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Collaboration and delegation between humans and AI: An experimental investigation of the future of work

A defining question of our age is how AI will influence the workplace of the future and, thereby, the human condition. The dominant perspective is that the competition between AI and humans will be won by either humans or machines. We argue that the future workplace may not belong exclusively to humans or machines. Instead, it is better to use AI together with humans by combining their unique characteristics and abilities. In three experimental studies, we let humans and a state-of-the-art AI classify images alone and together. As expected, the AI outperforms humans. Humans could improve by delegating to the AI, but this combined effort still does not outperform AI itself. The most effective scenario was inversion, where the AI delegated to a human when it was uncertain. Humans could in theory outperform all other configurations if they delegated effectively to the AI, but they did not. Human delegation suffered from wrong self-assessment and lack of strategy. We show that humans are even bad at delegating if they put effort in delegating well; the reason being that despite their best intentions, their perception of task difficulty is often not aligned with the real task difficulty if the image is hard. Humans did not know what they did not know. Because of this, they do not delegate the right images to the AI. This result is novel and important for human-AI collaboration at the workplace. We believe it has broad implications for the future of work, the design of decision support systems, and management education in the age of AI.