

      Obviously the HR people themselves had failed by their own criteria. They couldn't adapt to the job of recruiting mathematicians.

    2. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

      Re: AI picks the average from the geniuses

      My current company uses HR AI. I could not have gotten this job, and have already been rejected for promotions because I'm not "pretty" enough to pass the AI interview. I've hit lead tech within a few years at every other company on my job performance, but at this one I'm still sitting at entry level. I've been here long enough that I should have been a senior tech already. So, I've scaled back my work to that expected of an entry level tech. Waiting on The Boss to ask me why I'm not going above and beyond for a promotion.

      Yes, I could get another job, but I'm retiring in 2 years or so and can't be bothered. My current job is so easy that it's actually harder to throttle back than it would be to work at my normal capacity, but until I start moving up the ranks properly they're not getting the extra work. Plus, it would be hard to beat working from home on my preferred schedule. I meet my metrics each month, just barely, and precision like this is not that easy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: AI picks the average from the geniuses

        The "AI" has probably been given rules about promotions for 'junior' employees nearing retirement age.

        The "AI" vendors are currently targeting their sales at two groups within any large company - the executive suite and HR. On the basis that these are the people most likely to believe the hype and also believe they are exempting themselves from all liability by using an "AI".

  8. steelpillow Silver badge
    WTF?

    Apparently they've been talking

    Dr. Susan Blackmore of The Meme Machine regards information passed between machines like this to be a third replicator, alongside biological genes and human-spread memes, which she calls tremes.

    Personally I find that view a rather ex-treme meme, but there you go. What does Synthia say?

    1. UCAP Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Apparently they've been talking

      ... rather ex-treme meme ...

      Groans in pain at the pun and hits head repeatedly on the nearest wall of his padded cell.

  9. Gerhard den Hollander

    2024 - a cyber space oddysee

    I'm sorry Simon ... I'm afraid I cannot do that

    [ .. zapping sounds .. ]

    Who knew an AI was susceptible to a catlle prod ....

    1. Anonymous Custard
      Boffin

      Re: 2024 - a cyber space oddysee

      Isn't that just the modern day equivalent of flicking the switch on an old-fashioned PSU in a PC?

      AI cremation by issuance of magic smoke...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd have enjoyed that piece a lot more if management had not just last week told us they're going to use AI for recruitment - and of course AI is going to solve every potential recruitment issue, including bias.

  11. Anon

    When did Simon start speaking American English?

    The name of the colour is "grey" in New Zealand English, not "gray". Did someone upset the spill chucker?

    1. rototype

      Re: When did Simon start speaking American English?

      "When did Simon start speaking American English?

      The name of the colour is "grey" in New Zealand English, not "gray". Did someone upset the spill chucker?"

      No, they just hit the 'Update' button and it defaulted back to the factory standard of US English, same as Teams always keeps doing at our place, and don't ask me the problem we have trying to get machines to BUILD in UK English.

  12. Groo The Wanderer Silver badge

    If anyone is due for replacement by a statistically-driven data generator, it's the bean-counters. All they do is generate numbers and statistics! They're a perfect candidate for replacement. :)

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